Monday, June 01, 2015

First RS Aero Regatta in USA East of the Continental Divide

And so the big day arrived.

The first RS Aero regatta on the east coast of the US. (The Seattle fleet beat us by a couple of weeks to stage the first ever RS Aero Regatta in North America.)

Saturday was a perfect day for racing on Lake Massapoag, sunny, 80 degrees, wind from the SW in the mid-teens gusting into the 20s. Champagne sailing conditions.

I think that counting my days in an Aero in Minorca last year, the days in the demo RS Aero in Newport and Bristol in March and April, and the days on Lake Massapoag more recently in my own boat, this would be my 12th day sailing an Aero.

But I had never raced it before.

The race committee gave us 6 races with windward-leeward courses, usually 2 laps with a downwind finish, except for the last races of the morning and the afternoon when we had upwind finishes near the windward mark - and nearer to the club for post-race refreshments. As well as the 3 RS Aeros, there were 18 Sunfish and 8 Lasers at the regatta too.  The RS Aeros started with the Lasers, as we will for club racing. It seems to work out well and means less waiting around than if all the fleets had separate starts.

The short video gives you a good impression of what the sailing was like. But the caption "Tillerman Wins in an Aero" is totally wrong.  The blog reader who posted this video to YouTube exaggerated slightly. One Aero had already crossed the line so I was actually second Aero in that race, which is where I finished in the regatta too.

Not that I was too much worried about the result. My objectives for the day were basically…

1. Have fun.

2. Don't break anything on the boat.

3. Don't break anything on me.

4. Finish every race.

5. Have fun.

With a couple of minor exceptions to objective #3 (more in another post perhaps) all objectives were achieved.

Especially #1 and #5.

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a regatta.

I think I'll watch the video again now.


Baydog said...

You are my very favorite living sailor

Tillerman said...

Aw shucks. Is it the beard or my super-cool Minorca Sailing cap that makes you say that?

SoxSail said...

How comparable are the Laser and Aero around the buoys?

Tillerman said...

Great question SoxSail.

Based on limited experience - a couple of days of actual racing and one informal day of racing - we are finding that the Lasers and Aero 7s are very comparable and compatible when racing together at our lake in typical conditions.

At the regatta the two fleets started together, but were scored separately. The leading Aeros and leading Lasers were pretty close around the course. In the video you see the Aero and Laser who both finished second in their respective fleets, finishing one race almost neck and neck.

For club racing we are going to score Lasers and Aeros as one fleet - at least on a trial basis. When we raced the two classes together at the club for the first time, I think two different Laser sailors won a race, and two different Aero sailors won a race.

In theory, based on current Portsmouth handicap, the Aero 7 should be slightly faster than a Laser, but this effect is totally swamped by…

a) the range of skills in the Laser fleet is quite wide
b) the Aero sailors are still learning how to sail the boat well in all conditions
c) in lake sailing it's all about spotting shifts and gusts and using them well, so that slight differences in boat speed are almost irrelevant.

As we only have 3 Aeros so far - and as the turnout in the Laser fleet is usually in the single digits - this is a win win for both fleets. Sailing together makes for a larger fleet with better competition for all.

In the UK where a lot of clubs do handicap racing it is easy to accommodate small numbers - even one boat - of a different class into their racing scene. In the US where most dinghy sailing clubs do fleet racing (as opposed to handicap racing) it is tougher for a new class like the RS Aero to find a way to race in those clubs. This solution of racing Lasers and Aeros as one fleet looks like it is going to work at Massapoag YC - and maybe elsewhere.

Baydog said...

I like the beard, but that's not even close to the reason

Anonymous said...

Well done!
Looks like it was pretty windy; I think I see white caps. How 'wiggly' is the Aero on the runs? Have you practiced running by the lee and curving? Or is going straight downwind faster?


Tillerman said...

Yes Wavedancer. There were lots of whitecaps in the big gusts. As my son said, photos always make it look less windy than it really was but the photos from Saturday do look windy.

I have played around with angles downwind. By the lee works but doesn't feel all that fast to me. On the other hand heading up on to a broad reach really seems to make the boat take off. I haven't measured VMG with GPS or done controlled experiments against another boat, but what seemed to work on Saturday was to head up to accelerate in a slight lull and then when the wind came back on hard to head straight downwind again.

The boat doesn't seem to turn much in response to heel so you do need to use rudder to turn up and down. On the other hand the tiller always seems to be light, very little weather helm, so it doesn't feel like using the rudder is slowing you down much.

Of course all of the above could be totally wrong. I am still learning and experimenting, but there were occasions when I was definitely gaining on the winning Aero downwind even though that sailor is lighter than me.

Michael O'Brien also has some observations on downwind technique at

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