Sunday, November 9, 2014

Seen at the 2014 Sailboat Show: the RS Aero

Where was I before I got distracted on some other topics? Oh, that's right, I was going on about what I had seen at the Annapolis Sailboat Show. With all the hype about RS Sailing's new hiking singlehander introduced to the Laser market, the RS Aero was top on my must-see list.

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:

  1. 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.
  2.  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
  3. The Aero is set up for vang sheeting and the vang, a cascading type, looked powerful enough.
  4. 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.
  5. RS has a clever custom designed fitting so that two turning blocks can hang off the same rope attachments, either side of the mast.
  6. 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.
Some photos:

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 experience and for that it is best to jump over to Tillerman at who is actually a passionate Aero sailor and is blogging about his impressions.


Tillerman said...

Great review and pictures. You picked up some of the technical features especially about the rigging that I didn't notice (or fully appreciate.)

But I think you are misinformed about the Laser. The three rig sizes for the Laser - full, Radial and 4.7 - do have different bottom mast sections of different lengths. Just like the Aero.

I suspected that the reason for the honeycomb transom fittings was as you suggested. Were you told this by RS Sailing? Was it something of a design afterthought when they realized that the boat wouldn't really work with a totally open transom?

Tweezerman said...


You can tell I've only sailed a Laser Radial twice and it was so far back in my history that I forgotten the mast combinations. Thanks for the correction.

A little pool at the back of the boat is a typical feature of double bottom boats when the live weight is too far aft. I didn't ask the RS guy, my comments reflect my experience, particularly with the double bottom International 14's. One other reason for these transom flaps on the Aero occurred to me after I had written the post. If you miss a tack, particularly in a lightweight singlehander, they tend to go backwards. An open-transom double bottom configuration picks up a lot of water fast when going backwards. The RS fellows may have discovered this early on in the Aero testing and the honeycomb transom flaps were added on after the fact.

Anonymous said...

Look like a nice boat, but I think is too small for a Laser sailor. Am I wrong?

Tillerman said...

Anonymous - I wouldn't say it was too small for a Laser sailor. It's actually about the same beam as a Laser and only a few inches shorter. The largest rig for the Aero (the 9 rig) has more sail area than a full rig Laser sail and the hiking position is comfortable for someone my size (6'2" and 190 lbs.) The boom on the Aero is higher than a Laser so it's easier for larger sailors to get under the boom.

The only issue I found for a heavier sailor when I sailed the Aero in Minorca last month was that I found it impossible to get back into the boat from the water over the side without the boat capsizing on top of me every time. Maybe with more practice I could manage it? I was able to get into the boat over the transom though. More details here.