Meet the Newest Member of the Junior Fleet: the RS Tera
By Adam Corpuz-Lahne
Just as it is with meeting new people, one’s first impression when encountering a new activity often creates an opinion that will last far beyond that moment. The Junior Program has identified this as an important element in retaining our young sailors beyond their first class. Since the early 2000s, the Optimist Dinghy has been the first impression of sailing for our youngest sailors. The Opti, designed in 1947, has served us well, but it does have its drawbacks: it relies on air bags for flotation, it uses a gaff-rigged main, you can’t reef the sail, and it can’t be doublehanded effectively. Worst of all, the boat is like a bathtub. After capsizing, broaching, or nose-diving, it retains all the water inside the large cockpit with no means for self-draining.
In an effort to find a more desirable youth dinghy, the Club purchased six Open Bic dinghies in the mid-2000s, which have been used in conjunction with the Optis. These boats are modern, made from a roto-molded plastic, with a wide transom, pointy bow and open cockpit. The rigs are simple, with two sizes of sails. The Open Bics worked for a time, but their drawbacks started to reveal themselves: the open transom allows water to slosh into the cockpit; the full-batten mains are difficult to depower; there is no means for reefing; when sailing downwind, there is lots of weather helm and a tendency to nose-dive.
Which brings us to our newest fleet, the RS Tera. These boats check all the boxes for a “first impression” boat, and address all the drawbacks of our older fleets. The RS Tera uses a radial cut sail which can be roller-reefed around the mast. The cockpit is spacious, with room for a second sailor in front of the mainsheet. The hull is roto -molded with a foam core for rigidity. The enclosed transom keeps water from coming in, while the self-bailing cockpit drains water out. The rudder and daggerboard both float (a huge plus), and the sail can be wrapped around the mast at the end of the day, decreasing rigging/derigging time. The high boom decreases the chance of getting whacked in the head. One of my favorite features: the sails are colored, not just boring white. West Coast Sailing loaned us a boat for the Spring and we had a variety of sailors test it out. Our Learn to Sail group found the boat more fun than the Opti and easier to sail than the Open Bic. We had a couple of High School sailors try the boat out on a windy day, and they were able to surf waves and keep the boat planing off the wind, reporting that the helm had a great feel upwind and the boat sailed with minimal weather helm. Our Sailing Director, Brent Harrill, even jumped in the boat in his street clothes and was able to sail, tack, and gybe without getting wet.
After all the great reviews, the Junior Committee decided the RS Tera is the right boat for our Learn to Sail program. We will be purchasing 10 new RS Teras before the start of Summer Camp. Friends of the Opti, fear not. As kids develop their skills and become interested in racing, they will transition to the Opti for our Learn to Race program; we are purchasing six new Optis to update our aging fleet. Over the past few years, the Club has made a significant investment in our teenage sailors, with new FJs, 420s and Lasers. We are excited to make an investment in our younger sailors as well. We expect the new fleet will provide more smiles and more thrills, and that we will be able keep even more youngsters excited about sailing.