The long sailings in the icy English seas? Stuff for… derivatives: the new feat of “crazy” Ken Fowler

Who said that long sailings, for that matter in the cold and challenging English seas, must necessarily be tackled aboard cabin cruisers? Ken Fowler will set out next May 17 from Lands End in southwest England, heading for John o’ Groats a location in the far northeast of Scotland: more than 900 miles of sailing, aboard an RS Aero, a small 13-foot open dinghy.

A CHALLENGING COURSE
The route starts in southwest England, then passes through Wales and the Isle of Man, before arriving in the Scottish Isles and along the wild coast of Scotland, dubbing Cape Wraith and arriving at John O’Groats. There is already a record on drift for this route, and it is 64 days. Ken Fowler will try to beat him: he is no stranger to such feats; a few years ago he made news of his own round the Isle of Wight (72 miles) aboard a Laser. May was chosen because in the UK it is the month that offers the most hours of daylight as well as winds strong enough to break the record. Ken hopes to take 23 days, sailing 8 to 12 hours a day.

RS AERO, OUR TEST
When you get aboard a drift, you have fun. You have that direct contact with the water and the priceless feeling of the hull reacting to your body movements. I went to Lake Iseo to try out the newborn baby from the RS house: the‘Aero. 30 kg bare hull, 48 kg armed. It weighs exactly 10 kg less than I do, and this difference can be felt when you sail; the boat reacts to movements almost like a windsurfing board.
2014-09-25 13.46.54Needless to hide the intentions of the British RS shipyard: this drift fits into a market currently dominated by the Laser. As on the Laser, there are three arms provided: Aero 5, which broadly corresponds to the Laser 4.7; Aero 7 (with which I went out), which takes up the radial arm of the Laser; and Aero 9, which as a sail surface is similar to the Standard Laser. In all three cases the boat is rigged in the same way, except that the lower part of the mast (formed by two interlocking pieces) changes depending on the chosen rig.
2014-09-25 13.55.53

ARMING IN THREE MINUTES AND EFFORTLESS ADJUSTMENTS

The first positive note is the speed with which you arm the boat. In three minutes everything is ready to go out, as you can see in the video above. Another identifying feature is its light weight, which especially facilitates putting the boat in the water and transporting it: effortlessly, in fact, it can be loaded onto the roof of the car. The hull is constructed of epoxy resin and carbon parts, mast, boom, rudder and centreboard are made of carbon to minimize weight.
2014-09-25 16.22.12The mainsail is inferred into the mast through a channel and hoisted by means of a halyard, the three basic adjustments: vang, cunningham and base are sent back to the center of the hull, to facilitate adjustments to the helmsman. Vang and cunningham also have a closed loop, which goes around the hull’s edge-a solution that makes life even easier. Another “style” note is the minimization of steel on board; each block is secured by dyneema loops that not only do not weigh down, but also avoid ruining the rigging.
2014-09-25 16.35.59

WHEN SAILING, THE BOAT REACTS LIKE A BOARD

The day on the lake gave us perfect conditions for the test, wind between 8 and 10 knots and short wave. Climbing aboard, one immediately realizes what it means to have such a lightweight hull that reacts to every slightest movement: this allows one to play on the ripples of the lake with great satisfaction. Upwind the position at the straps is ergonomic, the softened edge shape does not create particular discomfort to the legs. Under gusts, cunningham, vang and base adjustments allow “live” shedding of the mainsail at the leech, decreasing heel and reducing physical exertion. The high boom also does not create any problems when turning. But the real fun comes downwind, the slightest gust gives some remarkable and fun accelerations with the bow always well out of the water, the bowless sheet allows you to work “live” on gusts and waves and have no problems gybing. I have tried scuffing the boat, and straightening it does not involve any special effort due to the presence of structural masonry.
2014-09-25 15.24.35
I am left with the curiosity to see how the Aero performs in a stiff wind: at 25 knots, won’t it suffer from its lightness?

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