Upwind or Bust


We all want to get to the top mark as fast as possible. But whether to go high or low, what is fastest course?

If we sail high, we go a bit slower, but we are closer to the mark. If we sail low, we go faster, but our course is longer. What is fastest in an Aero and in which conditions?

Testing Low Mode

To answer these questions, we've started two boat testing, where one boat goes a little higher than a (guessed) VMG course and the other boat deliberately goes lower then VMG. This of course will be different for specific conditions.

This week, we went out in a stiff 22-26 knot southerly, or as we Australians refer to it, a nice little breeze. The current was against the breeze which gave rise to a short, sharp chop. Doug Stumberger in #1249 was testing high mode and I was testing low mode. We were both in the 7 rig and we are both 6' tall and around 165 lbs.

Low is Fast in Chop

Low mode seems to be much faster in chop. When pointing too high, the lack of momentum in the Aero means the boat stops very quickly. In low mode, you can keep the boat moving and accelerate extremely quickly after a bad wave.

Low mode coupled with body torquing becomes doubly effective. Note: this is not Twerking, that is slow. If you torque your body back, the boat rides over waves and accelerates down the back of waves. At times, it felt like the boat was just charging upwind. Quite an experience for a 165 lb sailor in 22 knots!

One caveat: To make low mode work, you must hike, and hike relatively hard, otherwise the boat will stall.

Here is a little out-take from this session:

At the start of the video, I was trying to stay above Doug in #1249, but then decided to foot through his lee and then come back up to a fast low mode. As you can see, I'm not hiking particularly well, but low was clearly much faster. Although not quite obvious from this clip, the VMG of the low mode was better.

Tillerman Speaks

After my Aero Tips #1 post, Tillerman of ProperCourse wrote and conveyed his first impressions:

"On the topic of how the Aero deals with chop and waves (upwind) - I was pleasantly surprised to find when sailing in around 15 knots in Minorca that the Aero bow did slice through the chop in a very satisfying manner - a much easier ride than the Laser and no need for torquing. But in stronger winds I have noticed on one day in Minorca and one day in Rhode Island that even the Aero does slam into the waves - maybe not a severely as a Laser would in those conditions but definitely enough to affect the boat's speed". — Tillerman

So Tillerman is right (isn't he always), you need to work the boat in chop, like a Laser, except the Aero is more responsive to body torquing. You do not need to use as much force in the torque as the boat is so light, you can move it around easily with your body. You can also rely on the bow cutting through rather than slamming quite as much as a Laser.

One More Thing

One last comment about torquing. There is something really strange happening with the rig when you do your out and back and torque on the backside of a wave, the rig “whips” and the boat just leaps forward. You can feel the acceleration — it is very noticeable.

So now we can define Aero Tip #4.

Aero Tip #4

In medium and strong wind with chop, go low and use body torquing to lift the bow and keep the boat moving.

Flat Water

But what about flat water? During our session, the waves were at an angle, so starboard tack experienced a much better angle at the waves. In the testing we did, it seemed fairly even between low mode and high mode in this flatter water. But this will need more testing.

Planing Upwind

Yes Veronica, the Aero does plane upwind. The course is very low, perhaps too low, but not out of the ballpark to be of tactical use. I did one short test where I eased the sheet and drove the boat low. The boat quickly came up on a plane and the speed jumped dramatically.

Note that I was not properly trimmed, had terrible hiking form and was not vanging hard enough, but I was able to easily jump onto a plane, upwind. At a minimum, this will be quite useful if overstood on a starboard layline. Ease the sheet, vang hard, hike like hell and go very low to initiate the plane, then gently come up to a higher course while maintaining the plane.

How Much Mainsheet?

aero-high-boom laser-two-blocked

The Aero has a high boom which is a blessing when tacking with lots of vang or gybing in high wind. No more snagged life jackets or dragging booms when gybing. But the high boom makes it quite difficult to judge just how hard to trim the mainsheet. There is no easy reference.

Compare with the Laser where you can "two-block" the mainsheet and the boom sits neatly at the corner of the transom. Even in strong winds, you can measure how much the boom is eased from the corner of the Laser transom.

So how do we judge how to trim the mainsheet? I don't yet know the best way. I'm testing with marks on the mainsheet and will let you know.

Yeah, I know, Tom Burton hikes harder than I hike.


The Aero is a fun boat to sail upwind. Despite all the pre-release conspiracy talk about the Aero not going upwind, it goes upwind like a train.


Tillerman's first impressions in the Aero:


{{comment.name}} said ...

Comments Closed