I took out the boat at lunchtime. Minorca Sailing don't have a rescue boat out on the water at that time of day, just one instructor on the shore keeping an eye out for mariners in distress. So I left instructions that I wanted to do some deliberate capsizes and recoveries and that I didn't need any rescuing unless I was in the water for at least 10 minutes.
It was about 6-8 knots with the occasional gust of 12 so I sailed around for a while and did some ugly tacks and gybes trying to capsize it but the damn thing wouldn't go over. In the end I forced it into a deliberate broach. As the mast hit the water I tried to do a dry capsize but got my foot caught in something as I tried to climb up to the high side, so I dropped into the water thinking that I needed to test what happens if I did fall out of the boat anyway, because even if I did manage to learn how to do a dry capsize I can't guarantee I won't ever end up in the water.
I swam round to the daggerboard and pulled the boat upright. That part seemed a little easier than a Laser. (Important note - the Aero at Minorca Sailing had a mast head float fitted (as do pretty much all the boats there except Lasers) so I wasn't able to test the tendency of the boat to turn turtle or not.
As I was warned by one of the instructors, it was not easy for a heavy person like me to get in over the side of the boat. This pre-production boat did not have grab rails so the only thing to grab was the hiking strap and every time I tried to pull my weight into the boat using that the boat capsized again on top of me. I tried and failed three times. Please note that I weigh 190lbs but have never had this problem before with Lasers or Sunfish.
As I was swimming around the boat to the daggerboard one time I momentarily lost contact with the boat and it started being blown downwind away from me. The boat was on it side and the boom was high in the air so the sail was helping to push it downwind too. I think the only thing that saved me was that the masthead float was acting like a sea anchor and by swimming hard I managed to catch the float and then work my way down the mast to the boat itself. Without that float I don't think I would ever have been able to catch the boat, and this was only in lightish winds. Goodness knows how fast the boat would sail away on its own in 20 knots. I guess this is one of the consequences of the boat being so light.
After three failed attempts to get in over the side of the boat I decided to try Plan B - climb in over the transom. This wasn't as easy as it might have been because although the Aero looks like an open transom boat it isn't really. It has those funny little honeycomb contraptions that hold the drain flaps so you have to pull yourself in over one of those. But by grabbing the back of the hiking strap and pulling hard I managed to drag myself in over one of the honeycomb gizmos. I was worrying I might break the honeycomb gizmo or detach it from the hull. I didn't do any damage this time (but more on this design feature in a later post.)
Rear view of RS Aero showing
the "honeycomb contraptions" which support the drain flaps
So I didn't cheat the nursing home this time, but I think my inability to get in over the side of the boat and the speed with which the boat blew away from me in even light winds are serious questions I need to consider before deciding whether to buy one.
Bottom line is that I strongly recommend that anyone having a demo in an Aero should try out capsize recoveries. Maybe you will have a better experience than I did. Sailors who are lighter than me or more agile than me may not have the same problem. Also I understand that the production boats have grab rails so that may make re-entering the boat somewhat easier.
Photo from RS Sailing Facebook page
showing grab rail on production RS Aero