Wednesday, May 07, 2014

RS Aero - Yachting World Review

At last we have a video review of an RS Aero by an independent expert, Matthew Sheahan, the Racing and Technical Editor of Yachting World, who took the RS Aero out for a test sail and made this video.

OK we get it. This boat is light. Every review and video so far seems to make a big deal about how light the hull is and how light the boat when fully rigged is - 48 kilos according to Matthew (or about 105 lbs.) And in this video Matthew demonstrates how this means he can carry the rigged boat on its side down the beach, just as we saw in an earlier RS Sailing video. Well yeah, I can lift 105 lbs and stagger a few steps with it too. But I don't think I'm going to use that as the normal launching technique for my brand new shiny $7,000 RS Aero (when I get one.) I'm going to use a launching dolly just like I do with my Laser. And what else did he say? "This boat all-up weighs less than most people's launching trolleys." What? I don't know what you use to launch boats in the UK these days but my Seitech Laser dolly weighs around 30-35lbs I think, nowhere near 105 lbs.

So yes we get it. The boat is light. I understand that means it's going to be a lot easier to handle on the land and it's going to feel a lot different from the Laser on the water. So I'm hoping future reviewers will focus more on exactly how that light weight does impact sailing performance and technique.

And we also get that this boat is a blast on a reach. All the previous videos of the RS Aero seem to have concentrated on showing it on planing reaches. It looks like a hell of a lot of fun doing that. Matthew even comments that it feels a lot like windsurfing. Most windsurfers I see seem to spend as much times as they can reaching backwards and forwards. But I don't want a boat that is only fun on reaches. I want a racing boat that is fun upwind and downwind too.

It's trickier upwind, Matthew says. "You really have to concentrate when driving upwind because there's no momentum in the boat to help you." I wonder what that lack of momentum would mean for beating in a typical Narragansett Bay chop. It can be a challenge to keep a Laser going well upwind in choppy waves. Will the RS Aero be even more tricky?  And there's no sign of the "planing upwind" that that Irish guy mentioned in a video a few days ago. But it clearly takes off like a rocket if you bear off a few degrees. I wonder if you would actually make better VMG to windward in some conditions by sailing a few degrees off the wind?

How easy is it to capsize? How easy is it to do a capsize recovery? One thing I will certainly want to do (if they let me) when I have my RS Aero demo is to test out its capsizability and its recoverability. Am I going to spend even more time in the water than I do with my Laser? Does it tend to turtle? Can I easily reach the daggerboard to do a recovery when I am in the water? How easy is it get back into the boat after a capsize?  Does the cockpit have any water in it after a capsize and, if so, how fast does it drain?

Matthew does capsize the boat in the video but I am not quite sure what I am seeing. Did he deliberately capsize it at the start of that sequence (2:50) or did the boat roll over on top of him while he was trying to get in it? We don't see the actual capsize recovery so we can't assess how easy it is. And then he appears to be in the water again on the rig side of the boat. What happened?

Apparently Matthew's full report will be in the June issue of Yachting World. I might just have to go and buy it and hope it answers some of my questions.


Was it Was said...

Shouldn't you ask all these questions before ordering a boat?

Tillerman said...

Well, yes. And essentially that's what I am doing. I have put down a deposit on an Aero which is refundable if I decide I don't like it after a demo. In this, and other blog posts, I am formulating the questions that I will want to answer in the demo (or in other ways) before confirming my order.

Unknown said...

Its the upwind which has me wondering. I don't like the look of the hiking position (leg/knee angle) in all the videos and photos l have seen. Really interested how comfortable you find it on a beat.

Tillerman said...

Good point Colin. I am wondering how much the hiking position is just the individual sailor's natural style or whether the boat forces it? Something I will definitely want to test out on my demo.

Sam Chapin said...

I like the big window

Tillerman said...

I described Mr. Sheahan as an 'independent expert" because he doesn't work for RS Sailing or an RS Sailing dealer. But I wonder how much RS Sailing spends on advertising with Yachting World, Mr, Sheahan's employer? And whether we can really trust any yachting journalists to be truly objective in reviewing new boats from a current (or potential) advertiser?

What do you think?

Do you trust boat reviews in the yachting magazines?

Tillerman said...

Good point Sam. Big windows are better than little windows which are better than no windows. And OS X is better than Windows anyway.

Was it Was said...

I don't think I've read a bad review of any boat in a yachting magazine! Not that I read them very often, depends what the dentist has in the waiting room.

Tillerman said...

Exactly, Was it Was.

I am not sure how cynical I want to be about this yet.

What does a yachting journalist do if he tests out a new boat and thinks it's a disaster? From what I can see he doesn't write a damning review. Can anybody find me anywhere a "this boat is a total dog" review in a yachting magazine?

I was browsing some blogging magazines at my daughter-in-law's house earlier in the week. (She is the serious blogger in the family.) These mags had a lot of articles telling mommy bloggers how to make money from their blogs. One of the pieces of advice was not to write negative criticism about any product or service on your blog. Because a marketing exec or PR person looking to find blogs to sponsor and write about their products is not going to choose any blog that has negative stuff on it. You might actually write something bad about their product. And writing about products is one of the main ways that mommy bloggers make money.

So I guess I was cursed never to make any money from this blog the minute I wrote my infamous Uncrustables post back in 2007. Just as well that I never intended to make any money from this blog.

But it's all part of the same dynamic. Some people write blogs to make money. Yachting magazines exist to make money. Writing bad shit about stuff means nobody will pay for ads in your magazine or pay you to write about their products on your blog.

So you really can't believe any review you read in a mag or blog that takes paid ads or writes paid reviews.

Am I being too cynical yet?

Wait, it gets worse. There are FTC rules that require you to disclose any monetary rewards you have taken to write a review. These apply to bloggers as much as print journalists. Do you think these rules are always followed?

PS. I plan to write a product review on this blog in the next few days. How can I make you believe a single word I write?

Anonymous said...

You just did. Sailing Anarchy, while often offensive and juvenile, is a website with abundant advertising, and exists primarily to make money, yet happily offends in many a review.

Tillerman said...

Good point Anon. Does that mean that the only reviews I can trust are the ones on SA?

ray said...

I wouldn't trust anything at all on SA - Yachting Monthly seems to at least have different shades of awesomeness with regards to reviews and I can read between the lines reasonably well...I suspect the light weight of this boat in upwind chop may be a deciding factor as to its ultimate success or not. But I also suspect that I will be a great laser sailor one day and transition to win the Finn class masters shortly thereafter - so go figure.

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