The inaugural RS Aero Atlantic Coast Championship (held in conjunction with the Newport Regatta, Newport RI) was a tremendously successful 3-day event, with 17 boats representing 7 states!
A clinic on Friday gave attendees a chance to
get to know each other, share rigging/sailing tips, and dust off the cobwebs
with practice starts and even a few practice races. This was followed by lunch
(generously provided by RS Sailing's Todd Riccardi) then the Speed Run, for which we
had a nice (if not record-enabling) 12-18 knots of wind. Max 10-second
average was recorded by me in a 7 rig (13.5 knots, 14.2 peak), nearly 1/2 knot faster than my earlier run in the bigger 9 rig. Video of Judith Krimski & me: https://www.facebook.com/judith.krimski/videos/10209718704384017/
Sailing World Editor Dave Reed tearing it up: https://www.facebook.com/todd.riccardi/videos/10100504224552101/
If only we had that much breeze for the actual racing! Our circle was set in the
lee of Goat Island, making for shifty, variable 5-10 knot wind and lots of
tidal influence to challenge the fleet. We had five
"9" rigs racing, which proved very fast in the light and
variable conditions; most comments here will relate to my interactions with them.
Peter Shope (2015 Laser Grand Master World Champion), Christine Neville (2016 US Laser Olympic Aspirant) and Scott
Pakenham proved to be quick studies, having no trouble beating yours truly to
the first mark in most races. Christine and Peter generally had fine starts,
while Scott played the shifts beautifully. I was a bit lax at the starts (those
who read this blog can recognize the trend) and frequently had trouble going
the way I wanted or taking full advantage of shifts as a result.
The Aero's incredible pointing ability, acceleration and speed when cracked off offers many tactical options not available on other boats. Shope loves to foot upwind, and in an oscillating breeze that was devastatingly fast. I had success at times using the Aero's high mode to hold lanes off the start and to stay in bands of pressure longer.
There was plenty of experimentation going on downwind, with Christine most willing to sail higher
angles in search of speed. The wind wasn't quite strong enough to
plane while broad reaching, meaning those who stayed in pressure and pointed the
boat more to the mark saw bigger gains. Peter was especially quick, gybing
frequently and decisively going for bands of pressure and fast angles. I think
many people gybed too soon after rounding the weather mark, keeping them in the
lee of buildings to windward and boats on the starboard tack layline. I tried to soak
down on starboard for a few lengths before gybing, and that generally went
pushed by such excellent sailors really helped me figure out some things. My
big takeaway from Saturday was to sail with much less vang than I had in the
past, both upwind and down. Of course, upwind in breeze some got dialed on, but
the boat was just plain faster sailing with it a bit eased.
in the day the tide shifted, making the right side a bit less favored than it
had been earlier. In one race this allowed me to claw back to 2nd from 5th or
6th at the first leeward mark. It definitely was a day to be decisive and patient,
waiting for pressure and a shift before tacking!
It was also a long day, with 6 races being run by the RC and little time to
regroup in between. Going into Sunday I led with 4 firsts and 2 seconds
(6 points with throwout), Shope was in 2nd with 8, steady-as-she-goes Scott had 16 in 3rd with Christine only one point back. With an unlimited number of races to go and a second throwout looming at 12, it was anyone's regatta!
Sunday dawned a bit gloomy, with the wind more left than the previous day and
definitely lighter. The course was now parallel with Goat Island, and there
seemed to be a bit more pressure on the left upwind, especially in the earlier
Christine was on FIRE, having beautiful starts and fine boatspeed to
lead at every mark in every race, sometimes by huge margins! Shope
was OCS in Race 5 but rebounded annoyingly well to finish right behind me in
3rd. We had some very close racing, and from what I could see, the 7 rigs were
TIGHT, often having 4 or 5 boats overlapped at the finish of a 30 minute race!
Christine's perfect Sunday scorecard allowed her to leapfrog Scott into 3rd, while I held
onto 1st, 3 points clear of Peter. In the 7 rigs, Chuck Allen (collegiate
all-American and North Sails rep) prevailed over Dave Reed and class stalwart
Doug DuBois, who flew out from Park City UT to attend the event. Other notable
travelers included Tony Corkell from Raleigh NC, Gregory Popp from Ormond Beach
FL and Simeon Thomas from Colorado.
More info about the regatta and the boat on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/rsaeroclassnorthamerica/)
Class website: http://www.rsaerosailing.org