RS Aeros at Massapoag YC Small Boat Regatta - Boston, USA, by Derek Stow

Thursday, 08 June 2017


I have always had a special fondness for the Small Boat Regatta at Massapaog YC in Sharon MA, ever since I sailed in the first annual SBR in 2008. It’s a one day event that always seems to find the sweet spot of offering well-managed races combined with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The SBR is so exceptional that one anonymous wag dubbed it, “America’s favorite RS Aero regatta.” Who am I to disagree?

The event started off originally as a regatta for Lasers and Sunfish, with RS Aeros being added in 2015. Once again this year the RS Aeros were the biggest fleet with 13 RS Aeros entered by sailors from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, California and the United Kingdom, sailing a mix of 5, 7 and 9 rigs. This year, for the first time, the various RS Aero rigs were scored on handicap using the RYA Portsmouth Yardsticks.

As the sailors arrived and started unloading and rigging their boats, helping newcomers to the class to set up and rig their charter boats, greeting old friends from previous regattas and making new friends, I was so busy that I lost all track of time and didn’t manage to have any breakfast which is a shame because I enjoy reading about breakfast in regatta reports - especially the ones at English sailing clubs which often seem to include reviews on the quality of the “bacon sarnies” or similar delicacies. I promise to do a better job as food critic next year.

The skippers’ meeting was run by Diane and Greg Kampf, regatta chair and PRO respectively, with their usual efficiency and good humor. One of the sailors dared to suggest that we should skip lunch and sail six races back to back. Shock! Horror! Didn’t she know that this is the MYC SBR - not so much a sailing regatta as a day for eating and drinking and socializing and chilling with friends, with a bit of sailing thrown in to help pass the time between meals? Her proposal was voted on by the assembled sailors and soundly defeated. These are my kind of people!

All six races at the regatta were trapezoid courses alternating fleets on inner and outer loops which did a good job of keeping the fleets separate, at least for the first few legs of each race. Winds were chunky and vacillating - you know what I mean. The wind speed started off in the morning at around 10 mph except when it was more or less than that, and eased off a bit in the afternoon. Wind direction in the morning was usually west( ish) but more north(-ish) in the afternoon. This meant that for RS Aero sailors we were totally powered up on the upwind legs at times and totally depowered at others, and you only had to change gears about every 15 seconds. The reaches gave us some good planing conditions most of the time, and the runs varied between planing in the gusts when you could find them and sitting in holes watching the fleet sail by you when you got it wrong. Don’t you just love lake sailing?

The hard-working and extremely likable Marc Jacobi is the RS Aero North American Class Manager which, among other things, means that he manages the 10 boat trailer of RS Aeros which is traveling between sites on the east coast to promote RS Aero sailing and to give as many people as possible a chance to try out the RS Aero. At this regatta last year, Marc representing the USA and Gareth Griffiths from the UK had a very close battle for first and second places, with Gareth eventually winning the regatta by one point thanks to a win in the final race. In the rematch this year between these two world class RS Aero sailors, both sailing 9 rigs, the outcome was still in doubt going into the final race, but it was Marc who took the regatta win over Gareth. Marc’s day job is as a realtor in Westport CT, so if you need to buy or sell a house in that neck of the woods, you had “Better Call Marc.”

Gareth Griffiths’ day job is as Chief Technology Officer for Bridgehead Software which apparently gives him an excuse to fly from the UK to Massachusetts in June every year so he can compete in the MYC Small Boat Regatta. What a sweet gig! Gareth is one of the few people I know who can look debonair and dashing wearing a T-shirt saying, “Old Sailors Never Die. They Just Get a Little Dinghy.” A former college sailor at Oxford University Gareth is always welcome at MYC, and not just because nobody else who comes to this regatta has a hope in hell of beating Marc. Thanks also to Gareth for bringing from England some “Aero bars” to hand out to the leading sailors. Aero bars are a chocolate bar made in the UK by Nestlé. Like the RS Aero, the Aero bar is extremely light. "It's the bubbles of nothing that make it really something."

In third place on handicap, also scoring a race win in the second race, and sailing a 7 rig, was Matt Russell. Matt is a software engineer based in Los Angeles who is a former member of the Sharon High School Sailing Team which trains on Lake Massapoag. His family are members of MYC. It was Matt’s first time in an RS Aero but he gave a perfect demonstration of how someone with good sailing skills in other dinghy classes can step into an Aero and immediately be competitive. He sailed a very consistent regatta, and finished in the top five in every race. We need more people like Matt in the RS Aero class.

Fourth place in a 9 rig was Madhavan Thirumalai who is the tallest RS Aero sailor I have ever seen. Seriously folks, he could play in the NBA. Madhavan is very fast in the Aero and so I was hardly ever near him in the race course, but when I did cross paths with him he always seemed to be muttering intensely to himself. I confess I did try to disrupt his concentration once or twice by shouting “Gaaargh” at him, a tactic that I also use at international regattas as it is understood in every language to mean, “Keep away from the crazy old geezer with the English accent.”

Rounding out the top five, in a 7 rig, was Eric Aker the North American RS Aero Class President who was also the race winner on handicap in the third race. Unlike that other president we have in Washington, Eric does not play golf, Eric does not use Twitter, and Eric is universally liked. Having said that, I have now spent two years racing RS Aeros with Eric and I always seem to finish one or two places behind him. If he wasn’t such a nice guy I would be starting to resent this a little. Things were looking promising for me at lunch, when I had a six point lead on him, but Eric turned on the afterburners in the afternoon and he beat me in a regatta once again. Gaaargh!

In sixth place, also in a 7 rig, was your humble scribe, Derek Stow. I approached this regatta with low expectations as I hadn’t sailed an RS Aero since the AeroCup at Lake Garda in September, and I was even more out of shape than I usually am at the start of the summer. I wasn’t even sure I would have the stamina to finish all the races. Clearly such a pessimistic mindset is the secret to success, as I picked up a lucky shift on the first beat in the first race and went on to win that race on handicap, finishing only a few seconds behind Marc and Gareth in their 9 rigs. Or maybe it was my stylish new sailing helmet - black with white graphics and red trim. It certainly looks fast. After the first race, things went downhill fast and I was DFL in the last race (not counting three boats who had retired by then.)

Karen Binder in a 7 rig was seventh. Karen was the champion of the Laser frostbiting series at Bristol YC in Rhode Island this winter and at this regatta was sailing an RS Aero for the first time. She arrived at the club in plenty of time to fit in a practice sail before the skippers’ meeting which worried me so much that I felt obliged to warn her about not taking things too seriously at a fun regatta. Only joking Karen. Her Laser sailing skills served her well in the Aero and she will clearly be a major force on the local RS Aero sailing scene when she decides to buy an Aero.

In eighth place on handicap was one of my fellow members of the Boston RS Aero fleet, Gary Werden in a 7 rig. Gary is the coach of the Sharon High School Sailing Team which concluded this season as Massachusetts’s best public high school sailing team in the New England School Sailing Association. Congratulations Coach! Gary was especially fast in the slightly lighter winds in the afternoon.

Another member of the Bristol Laser fleet, also sailing an Aero for the first time was the intrepid and wicked smart Faye Flam who finished ninth, sailing a 5 rig in the morning (scoring a 4h place on handicap in the first race) and a 7 rig in the afternoon. She said she preferred the 7 rig as it was more fun to sail against others using the same rig. I am pretty sure that Faye is the only RS Aero sailor who has gotten frost nip at the South Pole, floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane, and written a book on the science of the male sex drive. In case you were wondering, her day job is as a science journalist, currently writing for Bloomberg View. Go to Amazon and buy her book!

The cordial and well-travelled David Solnick sailing a 7 rig was tenth. David is such a nice guy that he bought his wife Melissa an RS Aero for her birthday a couple of years ago. Sadly Melissa was unable to join us at MYC this June, but look out for the two of them at the Wickford Regatta. It is always fascinating to talk sailing with David. I was particularly impressed with his stylish Adidas hiking boots which are so exclusive that you can’t buy them in the USA. David picked them up when he was sailing in Italy last year and now I want a pair as they are exactly the same color scheme as my new sailing helmet. How cool that would be?

And in eleventh place was one of my best sailing buddies, the talented and extremely versatile Judith Krimski, sailing a 9 rig. Until a couple of months ago Judith was the Laser Class District Secretary for New England, but she was quoted in Sailing World as having “fallen in love” with the RS Aero. She also said, “If the Laser were reincarnated, it would come back as an Aero.” I’m not sure I know what that means but I think I agree with her.

Two other MYC members sailing one of our regattas in Aeros for the first time were Tony Paine and Mark Stoughton. Unfortunately they both retired very early in the day due to injuries and didn’t finish any of the races. Tony hurt his back and Mark hit the boom with his head. It’s a shame they had such a bad experience because the Aero really isn’t a dangerous animal. It may seem a little frisky at first but it isn’t trying to bite you, and with training it becomes quite well-behaved. So I hope Mark and Tony will give the Aero another chance when they are feeling better. You will be pleased to hear that Mark’s head is OK now… and so is the boom.

Thanks to everyone who came to race RS Aeros with us at Lake Massapaog. I guess it’s no surprise that this amazing little boat is attracting so many open-minded, adventurous, fun-loving sailors, and it is a privilege and a pleasure to spend time with folk like this who share a passion for the world’s fastest growing sailboat class.

Next up on the north-east US RS Aero regatta circuit is the Wickford Regatta on June 10/11. Regatta website is at http://wickford.sailspace.net. Contact Marc Jacobi at USA@rsaerosailing.org if you need a charter boat. 

Presented by Cathy McLean

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 June 2017 )