I've been paddling an RZ85 for about 30 years. At the time, we bought the boat primarily because it was unbeatably affordable, but soon learned to value its efficient hull lines and forgiving nature towards the inexpert paddlers that we were. Over the years, we came truly to appreciate what it could actually do for more experienced paddlers!
The RZ96 is a direct descendent of the RZ85 and carefully retains or improves upon most of the same characteristics of handling, as well as of frame and skin construction.
One Significant Change
Pouch designed the RZ96 to be equipped with full-length internal buoyancy sponsons. To make space for them, the gunwales were pulled inboard somewhat in a compromise between increasing the beam as little as possible and maintaining as much interior volume as could be accommodated.
As a result the angle of the hull between the stringers and the lower longitudinal member of the gunwale assembly has become steeper, making the hull more rounded below the waterline in cross-section. This has increased the draught slightly, lowering the center of gravity, thereby decreasing the heeling moment at any given angle of heel and thus tending to make the RZ96 feel more initially stable. At the same time the waterline beam has decreased, tending to make the RZ96 feel initially less stable.
The net result is that it is easier deliberately to heel the RZ96 (for example to brace into broadside waves), but has left the boat feeling as stable as its predecessor, the RZ85, if the paddlers just sit and do nothing.
This change in the gunwales has also decreased the wetted surface area of the hull compared with the RZ85 at similar displacement, making it subject to less drag resulting from friction.
What about the final stability of the RZ96? Have the sponsons made a difference?
No, they have not: The increase in beam, compared to the RZ85, has made the difference. Whether the increase in beam is caused by the insertion of sponsons or old socks is, of course, irrelevant, it's the external cross-sectional shape of the hull, which determines this characteristic.
The shape of the sponsons has made one important difference though: The transition of hull to deck of the RZ85 was traditional and sharp. In the case of the RZ96, the transition is rounded and, since the sponsons are merely inflated air tubes, it is cushioned - read: kinder to the knuckles.
Also, the greatest beam width of the RZ96 is lower in the hull than that of the RZ85, which means that despite the increase in beam, the same relaxed paddling style can be used for both boats.
What else has changed?
The rungs, which connect the longitudinal members of the double keelson in the RZ85 have been replaced by a continuous cockpit sole in the RZ96. While this has increased the weight of the frame somewhat, it has also increased the stiffness of the boat and has made cargo storage easier.
The RZ96 is fitted with quarter turn fasteners, which make assembly and disassembly very fast and easy. (I assembled an RZ96 for the first time in the failing light of dusk and an increasingly heavy rainstorm, which quickly turned the grass into swampland.
Being used to assembling the RZ85 of course gave me somewhat of a head start, but I was pleased to find that I had put the whole boat together, without ever looking at the instructions, in about 18 minutes, including rigging the spray deck.
On the water
The RZ85 is a fast boat. The RZ96 appears to glide somewhat more easily even. The RZ96 feels a little nimbler, not "tippy" enough to prevent from standing up in it to pole through shallow water, though.
Both boats have ample interior volume, easily accessible due to the long, open cockpit. They track reliably, but respond readily to directional control strokes and edging.
The rudder can be used to decrease the turning radius, but will see use mostly as a "trim tab" under normal circumstances. The rudder sees most use when sailing the RZs. Even then, however, careful coordination of the sail trim and the sweep of the lee boards will produce near neutral helm.
had sailed the RZ85 for many years with a relatively small traditional
canvas gaff rig. Deploying Pouch's new, tall 5 square meter (about 55
sq-ft) "Pacific" sail rig was akin to graduating
from the family station wagon to a high powered sports sedan.
The traditional gaff rig was not too keen to point into the wind; the gaff allows too much twist in the main sail. The top batten of the "Pacific" rig acts as a vestigial gaff, but the much higher aspect ratio (length to height) of the sail, in conjunction with the stiff battens, make for a very efficient sail shape. The way to tack properly quickly becomes apparent - if not, try holding the jib aback a touch until the bow has come through the wind and the main sail just starts to draw again, then sheet home and take off on your new course.
Pouch uses the same comfortable, ergonomically shaped seats on all models. The curvature of the seat surface seems to work well for most people, providing just enough compression of the gluteus maximus to keep the lower parts of the pelvic bones cushioned. Curved backrests span the coaming within a soft rubber sheath, which promotes a comfortable resting position between stretches of paddling.
The central, adjustable, track mounted rudder pedal pedestal has two solid heel plates. These are fitted for the aft paddler as standard (with the rudder pedals) and can be fitted for the bow paddling position also. This set-up allows easy installation of a foot operated bilge pump.
with the heavy-duty spray deck, this makes the RZs suitable for serious
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