This time last year, we were painstakingly preparing and rigging four RS Aeros in Valencia, it was the first day of the equipment trials for the Men’s and Women’s One Person Dinghy and we were nervous.
As a manufacturer, you naturally believe you have the best product but we felt perilously at the mercy of the equipment committee. We were applying for a trial that could potentially damage the reputation of a boat and class that we’ve nurtured – the RS Aero.
The trial was thorough and relentless, both on the water and off. With kit being brutally challenged by some of the best sailors in the world and the technical committee grilling you on numbers and stats, we were exhausted by the experience. The whole process was embargoed which meant no outbound media could be shared, this made the process even more intense. Some of the manufacturers honoured the agreement, others didn’t. We went away from the process frustrated but proud that we had done absolutely everything we could and conducted ourselves as gracefully as our frustrations would allow.
We then had to wait – 50 days.
The 3rd of May finally came around and we were so proud and quietly relieved that the RS Aero achieved the highest overall score. At RS Sailing HQ, we have a few drinks as a team every Friday in our showroom and there was a huge buzz in the room. This was big, we really couldn’t have asked for better recognition for the RS Aero and the hard work up until this point had paid off.
But for those of you who have been in the RS Sailing HQ showroom, you will know there is an RS900 strapped rigged to the ceiling. One of just three ever made. We had been in this situation before and we knew that we were by no means over the line. The RS900 shadowing the celebrations was sobering and we prepared ourselves and the wider team to sit tight.
The report was extremely comprehensive and it analysed all key aspects of the boats and their production. We hadn’t just pipped the competition, we had been recognised bounds above the existing equipment and other new rivals.
• RS Aero – 80%
• Laser – 69%
• Melges 14 – 54%
• D-Zero – 52%
We believed that the RS Aero, backed by RS Sailing’s commitment to the sport, capabilities and commercial stability, offered a great opportunity to move the game forward at all levels. We then had to wait for the World Sailing Equipment Committee to discuss the Evaluation Report and make a recommendation to Council, for its selection decision, at the Mid-Year meeting on May 18/19 2019.
It was another painful wait for the team but we were overwhelmed by the support we received from around the globe from sailors and the wider community who were ready to see change and were prepared to back us. We want to thank you all for your continued support and your confidence in the RS Aero and RS Sailing.
As with the RS900 recommendation years before, the RS Aero was recommended with an overwhelming majority vote by the Equipment Committee. During the Council vote later that weekend Dina Kowalyshyn, Chairman of the World Sailing Equipment Committee, requested to make further comments before making recommendations to council. With their permission she went on to say,
“The evaluation panel had a few things to say about the RS Aero, that swayed some people in the equipment committee and should be made note of here at Council. The hull is very light, it requires sensitive boat handling and was considered by the sailors at the evaluation to reward higher sailing skills. It’s light weight and its size make it attractive and suitable for the youth pathway. Its hull is engineered with modern materials and modern production methods. It is mass production ready, it is already being mass produced and produces a high-end quality product. This quality was well recognised by MNA sailors and was considered the highest in terms of value for money. The builder is in a satisfactory position to produce and deliver boats in reasonable time scale’. She went on to note that, “Regardless of the challenges between the tender ILCA and Laser Performance the equipment committee recommend the RS Aero on its own merits.”
Regardless of the result the RS Aero Class is thriving, with a bulging event calendar and truly international regattas. We’ve delivered more boats than ever, to more countries and more sailing communities. Reflecting on the result the team recognized that some of the smaller and less developed sailing nations that have a jointly powerful vote on the World Sailing council had much less exposure to the incredible things the RS Aero can deliver to sailing, caught up too much perhaps in the legacy of their existing equipment and the challenge posed by change.
It was an emotional experience but it is one that’s made the RS team and the RS Aero Class stronger. We can smile knowing that unlike the RS900, the RS Aero isn’t going to get strapped to the roof of the showroom. Bringing the technical excellence proven by a trusted impartial panel to light has opened new doors for the class in countries and venues that had previously not encountered the RS Aero. Since the trials, the RS Aero has been established in 8 new countries, and 2020 sees host to a World Championships in the United States just 7 short months since the 2019 World Championships in Australia. The youth development end of the class has seen marked growth and culminates with the RS Aero Youth World Championships in Germany this summer. This year a host of high quality events, regattas, clinics and racing is planned on virtually every continent of the planet, supported by strong fully stocked dealers, widely available spare parts, charter boats and manufacturer support.
The whole team here at RS Sailing and our close friends at the international Class Association will continue to work with World Sailing, MNAs, Clubs and Programs around the world to ensure there are as many people as possible enjoying our awesome sport.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we celebrate the feedback the RS Aero received in the report.