Friday, June 12, 2015

Three Flavors of RS Aero

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.


Unknown said...

When we have a regatta with 10-20 boats per rig size ... no problem. Race in per-rig fleets.

But for now, while building fleets, I favor scratch racing where you can use any rig in any race. It is simpler and works surprisingly well. As you say, the 7 and 9 have differences in speed, but when sailor weight is factored in -- it is often the sailor weight that is the bigger factor. Rig size gives the heavier and lighter sailor the chance to extend their range both up and down.

I too find the Aero class rules too complex at this stage. Better that the class not try to control how club racing is done and let us all experiment for a while to find out what works best. Then in a year, we will have so much more data and understanding of the cool new boat.

Tillerman said...

We were very skeptical about scratch racing with different rigs until we tried it. It was a real shock that we were all so close when sailing two different rigs.

Looks like your "scratch racing with any rig in any race" model may be the best thing for club races - at least while fleets are building.

Anonymous said...

In the Force 5 class, you choose which rig div to enter - Full or Short. If you are entered in the Full Rig div, you can drop down to the Shortie (as long as the change is made ashore) but you get no adjustment. Works great; when it's honkin', you're very competitive upwind and slower off the wind - except for the fact that you are MUCH less likely to go swimming off the wind. BTW, to use the Short rig, all you do is ditch the top (3rd) mast section and pop on the smaller sail. No extra spars to buy. Nowhere near as fast as an Aero, but 1/10 the cost if you buy used. Hence the class's tag;lne - "Force 5 - Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost". (I'm posting anonymous b/c I don't know how to do any of the others - I still use my 10 yr old flip phone)

Anonymous said...

"tagline", not "tag;lne"

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Reason #8 of a 7-item list previously published by Tillerman? :-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the run-on, but it's 4AM here. I should have noted that if you drop down to the smaller rig, you are still scored in the Full Rig div with no adj or numerical handicap.

Unknown said...

I think it was a mistake for RS to tell us how to use their product. It's an excellent product, and we will figure out what to do with it. If there were a crank on the boom which would allow a reefing control would would we tell a skipper he can adjust sail performance by tightening the vang during a race but not the sail area?

If we get a youth fleet going on our lake, I will recommend the 9 for all ages because it is rare we have enough wind to even get out to bed for. On the one or two days of heavy weather we will build sand castles or learn knot tying.

Tillerman said...

Anonymous. I think you are describing the situation exactly as we had in the regatta. It was too windy in the 7 rig for the lightest member of our fleet so he switched down to the smaller 5 rig and was much happier. I don't see any reason not to allow that. It keeps more people participating in the racing.

And I am well aware of how cheap second-hand Force 5's are. But I heard recently that someone is building new Force 5's again. That's great news.

Jay, I'm not against the principle of having some class rules to regulate racing - especially for major regattas. But the rule I quoted is a little bizarre and I think we do need freedom at the local club level to work out what is best for us. Have you sailed your 9 rig on Mountain Lake yet?

Tillerman said...

There's an interesting situation in Lymington this weekend with respect to the RS Aero Class rig swapping rules.

43 boats there - biggest RS Aero fleet at an RS Aero regatta on the planet?

30 knots wind on Saturday. Forecast for light winds on Sunday.

Not surprisingly a lot of people sailed 5 rigs on Saturday and lot of the guys with 9 rigs switched to 7s. Only two 9 rigs raced apparently.

So what will they do Sunday? It sounds like some of the races are all-rig-handicap races and some are single rig fleet racing. But there's no provision at all in the class rules to switch up rigs in the middle of a regatta unless you want to count as a separate entry.

What will we see on Sunday? A lot of big guys in 5 rigs drifting around in 5 knots?


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