There’s an awful lot of different boat designs out there. Most follow similar trends, some are ‘modern’ versions of proven older designs, some are by the same designer updating a previous design.

The RS400 you could say is what Phil Morrison would do if the Merlin Rocket wasn’t constrained by class rules, it shares a similar hull shape; it has a full battened mainsail and jib, and an asymmetric Spinnaker with a canting pole (canted using Wing Wang’s!, more of them later).

It’s a relatively simple boat compared to a modern Merlin rocket. Just three basic controls, kicking strap, outhaul and Cunningham. It’s a strict Single Manufacturer One Design, everything is the same apart from the sailor, that’s the attraction for most, everyone has exactly the same gear on board. Imagine Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc all racing in exactly the same car, same tyres, the only difference was them. That’s what SMOD racing is, you race the man and the boat is irrelevant.

With the David Styroker Brine, also known as Dr. Octavius Brine or better known as Dave for short, in the workshop for the project ‘system update’, we were offered the www.action-outdoors.co.uk RS400 whilst the owner was off cruising his big boat.

Race 2. Start 1900hrs (ish)

Oyster port, Greenpoint port, Oyster starboard, kingsfleet port, line

Wind: 12-15 knots, tide: LW 1946

It’s been a while since I’ve helmed an RS400, last time out the centreboard bolt failed and we had a little swim…..and a little bit of engineering!

As it had been a while we launched early so we could get upto speed. Tacking was ok, we had a good practise upwind, full hiking plenty of power. Now the downwind… With 15 knots of breeze the 400 is powered up, with the boat at full tilt a quick conflab’ about how we gybe. The consensus was that I used to wingwang the pole mid gybe, then set the jib sheets (seems like far too much manual labour for a helm?). “Ok, let’s gybe,” “gybing in 3,2,1…..” Ok so what happened next was: Skippy focused so much in wingwanging that he forgot about speed in the turn, keep the rig light, stable working platform for the crew. The result? The team took a time out to inspect the hull of the borrowed boat. More bad news, two more holes spotted in the hull. Boat upright (technically no swimming or floating from the team 🤣)

Let’s do that again, we have time. So up went the kite and….. And……. And… Another hull check, this time the team managed to get the boat up with the kite. A few more gybes and we were getting a flow. Ok let’s get back for the start, a bit of confusion over the start time and the team missing the AP flag meant we guessed the gun. A close call with the team on the wayfarer and the Action-Outdoors team were clockless (is that actually a word?), this meant close attention to the flags as the Blue Peter came down (that’s a minute to go) Simon started counting (yes, i know. you didn’t think i was capable of counting 😂 ). with an estimated 5 seconds to go Simon checked behind to see no one? Apart from Matt Ambrose on the Bawdsey side hiting the line the rest of the fleet were 20 boatlenghts back.

Leading of the line on the Felixstowe side, followed by Matt Ambrose in his Covid laser then a big gap to the rest of the fleet. With the kite hoisted the team onboard www.action-outdoors.co.uk soon built up a lead, soaking to get round Oyster, the team luffed a little, the boat lit up (ok that’s relative) and the team horizoned.

The leg from Oyster to Greenpoint was that perfect River Deben moment, 15knots of breeze wth ‘puffs’, the sun was full and low in the sky making the sky into a Constable landscape, the river was flat and empty apart frrom those lucky enough to launch. It’s as good as point and shoot as you get, with the kite hoisted the RS took off (well nearly). One of those rare days when the boat ‘sings’ under three sails, and you don’t need to work to hard to make it do that. All to soon the moment passes and we are dropping to round Greenpoint for the upwind back to Oyster, it was a one tack wonder, the joy of River racing. With the tide slack we could now comfortably hold the kite for the next Mark kingsfleet, another Bollinger ’69 kite run bought more grins to the team as the RS three sailed reached. A tidy drop and then tacking up the Felixstowe beach to cheat the now flooding tide and our race was done. Another line and handicap honours.

Sailing like that on rivers doesn’t get much better, more of that next weeek hopefully with the return of Rog the Splodge in his RS for some SMOD match racing…… Shame you don’t get waves, there’s no pleasing some people 😁.