Written by RS Aero Sailor, Julius Hornung
I remember the first time I sailed the RS Aero at the Europeans in 2016. There were some pretty big questions floating around the boat park. Things like “will the class take off internationally?” “What do you think of the Aero compared to the Laser?” and even “Do you think the Aero will ever make it to the Olympics?”
Since then, a lot of those questions have been answered. There are several thousand Aeros sailing on all continents of the world. We’ve had significant championships in Travemuende, Garda, Weymouth, Melbourne and Oregon. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Laser sailor who doesn’t like an Aero after trying one.
That leaves the Olympic Question. There have been occasions like the 2019 equipment trials in Valencia and in April this year when World Sailing announced that the RS Aero would stand-in for the men’s single-hander at the Dutch event of the Hempel World Cup Series. An opportunity to represent the class and turn some heads at a gathering with the world’s most elite Olympic dinghy sailors. I signed up within about 5 minutes. A few weeks later, I found myself on a list with 14 other sailors from Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark. Most of them had come in the top 3 of a Nationals, Europeans or Worlds. Despite the last-minute announcement and conflicts with other sailing events, this may well have been the most concentrated gathering of top-level Aero sailors we have seen to date.
Sharing a course with the women’s single-handers was an eye-opener to how different a regatta on the Olympic circuit can be compared to the weekend club. It was an hour’s upwind slog to and from the offshore race area every day without coach boats to rely on. In addition to considerable waiting times, the race committee adjusted the course to the inconsistent, shifty winds and several general recalls by the ambitious contenders in the ILCAs. We had some seriously long days on the water. Add some mid-week drama in the protest room over scoring irregularities, and you get an intense program. Of course, that didn’t stop the always fun-loving RS Aero Class from a few social trips to nearby Amsterdam for dinner, but it was early nights and early rises every day for this 5-day regatta.
Coming in 6th, it wasn’t my best-ever week of results, but I would say that’s bearable given the calibre of the fleet. Every race was a hard-fought battle: the leaders always within reach and the followers always breathing down your neck—a tense situation made even harder by the harsh speed penalties of getting seaweed wrapped around your foils or picking the wrong side a sometimes extremely patchy racecourse. All in all, it was an incredibly tough week physically and mentally, but even more rewarding to share a racecourse with our Olympic idols while showing off our own class. It’s another chapter for the history books in the development of the RS Aero as a significant international racing dinghy that I’m delighted to have been a part of it. It can only bode well for what’s next.