Watercraft: A Sailboat for Beginners

Outside magazine, August 1996


Watercraft: A Sailboat for Beginners
By Dan Dickison


Sailing's nuances--the physics of wind and water, the web of lines, cleats, and sails, and yacht club etiquette--spell intimidation for the beginner. The Escape, an innovative sailboat from Sunfish Laser, helps the would-be-mariner handle the first two. When it's time to deal with the commodore, you're on your own.

What's unique is the Escape's self-teaching system. On dry land, a how-to video clearly explains the basics, distilling sailing's complexities down to easily understood functions. On board, a color-coded "windicator" and "trimdex" work in tandem to tell you where and when to point the boat and how to set the sail. The neophyte's nightmare--getting your head smashed and then capsizing--is all but eliminated by a high boom and an ultra-stable hull. Experienced sailors will notice the sacrifice of performance for stability, but the Escape isn't for them anyway; meanwhile it tacks sharply and moves plenty fast.

A simple rigging system reduces set-up to less than 20 minutes, and you can sail the 130-pound boat alone or with another, but three adults is a crowd: Too much weight renders the Escape a floating bathtub.

The rotomolded polyethylene hull makes the Escape comparatively inexpensive ($1,900), not to mention indestructible. And when you outgrow the boat, you can send your old Escape back to the factory to be recycled. Seriously.

From Sunfish Laser, 200 Highpoint Ave., Portsmouth, RI 02871; 800-724-5663.


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