Initial impression as I walked up to the RS exhibit and tried to pick out the Aero from afar, was that the Aero was smaller than I imagined. I'm not sure why. The dimensions of the Aero put it smack-dab in the Laser size range but optically it was registering smaller to me. Maybe the hype had inflated the physical size of the Aero in my brain. Strange!
First and foremost, when looking at the RS Aero, remember that RS designed this singlehander for racing, unlike the Laser which was originally designed to target the off-the-beach Canadian cottage sailors. (Kirby slyly put enough racing features into the Laser that,when introduced in 1971, it immediately appealed to the dinghy racers.) The RS Aero, as also the Devoti D-Zero, another recently introduced racing singlehander, has considerably more racing features and undoubtedly will be faster than the Laser.
Inspecting a boat at a boat show is mostly from the top. You can get down on your knees and look more closely at the side profile to get a better idea of hull shape but I settled to go over the Aero only from the deck-side. Fit and finish of the Aero was superb; no surprise there, RS is an industry leader in that respect. RS is also known at adding innovative touches to their products. Some that I saw on the Aero are:
- The foils sported carbon fiber trailing edges with the daggerboard having height markings already stenciled in. The foils looked to be of some laminar flow section with the max thickness close to 50% back. Laminar flow sections, famously promoted by Frank Bethwaite, are designed for higher speeds.
- The carbon spars are from Selden. Like the Laser, when you change rig sizes in the RS Aero, the top mast stays the same and the bottom mast changes length. The lower section also had the nice touch of integrated markings for the cunningham set-up
- The Aero is set up for vang sheeting and the vang, a cascading type, looked powerful enough.
- The problem with flow-thru double-bottom layout of the Aero is that, in light air, water can slosh over the transom and into the back of the boat, especially when the skipper is moving aft during a tack. RS solves this by putting two honeycomb transom fittings with mylar flaps either side of the rudder attachment hump.
- RS has a clever custom designed fitting so that two turning blocks can hang off the same rope attachments, either side of the mast.
- Two controls are led to the side deck, the cunningham and the outhaul. The tails on these are shock corded so they don't drag in the water. The vang is led to a swivel cleat fitting sitting just forward of the daggerboard.
Bow on shot. You can see the two controls led out to the gunwhales. The hiking coutour of the deck also looks particularly comfy.
The cascading vang. It ends in a single part led along the bottom of the boom, thru the gooseneck, down to a turning block at the base of the mast and then to a swivel cleat in front of the daggerboard. I didn't count the purchase but it looked to have enough grunt.
The trailing edge carbon strip which was on both daggerboard and rudder. This is the daggerboard with the integrated height markings.
The honeycomb transom flap fitting. A simple mylar flap keeps the water out and opens up when there is enough water pressure from inside.
The custom designed turning block fitting that utilizes modern rope attachment technology.
And finally, you can't truly kick the tires at a boat show. You need some hands-on testing and for that it is best to jump over to Tillerman at Proper Course who has actually sailed an Aero several times and is blogging about his impressions.