By Lynn Billowes – RS Aero sailor, Topper Coach & ex Topper Female World Champion
Growing up with the Topper Class sets a high precedent for your expectations as you move onto other classes. Friendly, like-minded families, who enjoy great racing as much as the socials. The Topper is simple and although you can make a few tweaks, there’s nothing overwhelmingly complicated and it’s not a cash splashing competition amongst parents. Whether your boat was 10 years or 10 months old you could get up to the front of the fleet with some tidy boat handling and a decent start. It’s a humble, heart-warming class that creates a family culture that stays with you for life.
Now if it’s your last year in a Topper, you’re not only faced with so many options after junior sailing; the 4.7, Radial, 420, 29er, Nacra, even kitesurfing but you’re also faced with the heartache of leaving the Topper family behind. You’ve worked hard to jump from squad to squad from the age of 12, with a plethora of jackets to prove it and the thought of going rogue and not choosing an RYA pathway boat possibly isn’t even a consideration. But if your aspiration is to enjoy a lifetime in our awesome sport, sailing a modern boat, with a bunch of fun people, I urge you to consider the RS Aero Class for two reasons.
Reason One – The boat
Here’s what you need to know about the RS Aero, she’s light – 32 kgs to be precise, that’s lighter than an Optimist and 23kgs lighter than your Topper hull. The light hull means two things; firstly that the sailing experience is more skiff like, she’s skitty and smooth but in a fun way – not a lairy way! When she’s up on the plane, oh my – hooning downwind is so effortless that you could almost swear you were foiling. Secondly, as you transition into youth classes the boat usually gets heavier, meaning dragging it up and down the beach is a workout in itself, righting the boat from a capsize nearly kills you and lifting a similar single-hander onto the roof of a car requires weight lifting lessons. Not with the RS Aero. You can enjoy longer days on the water as you’re not constantly fighting with a heavy dated piece of kit and capsizing is much easier to recover. You’ve all seen the photos of RS Aero’s on their nose with the transom skywards, it’s not just because the sailor has tanked it down a mine but also because the hull is so light too.
The RS Aero rig – there’s three. The 5, 7 and 9 which roughly translates to the sail sizes, the spars are carbon, they’re flexible, robust and quite frankly they just look awesome. The top section is identical on each boat and you just change your bottom section dependant on your rig size. Like the topper there’s a kicker, downhaul, outhaul, traveller and mainsheet, for those of you who stopped sailing Toppers pre-2005 there’s even a halyard to play with. The controls have been designed ergonomically so that changing gear is effortless and promotes continuous tweaking.
The sails are dacron which is probably the only similarity they have with your Topper sail. It has a balanced natural sail shape which completely removes weather helm and the controls have enough range in them for clear mode setups. Whether you are looking to point high past the competition or power through low below them the RS Aero has genuine modes. A worry for any new boat is being able to handle it in a breeze, the RS Aero can depower beyond the point of a Topper sail and if you’re sailing a 5 rig this means you are actually able to smash it around the course on a big day with a sail less powerful that your Topper 5.3 counterpart. In terms of your bank balance, I’m not going to lie to you the sails are more expensive, they’re made by North Sails who are renowned around the industry, the sails are made of much thicker cloth, making them more durable. They last longer and maintain their shape for a longer period allowing you to use your sail for seasons rather than just a handful of events.
The foils on an RS Aero work – the one failing of the Topper as a racing boat is it’s constant need to go head to wind. It’s great for a training boat (obviously not quite as good as the RS Neo *wink) but I remember many a time battling with my Topper racing upwind, tiller practically behind my head trying to get the thing to bear away a few clicks. The foils are so balanced it takes some time for transitioning Topper sailors to get used to. As much as Topper coaches will say “use your body weight to steer the boat”, there’s a limited amount of effect that it will have because the hull is heavy and the rig imbalance is working against you. The RS Aero is almost the opposite, your body weight as a sailor is usually heavier than the hull and rig meaning any movements you make directly affect the hull. From roll tacks that would make your old coaches coo, rocking upwind in waves and heeling the boat on top of you like a boss around the windward mark – The RS Aero is all about feel and balancing yourself with the rig.
If my word doesn’t do it for you, the World Sailing Technical Committee were blown away with the RS Aero at the Olympic Men’s and Women’s One Person Dinghy Equipment trials, she’s currently the undeniable best single-hander in the world! Another bonus is that the second-hand market in the RS Aero is fierce because the boats are so popular, they’re snapped up quickly and hold their residual value beyond any of our other classes.
Here’s the stats you need;
• Length – 4m (13’2″)
• Beam – 1.4m (4’7″)
• Hull weight – 32kg (66lb)
• RS Aero 5 – 5.2m²
• RS Aero 7 – 7.4m²
• RS Aero 9 – 8.9m²
Sailor weight guide
• RS Aero 5: 35 – 55kg
• RS Aero 7: 55 – 77kg
• RS Aero 9: 75 – 100kg
A few more
• Hull construction – Carbon fibre, epoxy resin and woven glass
• Mast – 2-part carbon fibre with track & halyard
• Boom – Carbon fibre with centre mainsheet
• Control lines – Split & cleated on either side deck
Click here to read even more features and stats.
Reason Two – The RS Aero Class
In the five years since the RS Aero was launched there have been 2,000 RS Aero’s distributed Worldwide. There were a whopping 200+ boats at the 2018 RS Aero World Championships from 16 different nations. There were just over 120 RS Aero events held worldwide last year, sailors ages ranged from just eleven years old, up to well into their awesome eighties. There is a whole squad of driven youth sailors, a lively group of female sailors, a ton of competitive club warriors and a select few Olympic hopefuls. Whatever your age or sailing ability there’s a group of sailors within the class ready to welcome you.
True to its RS roots, the RS Aero Class race hard but also have epic socials! From a laid-back BBQ, formal sit-down dinners, fancy dress rampages or just a cold one in the bar – there is something for everyone. The RS Aero Class have a great mixture of Open Training and Squad Coaching that you can easily get involved in to develop your racing prowess. The Class has a passionate and incredibly active committee of volunteers that drive the RS Aero Class Association forward. Peter Barton, the RS Aero Class Manager, works tirelessly coordinating and managing the classes snowballing activity. There is a busy Facebook group and a great forum full of top tips, spare kit and support.
As we look ahead into the 2020/2021 season and beyond, it’s exciting to see an RS Aero Youth World Championship being added to the mix. If you’re under 23 years old, you have to get involved in this event in 2021. In addition to this, here are a few more events you should consider and don’t let the lack of a boat get in the way of your fun, there are charter boats available.
The RS Aero Class is a class for life, it is not an elitist Pathway class with an age ceiling that is pouring rejected sailors out at the seams. If you’re enjoying your sailing, getting to grips with racing and excited by travelling to events you could be part of the RS Aero Class from your 10th birthday to your 100th. Keep thriving as a sailor and an all-round human by joining the RS Aero Class – it will inspire confidence and a commitment to a lifetime in our sport which is all the ITCA Topper Class ever wants for you too.
Would you like to know more?
Free RS Aero demo opportunities – changing classes is a huge decision and as a coach I would urge you to sail the boat you’re going to transition into next. The RS Sailing team in the UK offer free demo opportunities, just give them a call and they will arrange a date and location that works for you.
Get a feel for the Class by checking out the RS Aero Class Facebook Group.