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RS Aeros at the Massapoag Yacht Club Annual Regatta

by Derek Stow 14 Sep 2016 13:21 BST 10-11 September 2016
The calm before the storm at Lake Massapoag, Boston © Diane Kampf

The beauty of sailing a regatta at Massapoag YC in Sharon MA (near Boston) is that, like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.

Nine RS Aeros showed up for the 67th iteration of this annual event - almost twice as many as last year. We were joined on the race course by 22 Sunfish, 16 Flying Scots, 6 Day Sailors and 4 Comets, or as I like to think of them... 74 sailors who are all potential future RS Aero owners but just don't know it yet.

The top notch Principal Race Officer (and fellow RS Aero sailor) Gary Werden gave us trapezoid race courses for every race of the weekend, starting fleets alternately on inner and outer loops, which worked very well to keep the fleets separated... except when it didn't. But it all worked out pretty well when we got mixed up with the other fleets as the 74 future RS Aero owners all seemed to be very nice people. Well, at least the Sunfish sailors were.

Saturday morning brought light winds from the east which shifted around to the south east later in the day. The RS Aeros sailed three races in the morning and three in the afternoon. Really we are all very grateful to Gary for giving us more races than the other classes, but during the third race of the day (and last before lunch) as the RS Aeros drifted around in a rain shower in 0-3 knots, while the 74 future RS Aero owners were already in the clubhouse eating our lunches and drinking our beer, there was some discussion amongst the fleet whether this extra "treat" of a race for the RS Aeros was because the inscrutable Gary Werden liked us so much or hated us.

Spirits picked up after a hearty lunch and so did the winds... a little. We enjoyed three more races in the afternoon with the spoils going to those who could spot the almost inevitable huge wind shift before every start, avoid fouls on the start line or at the marks (guilty as charged but only once) and most importantly read the puffs and shifts on the water. Positions were shuffled during every race, and I counted myself to be very lucky to be in sole possession of third place by the end of the day.

And then there was Sunday - if not a day that will go down in infamy, at least one that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

The winds started from the south and were already a lot stronger than Saturday when racing started at 10am. The problem was that the weather radar clearly showed a line of thunderstorms that were predicted to cross the lake around noon. Gary promised to start on time and bang off the start for each fleet quickly with the aim of completing at least two races for each fleet before the thunderstorms arrived. All was going along very nicely with all the fleets sailing their first race when we noticed the sky getting darker and darker in the NW. The winds freshened some more and as I crossed the Aero finish line the race committee were signaling for everyone to head back to the club house at the other end of the lake.

And then the squall hit. Opinions were divided as to what the maximum wind speed was. Most people estimated it as well into the 30s, if not more, with some old hands saying they had never seen it blow as strong on the lake before. So probably similar wind conditions to that famous video of Anthony "Chunky" York setting the RS Aero world speed record of 23.9 knots, except we had sideways rain as well. If only I had had a SpeedPuck on my boat I might have been able to break the record. About half the Sunfish fleet stopped on the way back to the club, apparently to rinse their sails, and so did a fair number of the Scots and Day Sailors with some of them doing a bit of digging in the Lake Massapoag mud with their masts.

Once all the RS Aero sailors were back at the club (around 11am) there was some discussion about whether there would be another race, but after a while it became apparent that all the race committee boats were too busy assisting the sailors from semi-sunken hulks scattered around the lake to be available to shift the marks for the new wind direction. Then when we saw the Sharon Fire Department coming out to assist the still capsized boats and a very nice policeman arrived at the club to help the club secretary to prove that everyone registered for the regatta was accounted for, we realized that racing was over for the day and started to pack up our RS Aeros. Thankfully none of the sailors suffered any serious injury although a fair number of the 74 future RS Aero owners did bend their spars.

There was a mix of RS Aero 7 and 9 rigs sailing the regatta racing against each other using Portsmouth Yardstick handicaps.

Marc Jacobi put on another dominant performance to win the regatta. After a few races he gave himself an extra handicap by starting a minute after the rest of us and coaching us on how we could sail faster as he sailed right through the fleet to near the front again in every race. Impressive!

Madhavan Thirumulai from Cedar Point YC in Connecticut sailing a 9 rig in his first RS Aero regatta was also very fast, finishing first or second in every race (before handicap adjustment.) "Who is Madhavan Thirumulai?" I asked myself. So I googled him. Hmmm! Olympic trials in a 49er? That explains a lot.

Eric Aker and Derek Stow - founder members of the Boston Aero fleet and training partners - were tied on points for third place with the tie-breaker going to Eric. Eric tells me we have to work out how to "raise it to the next level to get closer to Marc." I would settle for just being able to beat Eric in a regatta. Once Lord! Just once!

And in fifth place was Tony Corkell who came all the way from North Carolina. Tony was the first sailor who sailed a 7 rig on both days. He was always near the front of the 7 rigs in every race and was second overall on handicap in the first race on Saturday afternoon.

David (6th) and Melissa (9th) Solnick had spent most of August training for this regatta by sailing an RS Aero and an RS500 on Lake Garda. David was 3rd overall on handicap in one race, but most impressive of all he didn't go into the club at all during the rain squall, but just keep having fun, reaching around on the lake the whole time. (I wonder if he had a SpeedPuck?)

Chris Stow in a 9 rig was 7th overall on handicap. I think it was only the second time he sailed an RS Aero this year, but if he could sail more regularly he would soon return to the winning ways of his youth. He also needs to buy an RS Aero. Really! You can't charter a boat every time you want to sail an Aero.

And Dan Abram from the home club was 8th. A couple of weeks ago Dan was the only Laser sailor to show up at the club for the Sunday races so we lent him the RS Aero demo boat to race with the Aeros. Then it turned out he was the only Laser sailor to register for the regatta, so he decided to borrow an Aero and sail with us in the regatta too. He looked very comfortable on Saturday in the Aero, but he needs a bit more practice in the boat before he moves up to the front of the fleet in heavier winds.

After the awards ceremony, I was packing my nice straight RS Aero carbon spars on to my trailer when I noticed a bunch of Flying Scot sailors desperately trying to straighten a Flying Scot mast by bending it against a tree. Even with six big men pushing and pulling and huffing and puffing the job seemed to be going slowly.

I feel your pain guys. I feel your pain.

No RS Aero spars were bent or broken in the production of this regatta report.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7Pts
178Marc Jacobi Cedar Point YC 1111[2] 228
21982Madhavan Thirumalai Cedar Point YC222[3] 1119
31422Eric Aker Boston Aero Fleet 5435[6] 3323
41421Derek Stow Boston Aero Fleet 33[6] 444523
516Tony Corkell Carolina SC4[7] 5256628
61424david solnick Fraglia Vela Riva [8] 68635735
76Chris Stow Massapoag YC7548[9] 8436
81418Dan Abram Massapoag YC697777[10) 43
95melissa solnick Fraglia Vela Riva [9] 89989851

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