Welcome to the fleet!
Cadets attended the RS Quest launch at Southampton Boat Show
Welcome to the fleet!
Olympic sailor and boat designer Jo Richards introduces new dinghy
By Contributor profile



Jo Richards never dreamed of sailing in the Olympics – he just knew he was going to do it. After winning bronze at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Jo inspired other sailors to reach Olympic glory, assisting Shirley Robertson with her two gold medals in 2000 and 2004.

Now that his Olympic days are behind him, Jo is now a world-renowned boat designer, having built the best-selling Laser Pico, among others. His latest creation is our new dinghy, the RS Quest, designed specifically with Sea Cadets in mind. It’s light enough for beginners to manoeuvre, while offering advancement through to RYA Instructor.

The new dinghy, which he designed with RS Sailing, was launched last Friday 11 September at the Southampton Boat Show. We talked to Jo about how it will improve the Sea Cadet sailing experience.

What are the main features of the RS Quest?

It’s very stable, with lots of space for three cadets and one instructor. It’s a simple boat really, but what we’ve tried to do is add a few things that will benefit cadets.

For example, we’ve incorporated a foredeck box, or bow box, which has room for the usual necessities, like snacks, but also a man overboard line, anchor and anchor line, so you always know where they are. You can even fit a few sleeping bags in there, if you’re going on an adventure, and positioning it in the bow leaves more room for people.

How will this dinghy improve youth sail training?

It’s more user-friendly. We were aware of how high most dinghies float when they capsize. More space usually results in a higher float, making it harder to recover, so we put in removable side benches, which makes it less buoyant when it capsizes. We also built in a handle, in front of the bilge keel, to make it easier to stay in contact with the boat and to pull it back up. And, the top section of the mast is completely sealed, so when you capsize it is much lighter and easier to pull back up.

We gave it a two-piece mast, which makes it easier for storing and transporting. It’s generally a lot lighter and easier to move around. Unlike the bosun, it’s self-draining – so no more bailing out! The prototype we made earlier this year has been trialed by cadets, and it just needed a few tweaks to the design based on their feedback.

What sets it apart from other dinghies?

Space and stability and practicality. It’s more versatile. The gunnel around the edge is specifically shaped to make it easier to get out of the water onto the trailer, and to move it about. And it has a keel and bilge keels designed to all be touching the ground at once, so if you plonk the boat on the grass it stays stable – good for training on land.  

How does sailing benefit young people?

Sailing is like any outdoor sport, it’s good for young people. I first spent a night on a boat when I was 18 days old and I’ve been obsessed with sailing since about the age of four. When I was young and someone gave me a toy car, I would turn it upside down and pretend it was a boat. It’s just like it says in The Wind in the Willows – “there is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Check out a video from the launch below:

Interested in boat building and maintenance? Check out the apprenticeships available with Berthon Boat Company on our careers page.