An Interview with MUSTO Skiff Youth Sailors, Ewan Wilson and Rob Richardson
Every year the MUSTO Skiff class welcomes new sailors and members, and in recent years, there has been a steady rise in youth sailors entering the class. Many are attracted by the challenge of learning a different boat but many are just looking to join an open class with a boat that is simply great fun to sail!
The open and sharing community ethos of the class has undoubtedly played a part in drawing new sailors to the MUSTO - as well as seeing a good retention of sailors who have sailed in the class for a number of years.
In addition, MUSTO Skiffs are renowned for being built to last, meaning they hold their value exceptionally well. However, older second hand boats in good condition can still be found on the market for under £4,000, enabling sailors to start sailing a MUSTO with an owned rather than borrowed boat.
GBR youth sailors, Ewan Wilson and Rob Richardson, who are both fairly new to the class, took time out to tell us what attracted them to the MUSTO Skiff and provide some insights into their learning curve and what they are doing to master this fast pace, high performance boat.
Rob is currently sailing at Royal Windermere Yacht Club in England and Ewan is based in Scotland, at Wormit Boating Club. Despite their young age, at 19 and 16 respectively, both sailors have already clocked up some impressive accolades with previous classes.
Ewan has won several titles in youth classes, including the Tera and Feva, and came 1st in the 29er Nationals in 2018. Ewan was also the 29er European Champion winner in Garda in 2019, alongside his crew, Fin Armstrong, in an event that saw 210 boats competing from 28 countries
Rob has also won several titles including RS 100 Inland National Champion, RS 100 Southern Champion, and GP14 Youth National Champion titles and he recently placed 2nd in the 2019 RS 100 Nationals.
Rob joined the class as a member just over 6 months ago in December 2019, and Ewan is currently new to the class and borrowing the boat to sail whenever he can.
Ewan: I’ve been sailing since I was eight, I think. Probably a Club RS Feva with my dad, who also has a MUSTO. I’ve sailed quite a few different boats - RS Tera, Feva, RS 200, 29er, and a little bit of moth sailing.
- Let’s start with how long you have both been sailing for and what other boats have you sailed prior to the MUSTO Skiff?
Rob: I’ve been sailing since I was about six. I started in the club Opi, then I started sailing an old Mirror and crewing for my dad in his RS 400. I’ve also sailed quite a few different boats in different events. I started racing the Mirror on the circuit when I was around 12 and progressed through the squads until I was about 15 and started sailing 29ers. During this time, I also started racing RS 100, GP14, and RS 200 - having various levels of success.
Rob: I was attracted to the MUSTO at a young age by family friends Richard and Kit Stenhouse. They occasionally brought their boats up the Windermere when they came to visit and I was instantly attracted to it!! They used to let me sail it when there was no wind or take me out as a passenger, which was really good fun. Also Richard was the best sailor I knew so I probably just wanted to copy him!
- What attracted you to the MUSTO Skiff?
Ewan: My dad got back into them again, which meant I could borrow his boat as I didn’t have a singlehanded boat to sail at home. I haven’t officially joined the class this year, as I am still sailing 29ers, and so currently just borrow a MUSTO when I can get time in it.
Rob: So far, I’m finding the boat an exciting challenge. Boat handling has been a real challenge, but I’m slowly improving at both tacking and gybing and spending a lot less time messing around in the boat. I’m enjoying the speed again as since I stopped sailing 29ers, I’ve been sailing slow boats, such as the 100 and the GP.
- How are you finding the MUSTO Skiff so far?
Ewan: Yes, it’s a good challenge. It’s a tricky boat to sail, but when you get it right, it’s rewarding.
Ewan: For me, I’m a bit light for it yet, so I find that I can’t get away with as much if my boat handling isn’t spot on (as my Dad’s - this is good and bad!). It just means I have to learn to be more precise with my techniques to get manoeuvres right.
- What are you finding most challenging?
Rob: For me – it’s boat handling too!! It’s taken me a while to get my head around boating handling. At first I was really struggling with tacking, not having the confidence to sit on the rack or hit the wire to get flow over the foils, which led to getting stuck in irons and eventually a swim.
Gybing - I really struggled with blowing the kite through, which resulted in the boat slowing a lot and becoming unstable. Thankfully there have been plenty of videos on Facebook since lockdown, which has taught me a good technique. I also find the bear-away quite challenging, going from flat wiring then into the hoisting position. Due to the recent pandemic, I haven't raced or sailed against another MUSTO, so I imagine the first time I race it will be a bit fruity.
Rob: Just seeing the hard work that I’m putting into learning to sail the boat pull off! Since lockdown I’ve been sailing as much as I can and I have learnt a lot in a short time frame. It's an extremely rewarding feeling to feel like you're sailing the boat properly and confidently - or I hope so anyway. I still need to race against other boats.
- What are you finding most rewarding?.....
Ewan: Every time I get it right, it’s rewarding.
Ewan: How tricky it is to sail. Most of the time it feels like you need a third arm to sail it!!
- What surprised you the most about the MUSTO Skiff?
Rob: There were a couple of things actually, one was that it gets stuck head to wind a lot - if you don’t carry enough speed through the tack you lose the foils and it just goes straight into irons. Being a lake sailor, I have enjoyed its light wind performance and upwind it’s extremely responsive to gusts and accelerates to top speed with very little effort, unlike the boats I’ve previously sailed.
Ewan: Just to master all boat handing manoeuvres and, if I have time and a free weekend, to do an event or two before the season is finished.
- What are your goals for this season?
Rob: Well, with the way things are at the moment I haven’t really got too many goals. I haven't actually raced the MUSTO yet, but I would like to be in the top half at this year's UK Nationals.
Ewan: To take part in a couple events over the next year or two.
- Have you got any targets in mind?
Rob: My targets are to get to Lake Garda for the World Championships in 2021, where I would hope to try to get into the top 20.
- What advice would you give for anyone else considering the MUSTO Skiff?
Ewan: Go for it if you’re looking for a new singlehanded challenge and like skiff sailing and boat handing. Watch lots of videos online to learn, then go out and try a range of techniques and find the one that works best for you.
At the moment, I find it’s just a great boat to get sailing in singlehanded and I don’t need to race, as it’s good fun to just sail the MUSTO. It’s a hard boat to sail, so it is rewarding to learn how to sail it.
Rob: Do it! Great boat to sail with a great group of people who are willing to help you get up to speed, as well as a large circuit and championships.