The RS Aero comes in three flavors - 5, 7 and 9.
The numbers refer to the approximate sail area of each rig in square meters.
Each rig has a different sail area and a different length bottom mast section.
So you can have whichever flavor - or sail area- suits you best.
As you can see, RS Sailing suggest that you should chose a rig based on your weight. On their website they also sum this up in a slightly different way, saying that the rig options will typically suit…
RS Aero 5 - youths
RS Aero 7 - women and small men
RS Aero 9 - men
Uh oh. Here we go again.
If you are a manly man you will want the RS Aero 9.
A manly man
It's just like the Laser and the Laser Radial. As my friend Yarg of Apparent Wind so eloquently wrote in - Why Manly Men Never Use a Radial Sail - there's no way a manly man would want to sail a Radial or an Aero 7 rig. Those are for girls, right?
As it turns out… wrong. Very wrong.
Back in last March when I placed what was apparently the first Aero order from North America, I ordered it with the 9 rig. I was hovering a bit over 200lbs at the time and based on what I read on the website it seemed that that was the rig for me.
But then George Yioulis of West Coast Sailing went over to England to try out the RS Aero and came back saying he was advising his customers that even men of my size should initially buy the 7 rig. And when I went to Minorca Sailing in September I tried both the 9 rig and the 7 rig and came to much the same conclusion.
A much better looking sailor than me
in an RS Aero at Minorca Sailing
The 7 rig was enough of a challenge for me in strong winds. On the other hand the extra sail area of the 9 rig was a delight in lighter winds.
So I decided to buy both the 7 and 9 rigs.
Yum - 2 flavors in one pie
My two fellow sailors in the Boston Aero Fleet also ended up buying two rigs. Yarg, who weight is in the recommended range for the 7 rig anyway, opted to buy the 7 rig with a 5 rig for those heavy air days. And the Email Dude, whose weight is somewhere between mine and Yarg's bought a 7 and 9 rig like me.
So then we were faced with the decision as to how to race these rigs. There isn't really any handicap racing at our host club, so at our winter planning meeting - at Mick Morgan's Irish Pub - we all agreed that for racing we would use the 7 rigs (at least initially) so we were on a level playing field. At least I think that's what we agreed. It was very noisy and I had lost count of how many pints of Guinness I had had by then.
While we were pondering how we would use the 5 and 9 rigs, the Class Rules for the RS Aero were published and they addressed the issue of how Aeros would be raced, but when it came to the rules for swapping rigs they had us scratching our heads.
The rules say that the Aeros should be raced as separate fleets by rig size 5, 7 and 9 "where numbers permit" and that otherwise they should race using Portsmouth Handicaps.
Fair enough. But the next rule had us puzzled.
So Yarg could swap to his 5 rig if we were sailing a handicap series (which we are not.) So if it was really nuking and he was totally overpowered in his 7 rig, the rule seems to imply that he couldn't sail his 5 rig because we were essentially doing fleet racing of 7 rigs. That seemed a little weird.
The second part of rule C.1.4. is even weirder. You can switch to a bigger rig but you rank as a "new entry." A (perhaps unintended) consequence of this rule has already come into play in a series in the UK. There are 4 events in the series with best 2 scores counting. So you could sail a 7 rig in the first event, switch up to a 9 rig for 2 of the subsequent events, and sail the 7 rig in one of the subsequent events. You would then count as 2 entries with 2 scores for each. So you could actually be both first and second in the same series??? How does that make sense?
None of this made it any easier to figure out what our local rig-swapping rules, if any, should be.
In the end it was moot.
At our first regatta - the First RS Aero Regatta in USA East of the Continental Divide - it was really nuking. Well it was quite windy. We all started in 7 rigs but Yarg did capsize a few times. I know he capsized because in every race in the morning on one of the downwind legs I heard a big splash behind me and someone cursing a lot.
At lunchtime, Yarg switched down to the 5 rig and I didn't hear any more splashing or cursing in the afternoon. In fact he seemed to be doing really well on the first beat of every race in the afternoon but then his 5 rig seemed to lose distance to the 7s in the rest of the race. So we didn't need to protest him under Rule C.1.4. in the end. (Only joking Yarg.)
Of course that opened the floodgates.
If a lighter sailor can switch down a rig in the heavy stuff, then it must be OK for a heavy sailor to switch up in the light stuff? Right?
OK. I know it's debatable. We have debated it a lot in my other class. In fact the old geezers in my other class debated it so much that we now have a rig-swapping rule for North American Laser Masters regattas that, as far as I know, nobody else in the Laser class in the world uses.
In any case, when the three of us raced in the Wednesday evening multi-class pursuit race last week I told Yarg I would like to use my 9 rig, just to see what would happen. If we don't test out these different rigs we never will figure out whether and how we can race them together. The Email Dude opted for a 9 rig too. So we started together, one 7 rig and two 9 rigs.
The other two Aero sailors got better starts than me so I was playing catch-up all the way up the first beat. As I recall, Yarg was leading at the first mark. I had a good downwind leg and gained the lead. On the second upwind, the first boat chasing us, a Flying Scot caught, up with us. I led the Aeros down the second downwind but the Scot rounded ahead of us at the leeward mark. Yarg, close behind me,went right on the short final beat, so I went the same way to cover him. The Email Dude went left, got a lucky shift and gained on us. We converged at the finish line. It was almost a tie. We finished within a second of each other, with the Email Dude in second (after the Scot), me third and Yarg fourth.
So what does that prove?
The 7 and 9 rigs are actually the same speed in light air?
Or, perhaps, more likely, a 160lb sailor in a 7 rig is as fast as a 195 lb sailor in a 9 rig in light air?
We should just sail the rigs that suit our weight and we will have even racing?
If only I had got a better start I would have won the race?
Yarg is a much better sailor than Email Dude and me?
All of the above?
More research is indicated.
Three things I do know…
I do love pursuit races.
I am so glad I bought this boat.
I am so glad I joined this club.