Some musings on the Aero Nationals
A couple of weeks back, I bought an RS Aero with a ‘7’ rig. I bought it from RS as an ex-demo boat, and immediately set about bimbling the control lines (see Steve’s latest post), and refinishing the hull. Having done that, I managed to sail the boat three times before going to the Aero Nationals at HISC, from the 31st August to 3rd September. Given my limited time in the boat (and at best mediocre-to-average sailing skills), I can’t give any advice on set up or technique for the Aero, but I thought I would give some reflections on the event and class.
My principle observation from the Nationals is that the Aero fleet caters for a huge breadth of different types of sailor, with a far greater diversity of age, gender and sailing experience than I’ve seen in any fleet. The event, held at Hayling Island SC, attracted 110 entries across all three rigs: 20 in the Aero 5s, 73 in the Aero 7s and 17 in the Aero 9s (approximate numbers, people switched rigs during the event). The atmosphere shoreside (I’m too old to credibly use the term ‘vibe’) is just fantastic, everyone is friendly and prepared to help out fellow sailors in all ways from rigging and bimbling, to harbour tactics and sailing/technique tips. Every possible group of sailor had a strong presence at the event:
- There were certainly a number of young, fit, squad-type sailors, who showed incredible racing acumen and boat speed. The top two sailors in the 73 strong ‘7’ fleet were Sam and Ben Whaley, who as well as dominating the racing, contributed to the health of the fleet with an off- and on- water coaching session on the first day of the event, as a result missing the first ‘Coronation Cup’ race. Fantastic to see such talented sailors giving something back to the class
- 20% of the sailors at the event were under 19 years of age, and a good proportion of those were Juniors under 16. Very impressive to see these Junior sailors beasting their way up the beats on the 20-25 knot days, and smiling through the experience!
- 25% of the sailors are over 55 and qualify for the Masters category, not least of which was Rooster's own Steve Cockerill who finished 4th in the Aero 7 fleet
- There are no ladies or girls in the Aero ‘9’ fleet, but 20% of the ‘7’ fleet were female, and 50% of the ‘5’ fleet
- Families had a strong presence at the event. I had a particularly prolonged tussle with one lady sailor downwind, who explained her strong motivation to beat her husband who was a couple of boats behind (and she did, I checked the results!)
- There was an impressive international contingent, with sailors from Estonia, Germany and France. And the Isle of Man (does the Isle of Man count as international? If not, it should, given the traveling involved). The Estonia sailors will need an additional baggage allowance to get their prizes home
The variety of sailor in attendance is most likely explained by the rig options, it is easy to see that the characteristics of the typical ‘9’ rig sailor will be different to the ‘5’ rig. But having the different rigs participate in a single event (albeit in different fleets) seems to be good for the class, and brings together a whole host of different types of sailor. From my experience at the Nationals, the whole is greater than the sum of parts, and I hope that the Class Association keep the existing format.
In short, I think the Aero class has something to offer most sailors, and if the Nationals are representative of the events, there is a bright future for the class. The boats are not especially difficult to sail, although to echo Steve’s observation on the 2000, they are difficult to sail fast.
As to my event, I came 15th in the Aero 7 fleet, and have a list of improvement points to work on over the coming months. There is an increasing number of Aeros in the clubs in my local Emsworth area, perhaps I’ll organise a training day in the autumn for anyone interested, we need all the help we can get to catch the Whaley brothers!