RS 200 - Small but (almost) Perfectly Formed

Another classy product from RS, this one's a great boat for lightweights

Wednesday July 19th 2000, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: United Kingdom
RS 200

The RS200 comes from the design board of Phil Morrison and bears a striking resemblance to her successful bigger sister, the RS400. The RS200 is aimed at the ‘ambitious novice’ and formulated as a small boat for small people. The asymmetric spinnaker is available as an option, and the RS200 has a strong alter ego as a training boat with just two sails. The MadforSailing test was undertaken on a light-ish day, in around 6-12 knots of breeze with Peter Bentley as the reviewer.

There’s no doubt that the RS200 was built to the typically high standards of the marque, so high scores in the relevant departments. The materials are good quality polyester and glass laminates, providing a nice balance of cost and durability. Speed is deceptive, and with her wide beam, excellent hiking position and powerful rig, she performs well both upwind and down. Most asymmetric boats sail best at high angles downwind, trading speed for height and ultimately better VMG. But in lighter conditions and especially in flat water, the RS200 has another option - she makes very good progress with the spinnaker goose-winged out to windward. The small size of the sail makes it an easy job for the crew to keep the sail full to windward, opening up a whole new range of downwind options.

Rigging is simple - there are no trapeze wires or lower shrouds. Top marks go to the fittings which are all in the right places and work without fault. The carefully shaped side decks ease the tedium of hiking out. Getting the spinnaker up and down is simple. The spinnaker sock is small and the pole is led across rather than through the foredeck. The Proctor rig is well developed and matched perfectly by the Hyde sails.

The RS 200 lacks the brashness and raw performance of her bigger sisters, so although she cannot score high in the ultimate performance category, the RS200 is no laggard. It’s possible that she is at her best in lighter conditions.

The RS 200 has exceeded sales targets and over a hundred are expected at the Nationals at Pwllheli in 2000 - there were 97 on the start line in 1999. An active race circuit of a dozen or so meetings throughout the year will keep the open meeting junkies busy on the road. With average turn-outs of around fifty boats, this is a circuit and a half. Most of the boats are sold within the UK, and are a favourite for university team racing, and for training within sailing clubs.

The RS 200 is not demanding - which is not to say that she isn’t up to providing a wild ride in big conditions. Far from it. But for the average crew wanting simple sailing in a simple boat the RS200 offers all that is required and more.

Rants Great racing for the lightweights
Raves Spinnaker looks like a spoiler on a Volvo estate

Photo by Peter Bentley

The Nitty Gritty

Ease of Sailing

A small, undemanding boat from the highly credible drawing board of Phil Morrison, refined with the usual thoroughness of a product from the RS stable. You’d expect the RS200 to be easy to sail and you won’t be disappointed. Upwind the boat is every bit as responsive and well balanced as one might expect from such an experienced designer. Equally typical of the thoughtful approach is the asymmetric spinnaker. It’s a small sail and set from a short pole, but it adds an interesting dimension to downwind sailing (especially in comparison with a more traditional boat for this market, like the National 12) without ever threatening to become unmanageable. When the breeze is up, there is little doubt that the now well understood techniques of apparent wind sailing will prove the most effective way to get downwind. As ever, choosing the balance between speed and running deep will be critical. In lighter conditions and particularly in flat water, the RS200 makes very good progress with the spinnaker goose-winged out to windward.

Systems and Layout

Rigging the RS200 proves simplicity itself. The pivoting centreboard provides a simpler and less obtrusive solution to the lateral resistance problem than the more common daggerboard. The swing down rudder compliments the easily-adjusted centreboard and getting off lee shores need make no one nervous. Once underway, this boat lives up to the reputation that her bigger sisters have developed for the brand - everything is in just the right place and works without fault. I wouldn’t say hiking is ever fun, but the carefully shaped side decks take away a fair amount of the pain. As with the RS400, the highly effective toe strap adjustment system provides a wide range of anchorage positions and lengths. The lanyard system employed is necessarily only adjustable on the beach or at rest out on the water. The only apparent over-sight - the lack of non-slip on the wide centrally placed thwart - turns out to be a blessing. Upwind in light airs and downwind in any conditions, the ability to slide smoothly from side to side allows the crew to maintain the right trim with very little effort.


The RS200 is no laggard, though she perhaps lacks the brashness and raw performance of her bigger sisters. RS have clearly taken to heart the point that a vast amount of British sailing takes place in light winds on sheltered waters. It is in these conditions that the RS200 will excel.

Build Quality

The hull and deck are constructed from simple but good quality polyester and glass laminate, and our test boat looked to be built to a very high standard. As might be expected from an RS boat, all the equipment comes from well known suppliers and all of it works perfectly. The rig from Proctor Masts is supported by a single set of spreaders, complimenting sails from Hyde. The development team have clearly worked hard, the rig and the sails are both a good match, the sails built to Hyde’s usual high standards.

Anticipated Durability

With such a high quality of construction, on a relatively undemanding design, we’d be surprised if you ever need much more than a shackle key.

Quality of Race Circuit

If doesn’t get much better, all the RS200 lacks is an international dimension to its strong UK circuit for a perfect score. There are twelve meetings through the season, and the class is expected to join the ton up club (over a hundred entries) at the 2000 Nationals (a 100 for the 200 in 2000?). It’s also popular for university team racing (which usually means the Nationals have a ‘lively’ social scene),

Value for Money

A quality product that should hold its resale value with such a strong circuit in place.

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