Friday, August 21, 2015
Monday, August 17, 2015
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Saturday, August 08, 2015
It was getting to be a bit weird.
Prior to the RS Aero North Americans in Oregon a couple of weeks ago I had sailed an RS Aero about 18-20 times, but I had never had an unintentional capsize.
I had done some deliberate capsizes in order to make sure I knew how to do capsize recoveries. But in all those days of sailing the RS Aero I had not capsized accidentally once.
My two friends in the Boston RS Aero fleet had lost their capsize virginity almost as soon as we had our our own RS Aeros back in May. But not me.
Maybe you could say that if I never capsized I wasn't trying hard enough. You could be right. Whoever you are.
My streak had to end some time...
I have to admit that the ease (or not) of doing capsize recoveries in an RS Aero was one of the things I was most concerned about before committing to buying the boat.
When I tested out the RS Aero in Minorca last October, I reserved one session just to check out capsize recoveries, partly because I heard that the sailors there were having difficulty with it.
Sure enough, as I wrote about in RS Aero - Capsize Recovery, I discovered that I couldn't get back into the boat over the side; I had to re-enter over the transom. And I also found that if I let go of the capsized boat it sailed away from me at an alarming speed. Having said that, the boat in Minorca didn't have grab rails and that feature on the production boats would surely help with side entry. And the boat in Minorca did have a mast head float which prevented it from turning turtle, which would probably be a good thing if some aged sailor was swimming to catch up with it.
So I still had reservations about the boat after Minorca...
When I returned from Minorca, I read on the RS Aero class website some excellent posts about capsize recoveries in the Aero and watched some videos on the same topic.
There were some specific techniques that were different from what would work in the Laser. Go to the front of the daggerboard so the gunwale is not so far to reach. Grab the daggerboard near the boat - because if you grab the end you will never reach the gunwhale. Use a leg kick to aid re-entry. Use the grab rail. Put the boat sideways to the wind and sheet in a little to prevent the boat from coming over on top of you in a side re-entry. And if you really are too heavy to do an over-the-side re-entry then use the transom.
Even so I wondered how easy capsize recoveries would be for someone my weight (and age and general lack of fitness.)
So when my friends and I had access to The Boat Locker's demo RS Aero back in March I did do some practice capsize recoveries in the frigid waters of Newport harbor. I never did succeed in doing an over-the-side re-entry but coming back in over the transom seemed to work OK.
So now I was confident I knew how to do capsize recoveries in an RS Aero.
Except doing controlled capsize recoveries in light air is not quite the same thing as doing them in heavy air, or after an unexpected capsize.
My confident was dented a little more when my friend and I were out practicing at Lake Massapoag early in the season on a day when it was gusting up to 30 mph. I didn't capsize but my friend did and he was in the water for ages. At one point he lost contact with the boat and it blew away from him downwind. I was standing by in my Aero but could provide no real assistance. Eventually I decided to sail back to the club and come out in a safety boat or perhaps even call the emergency services. And just as I started back to the club, he managed to get the boat upright and climb back in it.
At the regatta in May both my friends capsized their RS Aeros (and did reasonably efficient recoveries.)
But I didn't.
My streak of no unintentional capsizes continued through the summer.
It got to be a joke.
I didn't like to draw attention to it or for other people to mention it. It might bring bad luck...
And then my luck ran out at the Gorge!
At the clinic on Friday, Peter Barton talked us through capsize recovery techniques. Useful refresher.
I did OK in the first race on Saturday. More or less in the middle of the fleet.
In the second race, on the third reach of the Z course, which was fairly broad, another RS Aero and I were sailing downwind on starboard tack when I saw an I-14 coming upwind on starboard on what looked like a collision course with the other RS Aero. I shouted a warning at the the other Aero sailor (who didn't seem to have seen the I-14 ) and headed up myself to get out of the way of both of them. In the process my boat broached and I disappeared under the water. When I surfaced I saw that the other two boats had somehow managed to avoid killing or maiming anybody or sinking either boat, and I proceeded to do a successful capsize recovery using all of those tips I had learned on the RS Aero Class website and from Peter.
Woo hoo! No longer a capsize virgin! I did it! I really was quite pleased with myself, even though my slow and deliberate capsize recovery had cost me a lot of places in the race.
I have noticed before that after capsizing once in a regatta, it somehow seems "easier" to keep on capsizing. I'm sure it's some mental deficiency of mine. One of many.
And sure enough in the third race I capsized at a gybe mark. Did another successful recovery. Woo hoo! Definitely pushed me way down the fleet though.
The wind kept on building and in the fourth race I capsized while trying to bear away at the windward mark. Woo hoo! The hat trick!
After doing my third capsize recovery of the day I was feeling pretty tired and...
- was wondering if I would have the energy left to do another recovery
- was pretty much at the back of the fleet already
- and I was lot closer to the launch area than the finish line.
So I retired from the race and sailed back to the beach.
As it turned out that was the last race of the day anyway.
Not a great day from the perspective of my scores, but at least I mastered one essential skill!
Thursday, August 06, 2015
Would you buy into a new class of boat because you heard that someone you admire had bought the boat?
Who are the first people that buy the first boats in a new class? Why do they do it? What kind of sailors are they? And do they have any influence on who buys the boat next and how quickly the class takes off?
Do boat manufacturers deliberately target the first sales of a new class to people who they think will influence other people to buy that boat too?
I've been asking myself these questions over the last few days after meeting some of the other early adopters of the RS Aero at our North Americans the weekend before last, and after reading about who else has been buying RS Aeros.
A comment from R3 on my post in September last year RS Aero Tidbits touched on the same issue.
I thought that it was interesting that the first French review was by someone who likes windsurfing, kitesurfing and sport catamarans, and the second one was by a skiff sailor. It's not only aging Laser sailors who are checking out the RS Aero!LOL!
Oh yes, God forbid that the RS Aero should get a reputation only as a boat for aging Laser sailors. Especially a bottom half of the fleet old duffer like me!
Aging - and apparently very slow - Laser and RS Aero sailor
So who are the first RS sailors?
At the first RS Aero North Americans we had...
Dan Falk - 2nd in Lasers at 2014 North American Laser Masters
Dan Falk in his other boat
Michael O'Brien - 1st in Radials at 2014 North American Laser Masters. Michael also has a blog about RS Aero sailing - AeroNautic.
Michael O'Brien demonstrating how to save an RS Aero from death-rolling.
Photo from AeroNautic
Bill Symes - 2nd in Radial Great Grandmasters fleet at 2015 Laser Masters Worlds
Bill Symes in his other boat
OK. So perhaps R3 would call all these guys "aging Laser sailors" but they certainly are way better sailors than me and I suspect that hearing that they are adopting the RS Aero might well influence other Laser sailors to try out the Aero too.
There were three teenagers at the RS Aero North Americans too.
One was a kite surfer.
One was a 29er sailor.
Yannick and Declan Gloster at the 2014 RS Feva Worlds in France
Very impressive young men. That should go a long way to counter the "aging Laser sailor" tag. The cool kids sail RS Aeros too!
Since returning from Oregon I have also discovered that Hank Saurage from Texas, one of the top Sunfish sailors in the world has bought an RS Aero. Hank regularly finishes in the top 10 at the Sunfish Worlds and was 2nd at the Worlds a few years ago. Are you listening my Sunfish sailor friends?
Hank Saurage at 2009 Sunfish Worlds
And then today I read about an event in Europe in the last few days. The RS Tera is the RS Sailing singlehander for youngsters. They have been holding their World Championships in the Netherlands with 107 kids racing in the event. At the same time and place the RS Aero Class held their Euro Lift-Off and Eurocup. And two former RS Tera World Champions were sailing in the RS Aero event and placed 1st and 2nd in the RS Aero 5 fleet. You think a few of the 107 RS Tera sailors (and their parents) noticed that? Not to mention all the RS Tera sailors who read about this on social media.
RS Tera Worlds 2015
Will Taylor - 2011 RS Tera World Champion
and first in RS Aero 5 class at 2015 Eurocup
I know next to nothing about marketing - especially marketing of boats - but a quick search around the Interwebs revealed that there is such as thing as "Influencer Marketing."
According to Wikipedia...
Influencer marketing, (also Influence Marketing) is a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole.
It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.Hmmm!
Is that's what's going on here?
Are some of the examples above due to influencer marketing by RS Sailing or their dealers, or did it all happen by chance?
Even if my examples aren't the results of deliberate influencer marketing, do you think they will motivate others to consider the RS Aero?
Are there other "influencers" that RS Sailing should be targeting?
Who would influence you to buy a new boat? Would you be more likely to by into a new class because the cool kids are sailing it, because the top sailors in your existing class are buying it, or because a friend has bought one?
Monday, August 03, 2015
Back in the first few months after the RS Aero was launched last year, before any of us in the US had even seen an RS Aero in real life, it seemed like all the videos of the RS Aero posted online were of the boat reaching. We never saw it sailing upwind or downwind. Just lots of videos of the RS Aero doing wild planing reaches. In fact it got to be such a joke that certain cynical people on a well known sailing forum started to question whether the boat could sail upwind at all - or to claim that it must be a real pig to sail upwind.
As it turned out the RS Aero is a delight to sail upwind. But there is no doubt that reaching makes for more spectacular videos. And the RS Aero certainly planes very easily and it is a lot of fun to blast back and forth on planing reaches.
So without any apology here is another video of an Aero on a reach. It's that same sailor, Matt Thursfield, who was in Friday's video. This time he is at Aberdovey in west Wales. It says it's May but it looks frigging cold. Matt takes both hands off the sheet and tiller at one point to adjust his woolly ski hat!
It is what it is. RS Aero sailors love reaching. You would too if you owned an RS Aero.
Not surprisingly, people are designing challenges and race courses to appeal to RS Aero sailors' love of reaching. One of these is the International Speed Freaks Challenge. It sounds as if Peter Barton (the class manager) and Michael O'Brien of the Seattle RS Aero fleet came up with the idea independently back in early May.
As Peter explained it...
All you need is a simple GPS like a Velocitec Speedpuck or Garmin Foretrex 401. Maybe an iPhone app or a bike GPS would work in a waterproof case (can anyone recommend the best app?).
All you need to do is get out in some breeze in your RS Aero, record a fully cranking Max Speed. When you get ashore take a selfie of the Max Speed (in Knots) reading with a cheesy grin. Post the photo here, together with a brief summary of the conditions and your adventure. Simple!Reaching Nirvana!
You can follow the reports of the speed freaks on Michael's blog Aeronautic or on the class forum. The current world record holder is Sean Grealish with a top instantaneous speed of 16.2 knots.
On the Friday of the lift-off clinic at the RS Aero North Americans in the Gorge we all took turns reaching across the river and back with a SpeedPuck to see who could record the fastest time averaged over 10 seconds. Not surprisingly Sean beat us all with a speed of 14.4 knots.
Modesty prevents me from naming the slowest sailor in the speed freaks challenge at the Gorge. But I am going to be doing a lot of practice at reaching before next year's RS Aero North Americans. So watch out!
Another tip of the hat to RS Aeros' sailors love of reaching was the design of the course that we sailed on the first day of the RS Aero North Americans.
The Z course had two gybe marks and three reaches.
After the racing was over the powers-that-be asked for our feedback on how the regatta was run and whether there was anything we would improve.
"More gybe marks."
"Shorter course with reaches that aren't so broad."
"Shorter two lap course with four gybe marks and six reaches."
It's all about the reaching!
Saturday, August 01, 2015
Amazing video footage from a drone of the I-14s racing at the Gorge last weekend.
The RS Aeros - also sailing their NAs on the same circle - make a brief appearance but the I-14s are the stars of this show. What spectacular boats!
Posted by Tillerman at 8:51 AM