Photos by Peter Bentley

Photos by Peter Bentley

The introduction of LDC's new RS-branded Vareo has been hailed as the dawn of a new era in versatile sailboats. It is designed primarily as a competitive single-hander and yet it has all-round appeal. The Vareo is stable enough to sail with the kids while the cockpit has plenty of room for two adults. It is perhaps for this reason that Sunsail has purchased 25 for its bases in the Mediterannean.

The Phil Morrison-designed craft comes with a choice of two rigs. The 'F' rig has a semi-battened mylar and dacron combination mainsail with reef points. This ensures the Vareo remains easy to manage in strong winds and is especially suited for the light or inexperienced sailor. The C rig, used in the madforsailing test, is slightly larger and built from radial cut mylar with full length battens offering a more powerful performance. The added option of an asymmetric spinnaker transforms the boat from just another singlehander into something altogether more interesting. The spinnaker is easy to handle, very light on the sheet, and makes downwind sailing a lot more exciting. Not having a forestay, gybing the spinnaker is a piece of cake.

Sailed as a single-hander on a competitive circuit, the boat would be more responsive to crews weighing more than 70kg. Our test pilot, Emma White weighing a mere 54kg, had no trouble however, putting it through its paces on a very light and shifty day in Southampton water.

We were all very impressed with the rigging - a timed five minutes from start to finish, extremely simple and very straightforward. As with all of the RS fleet it comes with its own manual with step-by-step guide to rigging and some handy sailing tips. Manoeuvrability on-shore was very much how the brochure said: light, easy to manage and a doddle to pull back up the slip.

The Vareo is as easy to manage on the water as it is off. It's extremely stable and very forgiving. You would have to do an awful lot wrong not to be able to recover, and yet despite its stability you lose none of the feeling or responsiveness of racier designs. It's pretty quick to accelerate upwind, and RS tell us it's slightly quicker than a Laser. Downwind with the spinnaker you can expect to reach between 12 and 15 knots, all without drama. Easy to right from a capsize, the open transom sees the boat draining out almost instantly when righted. With the floor at the stern almost level with the water line, hauling oneself back on board proved quick and untroubled.

For once we struggled to find anything to complain about. It is so easy to sail, nippy and good fun. A competitive fleet may take a while to get established but that's not really the object of the boat. LDC is certainly not expecting it to become part of its fully-fledged racing circuit. The Vareo should be very popular at local club racing level, plus its versatile nature will lend itself to an open market who perhaps couldn't justify the purchase of a single-handed RS600, RS700 or Musto Skiff.

Ease of sailing

Photos by Peter Bentley

Photos by Peter Bentley

Single-handers don't come much simpler to sail. Yet the simplicity and the stability certainly don't detract from the responsiveness or fun of this boat. Despite its sensible nature, the Vareo still has the look of an RS raceboat, and more importantly, sails like an RS raceboat. We were impressed at how successful the boat is in applying itself to a multitude of uses - and sailors - across the whole spectrum.

Having launched with ease in no breeze whatsoever, we set off into Southampton Water to find some. In little or no breeze the boat is as stable as when the gusts come through, easy to point and responsive to even the lighter puffs. The kicker and cunningham are held in cleats, out of the way and yet easily accessible on either side of the gunwhale, and the feather-weight loads are no trouble to adjust while sailing.

The mainsail is held by a centre jammer cleat via a ratchet block. The load is again light and manageable, our only qualm would be that the angle of the jammer cleat made it a little awkward to free in really light breeze. The toe straps are fully adjustable and the smooth rounded sides of the gunwhale make hiking out as comfortable as is ever possible. Toe straps for a crew are an optional extra, and if the boat was to be used regularly by two people, we would strongly recommend forking out the extra £50 or so to stop your crew feeling that a backwards somersault into the drink was imminent.

Photos by Peter Bentley

Photos by Peter Bentley

Hoisting the spinnaker for the first time was not necessarily tricky, more just a set of sequences that would no doubt become quicker and more fluid with more time spent in the boat. Bearing off on a broad reach, you ease the kicker and the mainsail and then stand placing the tiller between your knees to steer while you quickly hoist the chute. Sit back down and hold the spinnaker sheet in your left hand while you pull back in the mainsheet and cleat. The spinnaker then takes over and you can happily plane along and play the spinnaker. Easier done than said.

The loads on the spinnaker sheet are extremely light and would be manageable for children aged from about eight and upwards. The lack of a forestay means gybing with the spinnaker is uncomplicated and quick.

It is fair to say that the boat is aimed at the novice sailor, but has enough speed and interest to keep a more experienced sailor happy. Although it has a certain appeal to everyone at all stages we didn't think it would perhaps be so well received by the speed-loving sailors looking for an ultimate thrill - you'd be best off sticking to an RS600. The Vareo is perfectly suited to people who have never sailed before or children who are just champing at the bit to get out and play with an asymmetric.

Systems and layout

All fittings come as standard from Holt Allen, and in a simple to sail boat, simplicity is a key feature to the systems and layout.

The kicker and cunningham are held in cleats out of the way but accessible on the gunwhale. Again the loads are extremely light and would be easily managed by youngish children.

The deck is completely covered in non-slip so no chance of any surprise skids, and any water taken on board is taken care of with the slight incline and the open transom. The daggerboard is simply dropped into place and kept from popping up by a simple elasticated device.

The spinnaker sock is secured to the left hand side of the foredeck and the end of the halyard that emerges from the spinnaker chute forms the downhaul for the sail aft of the chute sock.

The two different rigs - you only get one as standard - offer the chance to set the boat for the conditions and/or the ability/weight of the sailor. The larger, fully-battened rig, suited to experienced and heavier sailors gives the boat the extra performance and speed, while the smaller rig is a good choice for the lighter novice.

Build quality

Photos by Peter Bentley

Photos by Peter Bentley

The RS Vareo is made using a polyester GRP laminate so the hull is both light and durable, easy to manoeuvre on the shore and buoyant yet robust on the water. The conditions we were sailing in didn't really put the Vareo through its paces or test it to the extreme and it felt it had a lot more to give and certainly wasn't going to give up at the sign of any big gust or wave.

The mast has a light composite tip with an aluminium lower section. The mainsail hoists in a track, so unlike a sleeve-luff mainsail you don't have to lift the rigged mast and sail into the boat together.

Anticipated durability

The usual solid performance from RS, we wouldn't expect many problems. It's such a simple boat that any problems that did arise would be easily rectified.

Quality of race circuit

As we said before, RS isn't primarily pushing it into the all-out circuit scene. Having said that, it will of course fit in with the usual RS circuit brigade, and we imagine it will be very popular at local club level.

Value for money

At £3,595 for the complete boat, you definitely get your money's worth. The asymmetric is an optional extra for a mere £295 and well worth the money. The last word we will leave to Sunsail's Simon Letten: "We've received terrific client feedback about the Vareo. Also and perhaps more significantly, the staff who are a pretty straight-talking bunch think it is a really great boat."

Review Category:
User:Club, Open Meeting, National, Racer
Description:Single-hander, sit in, optional asymmetric spinnaker

Weight:68 kg
Sail Area:8.00 sq m (F rig) / 8.8 sq.m (C rig)

Build Quality:95%
Ease of sailing:95%
Anticipated Durability:80%
Systems and Layout:95%
Quality of Race Circuit:50%
Value for Money:99%

LDC Racing Sailboats
Trafalgar Close
Chandlers Ford
Eastleigh SO53 4BW
Great Britain
Phone +44 (0)2380 274500
Fax: +44 (0) 2380 274800