Saturday, March 01, 2014

RS Aero - 21st Century Laser?

You might have noticed, if you have read this blog for a while, that I like Laser sailing. At times I can even be quite passionate about Laser sailing. I love my Laser. And a lot of other people feel the same way. Over 200,000 Lasers have been sold and it's one of the most popular single-handed racing dinghies in the world.

One of the reasons for the Laser's huge success has been its strict one design rules. But I suspect that this will also eventually be the cause of its demise. A boat which has been "frozen" in 1970s technology must always compete with newer designs, newer concepts, newer technology.

So I am realistic to know that the popularity of any sailing class never lasts for ever. One day a boat will come along which will take over the role of the Laser as the leading single-handed racing dinghy in the world. And from time to time I have written posts on this blog speculating what that boat might be.

MX-Ray? Hoot? D-One? What happened to them? I've never even seen one of them in my neck of the woods.

More recently the RS-100 has been doing well in Europe but I don't think that many have been sold in North America. I have sailed the RS-100 when I have been on vacation at Minorca Sailing and it is certainly an exciting little boat. It is so much more fun to sail downwind than a Laser; the asymmetric spinnaker gives a whole new dimension to the experience.

And yet. The price of a new RS-100 in the US is about twice the price of a new Laser. Not many people are going to buy one at that price. Not enough people to make a big dent in the sales of new Lasers anyway.

But at the RYA Dinghy Show in England today, RS-Sailing is launching another single-hander, the RS Aero.

It is a full-size single-hander. 4m long and 1.4m beam.

It only weighs 30kg so one person can carry it up the beach and it is very easy for youths and women to put on a roof rack.

It has three rigs to suit many different sizes and weights of sailor (just like the Laser.)

It's advertised price is £4870.  This compares with the top-of-the range Laser XD in the UK at £4,847.

So what's not to like? Sexy, fast new design. Half the weight of the Laser. Same price. All the technical expertise, manufacturing capability and marketing know-how of RS-Sailing behind it.

RS-Sailing are even describing it as a "21st century Laser" in their RS Aero Lift-off press release.

Could this be the Laser killer?

I wonder if Minorca Sailing will have an RS Aero by September?

Watch this space.


Michael O'Brien said...

This is one reason why the Laser fiber glass new spar that replicates exactly the current spar is such a bad idea. When we fix the old, metal spars, we should replace with a modern, carbon design that reduces weight and updates the boat. Just like the new rigging, it could make the boat much easier to sail.

Joe Rousé said...

I love the specs on this boat! Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Oztayls said...

It's simple and cheap, so it should do well. It has all the features Laser sailors dream about. This could well be a Laser killer, provided they keep it well away from Rastagar

Tillerman said...

I was thinking of making some mention of the current turmoil in Laser world in my post but decided it was long enough without it.

But, as Oztayls mentions, there are a lot of Laser sailors who are pissed off at Farzad Rastegar, the owner of the major builder, and the lawsuits by the designer against Rastegar's companies and the class and ISAF are not making a positive contribution to the image of the class, to say the least.

Wake up people! While your lawyers are battling about who has the right to build Lasers and who gets to charge royalties on Laser sales, someone else might come along and steal all the cookies. There won't be much royalty income to fight about if in a few years all the kids are buying RS Aeros instead of Lasers.

/Pam said...

It doesn't help that ISAF is now talking about eliminating Laser Masters World events. Seems like all the organizations are mucking things up.

On the bright side, just like the basic eat right and exercise still works when compared to all the fancy specialized diets and exercise equipment ... maybe the simple old Laser will still work too. After all I live with a man who leaves the house to go sail his Laser and comes back looking and acting much younger.

Anonymous said...

Laser = single, One design, cheap, simple , hard ,.... FUN !! .... RS Aero ? It looks too good boat, well thinked and balanced, not so fun ...

Tillerman said...

Hmmm. So, Anonymous, are you saying that the RS Aero won't succeed because it is "too good?" You are going to have to explain that.

Is it a bit like how teenage boys think about girls? Bad girls more fun than good girls?

Eric said...

Just got through reading the very detailed RS Aero brochure. This looks like an amazing boat with many advantages over a Laser at a similar price. I love the Laser, but I would certainly like to try an RS Aero to see if it as much fun to sail. I wonder if there will be any around the N.E. U.S. to try when the weather improves.

Tillerman said...

Eric, I see that the RS Sailing US website has now been updated to include the Aero saying that it is available nationwide. The US price is $7,499 - more than a Laser - but almost $6,000 less than an RS100.

Given that, I expect we will soon see announcements of demos around the country.

George A said...

The 66 lb hull weight is a definite plus. A major detraction of a Laser is that it weights a ton for it's size. Free standing carbon rig is also a big plus (less weight aloft to hike against, reduced pendulum effect). Center main sheeting is also a big improvement over a transom bridle (no more hooking the transom; for gybes just grab the fall of the sheet and yang it over). Don't think the Laser is going to die any time soon, but this boat will have an impact--similar to the open bic vs Opti.

Anonymous said...

wanna race in an Olympic class with many of the best racers in the country any time you want? - in a boat that is competitive (ie it's you not the boat) for 1k? -------laser .... when these guys find 50k adopters at 8k who are ready to dump their new boats for 3k we can talk till then ... very fun very small fleets relative

Tillerman said...

Good points Anonymous. The sheer number of well-attended Laser regattas all over the country is one reason that keeps the Laser so popular. And the availability of reasonably priced second-hand boats in decent condition helps a lot too. Not to mention the opportunity to travel to other parts of the world to compete against other Laser sailors (at the Masters Worlds in my case.)

I'm sure those MBA marketing guys have some fancy name for why an established product can continue to be a market leader for decades, even when it is not the most technically superior product or the one that offers the consumer the best features compared to some of the newer competitors. Barriers to entry?

I've a suspicion that one reason there doesn't seem to be such a big barrier for new designs of dinghy to enter the market in the UK is the prevalence of Portsmouth Handicap racing there. Even if you're the first sailor at your club with an RS100 or an RS Aero you can still race in the weekly handicap races against all the other dinghies. On the other hand, it wouldn't be all that much fun to be the only owner of a new class in New England unless you are happy to sail around on your own for a few years.

And yet… I can't help thinking that sooner or later some new design will come along that will be so attractive that it sells say 100 boats at the Annapolis Boat Show and all of a sudden there are 5 fleets on the Chesapeake with 20 boats each, and the next year there are 5 similar fleets in New England and 5 in Florida, and the next year someone organizes the first North Americans and 60 boats show up. It's only a matter of time.

Of course when it does happen there will still be tens of thousands of Lasers out there and even if new Laser sales take a hit there will still be plenty of Laser racing around for the rest of my lifetime. Hell, some people are still racing Sunfish!

Simon said...

There comes a time to replace old with the New. That time has come

Anonymous said...

so to expand on this and on ur comment that maybe u should have been racing something else the last 30 yrs ...what? reread the comments above - fact is at 14 ft there aint a lot of difference in boats, heavier prob mostly means more durable and again I point to the 1k competitive junkers out there ... 14 ftrs are all small and uncomfortable and while the aero might plane in 3 kts less wind who cares? they are both gonna be overpowered within 10 kts of that number... the laser does spectacularly well what needs to be done in this arena - its fine for the purpose - what might happen as a result of a perceived challenge to sales in to allow and create sales of new carbon masts for current laser sailors - and with that it'd be as new a boat as it needs to be...great blogging btw

Tillerman said...

Simon says time for a change.
Anonymous says all 14 ft boats are pretty much the same.

Thanks everyone. Very wise comments.

George A said...

Anonymous probably wouldn't care for a development class. Some guys do, other guys don't. One thing I can say is that after 85 years of tinkering, the Moth Class has certainly demonstrated that not all 11 foot boats are the same. Many designs have come along which have proved to be very much faster than previous benchmarks. Some of those boats indeed fall into the"horse for a course" category in that they are faster only in specific conditions. However, other examples have come to the fore which have proved faster in all sea states and in all wind velocities. Such break through all-arounders instantly make preceding designs obsolete. The same applies to rigs, blades, sails and sail shape control systems--all are subject to the restless and constant push for improvement. Improvement, in turn, is driven by changes in materials, construction technologies and our constantly evolving understanding of what makes a boat go fast.

Lasers, without doubt, will be around for a long time as noted due to sheer numbers. Strict one-design classes are great incubators for developing racing skills since, at least in theory, boat speed should be similar across the fleet. Having said that, faster, more exciting boats will also always be around for those with a need for speed and an itch to tinker.

Wavy said...

It's interesting to hear your excitement, anticipation and in some instances
speculation. It has been my absolute pleasure and privilege to have been a
small part of the development process and I have sailed the V3 Aero on 4
occasions in wind and waves and in the lighter stuff on a lake. (I don't work for RS by the way)

As we Brits like to think of boats in the feminine sense, I thought I would
put down some thoughts based on my own experience of sailing this wonderful
craft. I would say that the Aero can be compared to the perfect girlfriend
as follows:

She is uncomplicated yet sophisticated, she doesn't take forever to get
ready, she goes like a train, she has no vices or annoyances, she is an LMB
(Low maintenance Bird) as opposed to an HMB, she won't bite you in the arse
or take advantage of you when you make a mistake, she will be easy to live
with yet rewarding in the long term. She will make you smile.... every time!

Seriously though, it really is a pleasure to sail and I haven't been so
excited about my sailing since the launch of the RS600. But make no mistake,
the launch of the Aero is infinitely more significant and infinitely more
accessible. I truly believe we are all witnessing an important moment in the
history of Dinghy Sailing. I placed my order shortly after the show last week along
with my brother and several mates. The truth is though, in my head, I had
placed the order within 5 minutes of stepping into it back in October on a
very windy day in the Salcombe estuary (wind over spring tide).

Jo Richards and Alex Newton-Southon deserve massive credit for the careful consideration and total understanding of market needs. I hope you get the fleets you want over there!

Jonathan said...

RS boats are Very well built - even though this is a light-weight boat, do not expect it to be fragile. This boat has two major advantages over the Laser:

Weight - the light weight means that it will accelerate much faster than a Laser meaning an expert will go through waves faster, and she will start planning at a lower wind-speed (and so should plane at a faster boat speed).

Mast/Sail - the Laser is notoriously inefficient in low wind - as you use the sail to bend the mast to create sail shape, you cannot flatten the sail in light winds using the kicker without hooking the sail (Finns/OKs use different sails, Solos use a mast-chock system and in-haul). Lasers also become physically hard work in strong winds. The Aero's laminate sail with inbuilt draft (not just luff curve) should allow you to flatten the sail in light wind, or use the downhaul (cunningham) to bend the carbon mast to flatten the sail off upwind top-first in strong winds (skiff style). This allows two types of strong-wind upwind sailing: Either Laser style (all effort, all speed), or drop the power a bit for those who can't keep the effort required going for the whole race

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