On the Friday at the end of our first week in Minorca, I wanted to sail the RS Aero in the morning but I discovered that another sailor had already put his name down to use it in the weekly pursuit race. So I took out a Laser and sailed around watching the pursuit race. After a while I realized that the Aero had left the race so I went back to the beach to see what was going on. It turned out that the hiking strap had broken, pulled out of the screws at the front. The staff were busy repairing it and I was told I could take the Aero out in the afternoon, once the sealant around the screws had dried.
So I went and had some lunch, and took out the Aero (with a slightly shorter hiking strap) in the afternoon in about 17-21 knots. That was the reading on the wind meter on the beach. It might have been more in the middle of the bay.
What a blast!
I realized I had been doing it all wrong going upwind. The other windy day I sailed I couldn't really hike the boat flat but today I put on maximum vang and cunningham and I could sail it flat. It was just as much hard work as a Laser in these conditions though - hiking as hard as I could, playing the sheet all the time to try and keep the boat flat and driving fast.
I found I could hike at the front of the cockpit without waves coming over the bow (which is quite high.) I did manage to go into irons a couple of times going through tacks in these conditions until I realized it's just like a Laser - you do need to make sure you steer it firmly through the tack without being too tentative and make sure you get your weight across smartly and get it driving on the other tack.
On Tuesday in the RS Aero 7 in somewhat more moderate wind, the gunwales were deflecting all the spray on the reach and beat, but on this day I was getting a lot of spray in the face. Thank goodness for that. I don't really feel like I've had a good sail unless I've taken a couple of waves over my head and come back with my face caked with salt.
I got some great rides on waves on reaches, and downwind I was faster than the waves. The bow was lifting right out of the water on reaches when I got my weight back.
Gybing was easy. I realized the boat hadn't capsized once in three outings and that I might have to do a deliberate capsize one day if I wanted to test out capsize recovery.
After three tests of the Aero with different rigs in a wide variety of conditions I was coming to a couple of conclusions about the Aero…
1. The boat's design does eliminate many of the frustrations that some people have with the Laser - such as catching the sheet around the transom, low boom, auto bailer ineffective at low speeds etc.
2. On the other hand, it is ultimately a very similar experience to sailing a Laser. It is what it is - a 13ft hiking, planing single-hander. The lighter weight of the Aero does make it more exciting on reaches, but I wasn't seeing a huge difference in the overall experience on beats and runs.
I was actually starting to wonder whether I really needed a (slightly) better mousetrap as well as my existing mousetrap.
Coming soon... Tillerman tests out capsize recovery on the Aero. Other sailors' experiences with the Aero at Minorca Sailing. What I like and don't like about the Aero design. Ruminations on robustness.