There are places where you have to go sailing at least once in a lifetime; if you’re wandering around the Mediterranean, don’t miss out on the Argentario peninsula in Tuscany, Italy. It was in Cala Galera, the Argentario’s primary yacht haven, that I met with Tommy Moscatelli, owner of Yacht Synergy and the Italian importer for Fora Marine, the French yard that produces the RM range of boats. I was very curious to try out the 970, and the weather that August day was perfect.
A real Marc Lombard design
The Brittany based yard is well known not only among ocean sailors but also to those who love short-handed sailing and are looking for seaworthy and easily driven boats, both safe and comfortable. This last aspect is where Fora Marine has made great progress in the last few years, shedding some of the spartan image that characterized their products for many years.
What has not changed, and what is still the RM range’s defining characteristic, is the twin-chined hull, made of Okumé plywood impregnated with epoxy resin (the deck is in fiberglass sandwich). Below the hull, the yard offers two options, a single deep keel or double shoal draft keels. The RM are designed by Marc Lombard, probably one of the architects most able to transform the fashionable chine into an important element in cruising design. A chined hull, when properly drawn, gives both better hull shape and interior volumes.
While waiting to leave the dock, I went exploring below. The amount of interior space is surprising, especially when we realize we are aboard a boat that’s only a bit over nine and a half meters long. My first impression is how much light there is below, thanks to the large cabin windows – especially the continuous forward window, spanning the entire cabin front.
I also appreciated the semi-open-space layout with the forward cabin open to the spacious dinette, the latter made up of two long settees on either side with a table with folding leaves on the centerline. To port, the galley has a classic “L” shape, and a real chart table is to starboard, something all to rare on modern designs. Aft, the stern cabin is to port, to starboard the head and then, farther aft, the ample lockers. While the cabin top may appear to be a bit squat when compared to the RM1070, it was the only choice the yard had to obtain sufficient headroom.
My first impression is how much light there is below, thanks to the large cabin windows – especially the continuous forward window, spanning the entire cabin front.
As we left the marina under power and headed to the point to find some wind, I made a careful examination of the deck layout. This version of the 970 had twin wheels (a tiller version is also available). I must disagree with the purists who don’t appreciate twin wheels on boats of this length: I like this solution as it leaves a proper amount of space along the centerline to move around, while giving excellent visibility to the helmsman even when heeled. Six winches are standard, and perfectly placed to work the boat while sheltered in the cockpit. The side decks are wide, greatly facilitating crew work on deck.
In 12 knots of wind we manged to do 6.7 knots, even through the swell left over from yesterday’s blow.
A light breeze appeared and we hoisted the main and opened the roller-furling genoa as we cleared the Argentario promontory. I took the wheel and headed close hauled: the boat is very responsive and it didn’t take long for me to stop overcorrecting. With the twin chines, when heeled the hull rests on the chines and tracks along without heeling any further. This is where the twin rudder blades come into their own and give the helmsman a perfect feel for the boat, reminding me of the ease of driving a go-kart. The full-width traveller and the high purchase mainsheet let us keep perfectly trimmed in the fluctuating wind. In stronger puffs all you have to do is fall off a touch early to pick up speed and avoid losing power by heeling too much.
In 12 knots of wind we manged to do 6.7 knots, even through the swell left over from yesterday’s blow. With just 10 knots we kept up the same speed when we fell off to a close reach, and did 5.5 knots when we fell off on to a beam reach. Steering is comfortable when standing (the footrest helps), but if you’re seated to weather, the pulpit is a bit too close (though my not exactly slender shape may have something to do with it!).
But definitely, I really like the deck design and the RM 970 is a joy if you love to sail really. This fast plywood boat is perfect for an entertaining cruise, but also for lovers of solo sailing.