May 02, 2017

The Aero – My First Thoughts

By Doug
This is my 40th year sailing a Laser and we have seen many new classes challenge the Laser without success. I recently competed in a new RS Aero for the first time.

Things I liked

The Aero reminded me of sailing an NS-14 in Sydney, which is the highest compliment I can give. It’s a skiff hull with a fine entry that loves sailing upwind in waves and anything that comes over the bow goes through the cockpit and out the open back. However, the fine entry makes sailing downwind a little tricky compared to a Laser because it’s easier to bury the bow.

The Aero loves these conditions
An Aero comes with three sail/bottom sections to choose from: a 50, 70, and 90 (indicating the size of the sail). I sailed the 90 on the first day that was breezy and the 70 on the second that was less (with more experience I would have done the opposite). Both rigs are beautifully balanced which is a real compliment to the designers.

The curved deck is comfortable for hiking but next time I’ll wear hiking pants to get my butt a little higher.

The attention to details is really impressive. I liked having a halyard and there’s a pocket in the sail for its storage. There’s lots of carbon fiber to keep the weight down, the control lines automatically retract, liner in the trunk to hold the centerboard in place, and there are many more examples of good design.

Here's a short video of the racing, with first-time sailors  right up to national champions.

Things that surprised me

The biggest problem is that for many people the Aero will not be self-rescuing. After tipping, it's easy to get upright but getting into the cockpit from the water is a challenge because the boat just tips to windward. There are tricks like letting off the vang, or grabbing the mainsheet, or climbing in over the transom but these are difficult in a breeze. I tipped in one race and it took several minutes to get going - enough time for two rescue boats to circle me and ask if I needed help.

Many people have told me that sailing a Laser is hard on their knees - something that has never been a problem for me. But the Aero's double bottom (to drain water out the back) means that there is little difference in height between the side deck and cockpit floor. For this reason, most moved around on their knees which for me was uncomfortable.

In some circles, I'm called the barefoot sailor. The Aero cockpit floor has a rough non-skid finish, so being on your knees means that the tops of your feet take a beating.

There will be no barefoot Aero sailors!
To sum up

From a design perspective, the Aero is a worthy challenger to the Laser. The Laser politics and the lack of dealer support in many countries could not come at a worse time. If the Laser does not get its act together, we'll continue to lose many of our good sailors to Aero fleets.

Thanks to Rob Zedric for the videos and some of the pictures.
Thanks to KO Sailing for the charter.


  1. Very good review Doug.

    Your first impressions of the Aero were very similar to mine - including the three things that "surprised" you.

    The difficulty I had at first in getting back over the side into the boat after a capsize made me give serious thought as to whether I should really buy the boat, in spite of all the other obvious positive features. But a session with a demo Aero at Newport in the winter of 2014/15 convinced me that I could do effective and fairly quick re-entries over the transom. And there are techniques to make "over the side" recoveries easier, as demonstrated in a video made by 230 lb Dion Alaniz from Texas showing that even a heavy sailor can master over-the-side rentry.

    I have never been much of a barefoot sailor but I do like to sail with bare knees. The experts say that kneeling in the Aero is not the best technique so I have been working on trying to get used to sailing downwind on my feet which does feel strange at first, compared with doing the same in a Laser. I have also resorted to always wearing long pants from Zhik to protect my knees, and lightly sanding down the non-skid surfaces so they are not so aggressive.

    Hope you get the chance to sail an Aero again. But beware - it can be addictive.

    1. Thanks for your comments. The video is great - I'd like to see another for windy conditions and waves. Also, one of the competitors actually sanded the non-skid down a little to make it easier on his skin... interesting.

  2. The trick to side entry, as Dion shows in his video, is to keep going once you pull yourself up. It's easy to get tricked into thinking the boat is coming over on you to windward. If you don't keep pulling, it will. I was told to "pull the boat up under yourself" and that seems to work. Coming in over the transom is very easy, especially in a breeze but it's slow compared to over the side. The biggest difference for me was how well the boat goes downwind. I sailed a Laser for a few years but got really uncomfortable with its habits downwind "death roll & cartwheel" and the Aero just doesn't do that. I've seen close to 20 knots boat speed on a Speedpuck several times in the 9 rig. Not even close to that in a Laser. I'm not the sailor you are, Doug so I guess my comments are more geared to the less experienced.

    I think the rig sizes are 5,7 & 9 square meters, but I could be wrong. One thing is for sure for me at least, that the boat makes me want to sail. That's a good thing.

    1. Great comments, as an EU design I should have used metric. Here's what I found on Wikipedia:

      Aero 5 - 5.2 m2 (54 sqft)
      Aero 7 - 7.4 m2 (77 sqft)
      Aero 9 - 8.9 m2 (93 sqft)

      For sailing in heaven, start with 7.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...