Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Comparing Downwind Stability - Laser and RS Aero

The fear of capsizing in fresh winds and high seas takes the fun out of dinghy sailing and for club sailors limits the range of winds that we prepared to sail in. Even if we are not that competitive it is better to be going around the course in one piece than watching from the shore.

The Laser dinghy is notoriously unstable downwind in more than 15 knots and terrifying in 25. The death roll is the most common way to wipe out caused by gusts pushing too much sail in front of the mast.  It also happens when sailors loose their balance on an unstable hull.

Last week I competed in the RS Aero Australian Nationals at the Black Rock Yacht Club. The venue is renown for creating some of the best sailors in Australia due to the tough conditions on Port Philip Bay.  And it stayed in character all weekend with winds up to 20 knots kicking up big seas.

In a Laser I would have come back to the club after the first race and a number of out of control death rolls. But on my new RS Aero I managed to finish all six races and win two, made possible because I could choose to sail conservatively down wind, stay upright and finish.

Sitting back, flat and stable in 20 knots
It proved to me that he Aero is simply a far more stable platform in strong wind which I put down to these factors.

1. The Aero hull shape adds stability being wide and flat at the back of the boat.

2. The Aero rig can take more vang downwind than a Laser,  keeping the sail behind the mast.

3. The Aero rudder is deeper in the water and actually works to steer the boat, allowing more control to keep the boat under the rig.

4. Being light weight, the Aero gets up on a plane in the gusts, goes faster, reducing the apparent wind pressure on the rig. The extra speed also gives more stability.

With a second place in the Aero 7 Aus Nationals, the take away for me is I can sail now in 'fresh to frightening' conditions and I can work on being less conservative down wind with confidence in the stability of the boat.

Brian Close Australian National Champion pushing the limits, me ultra conservative

Aero v Laser - wide and flat, the Aero has stability down wind and a fast planning hull on reaches.

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