Following ISAF's final choice of sailing events for the 2016 Olympics, including a women's skiff, RS Sailing has announced it plans to develop the RS900 to compete for this role.
While that selection decision is yet to be made by an evaluation team across a range of designs a more immediate issue for Ireland is trying to find an Irish women's crew to campaign such a boat for Brazil.
There is huge interest in the new skiff style sailing internationally but Ireland have not had a double handed women's dinghy crew since Atlanta 1996 so gauging interest here in the new class might be difficult.
The RS900 will be an all-new boat incorporating developments from the highly respected RS800 hull, a new deck, new wings and a new rig. The RS900 will only go into full production if it is selected for the Olympics.
Early testing of a prototype RS900 has shown the performance can be close to a 49er - with optimised handling targeted to suit ISAF's specified weight range for female teams.
The new RS900 - a new Olympic class?
RS Sailing is also one of the very few companies with proven credentials for the production of one-design race boats in large volumes, plus an established global distribution network – able, therefore, to be a strong partner for ISAF in the successful introduction of a new flagship Olympic event.
"This is a serious project for us" says Martin Wadhams, managing director of RS Sailing. "It will take a great boat to do justice to the Olympic role and a new generation of female sailing athletes. It will also take a significant commitment to work with ISAF on the strategy to launch the new class quickly and effectively if it wins selection. We're up for that."
Nick Peters, head of development at RS Sailing comments "We learned at lot from the initial women's skiff trials at Hyeres four years ago. The RS800 which we took there was perhaps the closest existing class to meet the requirement range of a new Olympic boat – but we understood that the final boat we put forward would need to be more responsive, faster and more challenging to sail. Early sailing of the new RS900 leaves us in no doubt that we have a worthy skiff on our hands. We just need final confirmation of some key evaluation criteria, such as the target sailor weight range, to allow us to confirm we'll undertake the investment needed to compete and then refine the boat to the role."
A number of key features can be seen from the photos, but are liable to change. More technical details will be released as development progresses and all elements are finalised.