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Interview with Steve Cockerill: RS Aero 7 World Champion

by Mark Jardine 1 Aug 2017 13:00 BST 24-28 July 2017
RS Aero 7 podium at the Rooster RS Aero World Championship © YC Carnac

We spoke to Steve Cockerill, who has just returned from winning the Rooster RS Aero 7 World Championship in Carnac. We found out what techniques he's learnt in the boat, how he's made the transition from Lasers, and what he thinks of the class.

Mark Jardine: You went straight from the 4000 EuroCup to the RS Aero World Championship with only a day's break. How did you feel going into the event?

Steve Cockerill: I was pretty tired but my hiking muscles were definitely ready for it! I had to take some ibuprofen to stop my legs from shouting at me too much, but I was thankful of the day's rest.

Mark: You had an epic battle with Peter Barton, where in the first two races he took the bullets. What do you think gave him the advantage early on?

Steve: I think it was my lack of experience in the boat. I very much watched Pete sailing the boat, and compared his techniques to what I'd have done as a Laser sailor. I noticed he sat further back in the boat than I would have done - I was typically trying to sail at the front of the toe-strap and I was wrong in that. I had to sit further back and tighten the toe-strap and gradually found a comfortable place, which was a lot further back than I would have sat in a Laser. That enabled the boat to not bob over the waves as much and allowed me to avoid the waves more. It was an odd thing being able to sit further back and drive the boat more. I experimented a bit with the centreboard up and pulling lots of kicker and cunningham on. The first day was very much a 'look and learn' day and Pete has a lot of experience in the boat. It was interesting and fun to see him doing it differently from what I would have done and so I adjusted my technique a bit.

Mark: You clearly learnt quickly as you then knocked in four bullets in five races!

Steve: I lucked in on the next day as the race officer was good at setting the line according to what he was seeing on the committee boat and there was a near lee-bow on port tack. I managed to use that and cross the fleet in one race. It did start to go my way but Pete was very fast upwind!

Mark: You and Peter are very different in weight, but you managed to have a very close battle. Do you think the boat can take quite a wide weight range with the 7 rig?

Steve: I think it can. I've not sailed the boat in anger in 13-14 knots yet and I don't fully know the pros and cons of being lighter for downwind legs versus heavier for upwind legs. I have a feeling that as it got windier each day, things evened out for us both as technique took over from sheer brute force. The tide meant we had short downwinds and long upwinds and I would have loved that to be the other way round! I think at 75 kilos I was near the lower limit of weight in those conditions.

Mark: You've come from a Laser sailing background. How comfortable is the Aero compared to the Laser?

Steve: I would say massively comfortable. When I was sailing at the Laser Masters' Europeans earlier this year my hips were giving me gyp, but I've just finished the Aero Worlds and I'm not in any pain. I'm tired, my knees are tired, my joints are tired and my back is tired, but I haven't got tennis elbow from steering upwind and I haven't got any pain in my hips. When you get in the right place and sit further back you get a nice, even amount of pressure on the back of your calves against the side deck, and with hike pads on you can really give yourself a nice hiking position. It really is very ergonomically designed for hiking and I've got to say I like it.

Mark: What advice would you give to a current Laser sailor who is thinking of making the switch to the Aero?

Steve: I'd say go and give it a go! Go and try it. Due to its international flavour it has things that can excite you and the boat is still in the early stages of people's development in sailing it so there is a lot to learn. I'm just about to write a blog on it as I think I've learnt a lot this week. It's a terrific little boat so I think you should just give it a go. Having sailed one just before the Laser Masters, every time I pulled the Laser up the beach my subconscious was saying, "Why are you pulling this up the beach? Why don't you get back to your Aero again?" It has that appeal, a nice little light boat and you just can't forget it - it says "Take me sailing!"

Mark: You've been on the Bay of Quiberon for two weeks. How do you find the sailing there?

Steve: I think it's fantastic. I sailed at Quiberon itself for the first week, which is a nice residential area with camping on-site: a quiet area which is a perfect location for an old bloke who doesn't go out beering. Carnac is also fantastic as it has a good nightlife. I think the French are really lucky with some of the nicest sailing waters in the world - especially around that peninsula.

Mark: Congratulations on the result. We're very much looking forward to reading to your blog with your latest set of techniques. As always it'll make a great read.

Steve: Fantastic. Good to talk to you Mark.

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