Exocet RS D2 second impressions

It’s coming up on six months since I took delivery of my RS D2, so time for an update.

A quick review of what I was hoping for with the new board:

    1. Guaranteed sail-ability – in other words, if I pack up the car and go down to the bay, I want to be sure to get a sail in. Nothing worse than coming home with a dry board.
      Tick. Should be pretty obvious on this board I get on the water every single time I make the trip.
    2. More time on water.
      Big tick. I reckon conservatively I’ve had ten times the TOW as I would have had with just shortboards.
    3. Less gear.
      Small tick. ‘Cause I still have all my other boards 🙂 But I do carry slightly less gear on any given trip.
    4. Reduce the equipment guessing game. As opposed to – take all your gear to the water, then agonise over which sail to rig. Then waste sailing time re-rigging when the wind changes. Then get jack of loading and unloading all the time, so buy a $5K trailer or a $15K van.
      Huge tick. I’ve been sailing (and sailing a *lot*) for over 3 months with one board, one sail, and one fin.
    5. More racing.
      Huge tick. I think our local windsurfing club managed to run just two races last season (here’s hoping for more wind this year!). Being able to mix it with the dinghy and RSX fleets has meant I’ve already got 15-20 races under my belt, and this is over the off-season.

OK, that all pretty much boils down to the fact that I’m happy to be on a raceboard, but none of it is specific to the RS D2. So let’s get specific.

First up – I LOVE the RS D2. It’s a ton of fun to sail, in any conditions – although I have to admit we haven’t had anything over 15 knots since my first outing.

My early experiences with nose diving have not been repeated. Neither have those conditions, but so far it’s been non-issue. The Demon VG7 9.5 is *much* better suited to the board than the little formula sail I was using at first, so my difficulties with rig steering have not been repeated either. It does seem to pay to keep the nose a little “free” upwind – i.e. keep boatspeed up and get the nose to lift just slightly – but you can also dig the nose in and point like an Etchells when necessary. The difficulty I was having in my first session was that I was unintentionally and rapidly switching between those modes, but the extra grunt I now have in the rig helps greatly with controlling the board trim.

This deserves a paragraph of its own. The VG7 is an amazing sail. I love it to death. I would go so far as to say if you get an RS D2 and you don’t get a big grunty raceboard sail, you will have no idea what sailing this board is really like. The Demon isn’t the only choice, but if you don’t get the Demon then get something like it.

OK, what else? Tacking is still pretty slow with the track all the way forward. It frees up considerably as the track comes back, but the board does seem to be better suited to long tacks than tactical short-tacking. I haven’t yet sorted out gybing – beyond just burning off speed and doing a flare gybe – but I can’t really gybe any of my boards, so spot the common factor here. The board will carve into a gybe, but you’d have to ask somebody competent what happens after that.

The only issue I had at first that I still have is the centreboard action. This is a major, major PITA. Might be just my individual board, as other RS D2 owners seem to have found a way to work it. However, for me, it’s completely impossible to fully retract the board, and I easily lose 50-100 metres at the bottom mark trying to get it down again. It’s OK if I leave it partially down, but in heavier wind where I need to retract as much as possible, I then have a *big* struggle ahead of me at the bottom mark. So some surgery is definitely indicated here. I’ll report back on that in due course.

Now the million dollar question (or at least the 3885 dollar question, last time I checked the RRP) – how fast is it? I’ll have a go at that, but bear in mind – I’m a pretty ordinary club sailor competing in an ordinary club fleet, so equipment isn’t really what’s winning and losing races. Plus I can’t predict at all what the board might be capable of in more competent hands. So with those caveats:

In light and moderate conditions – 2-12 knots, say – I haven’t yet encountered another board that can get anywhere near it. Upwind it just goes like a train. Against the local RSX fleet it’s minutes faster on a windward leg, and in a mixed fleet I have on occasion beaten 14′ skiffs and 505’s to the windward mark. Like all boards it does benefit from a bit of pressure, in that you can get a little puff and instantly add 3-4 knots to your boatspeed. Downwind in those conditions it’s still a little faster than the RSX, but less dramatically so. These are courses with square or broad downwind legs, so nobody’s going fast.

In 12-15 knots it’s still comfortably faster than the RSX upwind, but the difference isn’t quite as drastic. Downwind the RSX sailors are clearly faster than me, to the point where the better sailors in my local fleet are swapping the lead with me – they get me downwind, I get them again upwind. I have reason to believe the board could do more downwind than I’m able to unleash, but that’s where we are at the moment. There are a couple of kids who are pretty decent with their Techno’s, and in these conditions the Techno’s, RSX’s and me are ending up within a minute of each other on corrected time. That’s with yardsticks of 115, 100 and 92 respectively.

All up, my feeling is the board is letting me compete a bit above my true level. To be honest, I bought the board because I liked the look of it, so that’s a nice little surprise. By the way, for those who know where I sail and are wondering about the “ordinary club fleet” comment – Luke has been busy at work so far this season 🙂

Thanks for reading. Next order of business – learn to gybe, learn to sail downwind, get the centreboard sorted. If anything noteworthy comes out of all of that, I’ll blog again.

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