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Chesil Sailability Sailor helps develop new RS boat!

Tom Harper has been a sailor with Chesil Sailability since we began, and he has kindly written this guest blog post about his involvement in one of the most exciting developments in disability sailing in recent years... The new RS Venture Keel is an exciting proposition for disabled sailing and represents a considerable step forward for the sport. To have such a high-profile company recognise the benefits of involvement in disability sailing is a real coup and an achievement worth celebrating. However the process of design and manufacture of this boat is where the real innovation resides. Those of you who have been following my blog (Tom Harper Sailing) will be aware of my frustration with so-called "disabled" products. Questionable design and expensive low-volume production are the norm, with value for money a distant dream. The approach that RS have taken with the Venture Keel is a great example of Inclusive Design in action. Developing an existing boat and recognising the needs of able-bodied and disabled sailors from the start has brought advantages to both. A stable and practical proposition for any sailor, with high quality production and specific features for those with disabilities is a winning combination. The use of an existing hull and rig means that the price remains sensible too. For my part a chance to get involved with the design of the disability features of the boat was a golden opportunity. After a very wet sail of the prototype last summer the potential of the platform for disabled sailors was clearly evident. A debrief in the WPNSA cafe led to recognition that seating was going to be key to the boat's success. I was delighted to be asked to bring my skills as a designer and sailor to the project. As someone who finds the lack of suitable seating support a barrier to sailing many craft, I was keen to develop a system to cater for a wide range of physical impairments. The seat design I came up with will hopefully allow as many people as possible to enjoy safe and comfortable sailing in this exciting new boat. Lateral support, adjustable positioning and the ability to take a variety of pressure relieving cushions allow greater confidence on the water. It's always nice to see something you have designed in production, but the potential to make improvements within the sport you love is the ultimate reward. To say that I have enjoyed the process would be an understatement, I just hope the sailing experience lives up to expectation. For groups like Chesil Sailability, this new boat definitely has a lot to offer. RS have pitched the design to appeal to training and more exposed environments. The large cockpit allows for two disabled sailors as well as an instructor or coach. This makes it an ideal boat for teaching and racing development, allowing good communication and on-board training. The stability afforded by the considerable lead keel provides confidence and safety whilst allowing more experienced sailors to make the most of more challenging environments. For racing purposes I can see the boat making a real impact in handicapped fleets, with it's modern rig and spinnaker making it ideal for competitive sailing. With a PY yet to be established it's difficult to predict exactly whereabouts it will sit in a mixed fleet,but it will no doubt give disabled sailors the opportunity to experience quality racing against similarly specced boats. As the class grows we will inevitably see one design events appearing for the Venture Keel, bringing close boat on boat action to sailors. The prospect of getting out on the water and putting the design to the test is fast becoming a burning desire. Let's just hope the recent conditions down at Chesil Beach are not a sign of things to come for the rest of the season. Follow Tom's blog at www.tomharpersailing.blogspot.co.uk and on Twitter at @TomHarper68

Chesil Sailability: 13th Feb 2014 17:12:28


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