Another windy day in paradise is the thought that crosses my mind when I think back on the last two hectic weeks. My first week was largely supporting and racing the 4000 Euro Cup in Quiberon with my wife Sarah. We certainly enjoy the international scene racing teams from France, Italy, Belgium, Germany and even the USA (actually an ex-pat).
The local French 4000 fleet has been re-invigorated by Michael DuFlos with some 25 active French teams in the north west of France. They have been training and were ready to give the Brits a bashing, especially as this was their home waters.
Sarah and I had not sailed the 4000 since the Nationals in 2016 and we were certainly rusty. The 4000 felt a very different beast to the RS800 we enjoy racing at Stokes Bay SC. It took us a couple of days to get into the groove, but we finally found some speed with some herculean effort hiking to make her plane upwind. It's a really fun thing to do as you have to be committed to ease the jib, push the bow down further than you feel comfortable whilst sailing flat and hiking hard so that she takes off, or at least relative to the other boats around.
You can tell when someone has achieved this goal as they come ashore with a big grins and renewed excitement.
Our efforts paid off and took the championship
with some careful watching of our main opposition on the last day of racing.
A quick pack up after the prize giving champagne-shower and we were to become single handed sailors again.
The Aero World Championships beckoned us to Carnac; only a 20 minute drive from Quiberon but almost the same patch of water.
As we drove, I contemplated the element of freedom when the decisions you make are yours and have not been influenced by the complication of a two person dinghy, but sailing in 2-person boat can make the good days twice the fun.
There was no way I was going to go sailing for the first practice day of the Rooster RS Aero World Championships. I managed to get the boat measured; then I aimed to be the best trolley dolly I could be for Sarah who was eager to get some more time in the Aero. Sarah had only sailed her boat a few times at Stokes Bay and had no idea what she had let herself in for.
The winds were light for the practice race, then the sea breeze came in and Sarah experienced the handful that is the Aero 7 rig for a 66Kg lady.
Sarah enjoying the overpowered downwinds - Photo © Steve Greenwood
I think she was perhaps a little too positive about the experience and in hindsight, with the forecast as it turned out to be, she would have been a lot happier in the 5 rig for the actual World Championships. I think the eventual winner would not have been very different in weight to her, instead she was determined to master the large 7 rig. There was no doubt that she could get it round the course, but I wondered how many days she could manage in 20 plus knots in a row.
When we got home, we laid out or Aero and Laser sails for comparison. You might be surprised to see how the rigs compare in size:
Aero 5 on Radial
Aero 7 on a Standard
For me, the Aero 7 rig was like the RS300 rig as it had a similar power and depower behaviour. More vang = less power, especially when accompanied by copious amounts of downhaul. In fact, I could even ease the outhaul considerably upwind to give me some low down power when I had managed to invert the top two battens with the kicker and downhaul: it looked much like a windsurfer rig in the really big winds. This set up needed the sail to be eased considerably to stop the lower camber giving me drag if it was pulled in too much. So if I needed to pull the main in to power up I would go first for easing the downhaul and pulling the outhaul in slightly.
When sailing upwind, I tried the daggerboard up in the large waves at the beginning of the week, just showing the carbon trailing edge. This appeared to allow me more room to steer up and down waves. Now as a Laser sailor who is used to actively using the rudder to lift the bow I had to tame my normal active steering hand as the rudder is a large area for generating lift and pushing it around was acting more of a break than a help. Sitting back also appeared to help stop the bow from loading up in the waves. I actively tightened my toe straps as I moved to keep me in contact with the boat. The boat gives you a good feeling of security once you are hiking about 30cm or 1 foot back from the ratchet block. I am sure if we had winds more towards 8 knots and flat water, I would still be hugging the front of the strap and lengthening to compensate. Not sure yet though.
Photo © Steve Greenwood
Downwind, the reaches always appeared to be power reaches. I guess this helps the heavier crews, another note to those thinking they are too big for a 5 rig - you will not be dobbing on a broad reach very much.
The courses were changed from the first days' racing to triangles which offered more passing lanes. As the boat is very light there is not much momentum, so if you pick a poor line you can burn off your speed very quickly. This was where I made most of my gains. Running was also my strong point - perhaps a mixture of Laser and Europe techniques.
During the week I opted to change my control lines to over deck, I was inspired by Steve Norbury's set up and added a few touches of my own. It made a significant difference to the ease of adjusting the controls.
On the last day of racing with three races, the courses were tightened up to the trapezoid course which I think favoured the heavier crews. The reaches were again maximum power and the run rather short.
I had spent most of the week observing the angles Pete Barton was sailing. He was very fast to windward with a relatively low mode. I had played that card also quite hard and found it worked well, in fact I had passed him upwind on the last race of the previous day. The courses were to his favour - the wind was strong and he was starting well.
I had to win one race out of the three to take the title. Pete played his hand well on the last day, he took the first race and while I tried to catch him downwind, I never really got close, although I did try to keep him honest and work hard for it!
One to Pete. He had to win all three, or at least that was my mindset when I started the second race of the day. My start was good, perhaps too good. When your watch says 1 second to go as you cross the line at the pin, doubt creeps in. What if I was OCS? Then a first with Pete second would give him the first. With limited brain oxygen I was then fixated on making sure he would not win the race. I picked up the wake of a passing trawler on the left of the course whilst Pete had hit the right hand side of the beat. The wind was shifting left leaving him with too much to do. I rounded second with Peter in third. I took the lead (or was it) on the run and then rounded the leeward mark with Ben Rolfe in second. I then covered Peter very closely and sailed him down the fleet. Despite our antics there was a chance I could have taken the first place on the last lap. I was not OCS and so I did the numbers again - he could still win the event if he won the last race. Bugger, I should have gone for first. I knew that I had messed up, but I could still change the result by winning the last race. Perhaps no one will ever know?
Pete was fast off the line again in the last race. Again the reaches were tight and the run very short. Actually the current was with the wind so every downwind felt as if it was running out. Every leeward mark I aimed to make a good rounding so that I had a lane to hang onto. I paced him upwind looking for an opening. On the last beat I could sense that we were both tiring, my heart rate must have been close to my OBLA maximum and I was double breathing just to keep my head clear. Perhaps my 3000m a day swimming habit was helping me here? I also knew that Peter was looking for every advantage to give himself the largest lead he could take to the downwind. There was a small shift to the right and Peter tacked. It was nowhere near the lay line so it was an opening. I sailed on and the wind continued to head. I tacked onto starboard beyond his line and close to the lay line. Still panting I felt it shift some more. "There is a god," I whispered to myself. I now had some leverage on him. The next tack back to port was timely as the wind swung back for me and gave me the lead into the mark with the rest of the trapezoid to go to the finish. The first reach was max power, no gains to be made there.
Photo © Steve Greenwood
I made it to the run. Now the new over-deck control lines I had fitted a couple of days before was certainly a help; the control lines let off neatly and timely and I could extend. The run of the trapezoid was almost extended as the last reach to the finish was also downwind. It was in the bag, I had put the mistake in race two behind me and I won. A World Champion and not in an age category - wow! I'm not sure how to feel.
Although I have mentioned many times in this article about my lack of experience in the Aero, I should state that as a singlehanded sailor I have Championships titles in the Europe, Laser, Laser Radial, RS300, Blaze and Streaker, so it's a bit unfair to think of myself as having a lack of experience; I certainly drew upon many of those experiences that week, although the week was certainly an experience I will never forget.
I have been back at work - and having promised many a sailor that I would show them how I made my over deck controls, I have made a video
; I hope you like it and can follow it.
Link to video here.
Aero Over Deck Finished
There is no compulsion on my part to make you change, but I found it really helped and if it could be possible, it helped me enjoy the Aero sailing even more! The video describes completely how to do it yourself. I have spoken to RS and we are planning to launch a kit to make it easier to install (less of the splicing) which might save you some cash as you will not need to purchase so many tools to install my system.
Happy Aero Sailing.
Full results & official event report can be read here
Interview with Mark Jardine on Yachts&Yachting.com can be read here
Slightly Happy :)