Day One in the Aero

day-one-hiking

I've spent the past week and a half since taking delivery of Aero #1250 getting the Aero ready to trail and sail. I wanted to use my Laser's Kitty Hawk to transport the Aero, but the Aero is a different shape to the Laser and it does not quite fit well enough on the Kitty Hawk. But that is another post.

I also wanted to solve how to best mount a GoPro camera on the Aero. I use the GoPro extensively for self-coaching and I've found it invaluable to capture all those mistakes that are too easy to explain away. The video does not lie. So I needed to find a good solution for how to mount the camera. But that too is another post.

But finally, enough was enough, the rigging was done and I was ready to sail.

What to Happens Now?

I've have sailed an Aero before today so I knew roughly what to expect. A very generous local sailor, Todd Wilsie, was the first Aero owner in Seattle and has given many test sails to myself and others. I've sailed his Aero 7 and 9 rigs but that was just a taste. This was the real deal in my own boat.

I wanted this first sail to be a simple a shakedown for the new boat and to start exploring the Aero and how to sail it well. After all, that is what this blog is about.

Rig Selection

Today, I was going to sail with Aero 7 rig. I'm fortunate to have the 5, 7 and 9 rigs. The 5 rig should be ideal for my sons and maybe for me when it is really howling. The 9 rig will be the work-horse for the typically light conditions in Seattle. But today, I wanted to be conservative and so the 7 rig was it.

The day was ideal. About 6-10 kts from the north with flat water and a warm sunny day up to 74 degrees. Perfect!

First Impressions

Downwind

To be candid, before today, I was a little worried about the Aero downwind. The last time I sailed the Aero, I could not get comfortable downwind or find the groove. The Aero seemed to love reaching, but straight downwind felt a little "dead". I wanted to dispel that feeling.

The Laser is a very "sensual" boat downwind. It wants to turn and carve and it feels lively. I wanted to see if the Aero had the same liveliness and if the same S-turning techniques worked or were even appropriate.

I'm happy to report that the Aero is fine downwind. However, it does feel different to a Laser, and it has its own unique responsive spring when pushed the right way. I noticed:

  • The Aero does not like to heeled as deeply as the Laser, especially on the downturn. Heeling too deeply digs the chine in which seems slow.
  • When the boat starts to death roll, bearing away sharply to go more by the lee, does not stop the roll as effectively as the Laser. You need to quickly use your weight by jumping to leeward. Also, the boat will not carve to turn to the lee by itself. You need to explicitly turn the rudder, whereas the Laser wants to carve to the lee.
  • The Aero sails well by the lee and gentle S-turns are very effective in surfing on small waves.

It remains to be seen if by-the-lee and S-turning is faster or slower than heating up a little and reaching. I'm looking forward to working this one out in various conditions.

Upwind

When the wind was light at 6 kts, the Aero moved easily but unremarkably. But with small puffs to 8-9 kts, the Aero surprises in how it quickly it accelerates. With a good roll tack, the Aero is almost immediately back up to full speed after the tack.

The Aero hull weighs 66 lbs (30kgs) compared to the Laser at 130 lbs (57 kgs). The carbon rig is similarly much lighter than the Laser. So accelerating out of a tack, or after hitting a wave, takes much less energy than on a Laser.

Tacking

The boat turns quickly, so quickly it is hard to not over-tack the boat. I kept coming out of tacks a bit too low. I think I need to do the traditional "100 Tacks Drill" to burn it into my brain.

Feather Light Steering

The Aero is very, very light on the tiller. You can literally hold the tiller with just two fingers. I'm sure I could have held it with just one finger, but I needed the opposable thumb.

feather

Then again, maybe you don't need the thumb after all.

feather

Gybing

Ah, no more mainsheet wrapped around the stern when gybing — curse you Laser mainsheet @#%!. The central Aero mainsheet is just a joy to gybe. You can nail the exact point of the gybe by grabbing all the mainsheet lines in one hand, a swift pull and the boat is gybed. With a deep roll, you spring out of the gybe with a burst of speed. I think we'll have to really watch the rule 42, especially with the 9 rig. It is very easy to come out of the gybe with much more speed than you had going into it.

Trim

At this stage, all I can say is, the sail is beautiful. It is highly adjustable and really responds to cunningham tension to open the leach. It is about time to be able look up and not see the "stretched bed-sheet" of a sail that is the Laser standard sail.

Baptism

capsize

This new baby needed to be baptized and a good dunking was in order. I sailed close, too close, to the lee of a large cruiser and was expecting a bit of a lull, but the wind shut-off completely. Now the Aero is very light and my hiking out quickly pulled the Aero to weather. I grabbed for the hiking strap to pull myself in, but it is not in the same place it is in the Laser. I missed it and fell out of the boat, which then quickly capsized to leeward without me when the wind resumed.

I've heard of Aero capsize recovery difficulties, primarily with the boat capsizing to windward as the sailor re-enters the boat. However, this time, I had no significant trouble. I pulled myself up with one hand on the the centerboard, then the gunwale. I kept low and fast, sliding into the boat to avoid it capsizing back to weather. Seemed to work fine. Full disclosure: I'm 163 lbs and 6' tall. So a heavier sailor may have more difficulty than me.

Back to the Dock

Well that was a great first sail. All the Aero systems worked reasonably well. Pretty good for a stock standard boat, straight from the factory with no adjustments. I need to get cleats (yea I'm soft), and I need to adjust the vang as I was two-blocking it. But I'm all smiles today.