Sailing an Aero in Seattle
The Seattle Aero fleet is growing rapidly, drawing sailors young and old into this dynamic new class. We have regular races, and boats are sailing on Lake Washington, Lake Union and Puget Sound all year round, so you'll have plenty of company on the water.
You don’t have to be an expert racer to join the fun and excitement — the local fleet already has a healthy range of sailors from experienced racers to brand-new to dinghy sailors, and several local owners sail the boat just for fast, easy fun.
This post is a one-stop guide for most of the things you need to know to get started sailing Aero's in Seattle.
The RS Aero
The Aero is a 13-foot sailboat that redefines the standard for exciting sailing in a simple single-hander. Ultra-light weight (66lbs) means the boat is responsive on the water and easy to handle ashore. High tech materials in the hull and spars mean the boat is not just light, but super strong.
RS Aero production began late in 2014 and the first Aeros arrived in Seattle early in 2015. This launched the CYC Seattle fleet, which has become the largest and most active Aero fleet in the U.S.
Test Sail an Aero
Before you jump into an Aero, you may want to test sail one. We have semi-regular Demo Days where you can test sail an Aero and we have a demo boat available for sailors who are looking to try an Aero. Email Doug to arrange a demonstration sail.
Buying your Aero
When you’re ready to purchase, the local RS dealer is West Coast Sailing in Portland, Oregon. West Coast Sailing sells new Aeros and will eventually have used Aeros to sell as well, but the boat is too new for much of a used market to have developed. West Coast Sailing can set you up with an Aero, sails, all three rigs (5, 7, and 9), dolly, covers, trailer — everything you need to sail off the dock and neatly store your boat. And besides the Aero they have a great selection of dinghy gear — wetsuits, technical clothing, parts, and accessories.
Delivery and Transport
Most new Aeros are sold on the west coast are “F.O.B.” Portland. West Coast Sailing can arrange delivery from Portland to Seattle or you can pick the boat up at their location. You can buy a trailer from West Coast Sailing, use an existing trailer, or — due to it’s light weight (hull weight is just 66 pounds) — car-top the Aero even on sub-compact cars. If you are setting up a car-top rack to handle your Aero, it’s handy to have 6’ wide cross-bars so you can carry both the boat and the spar bag on the roof. It is also helpful (and safer) to have the Aero’s bow tied to anchor points at the front of the boat, using something such as these Seattle Sports Quick Loops. Here’s a video of single-handed cartopping with the Aero on it’s dolly: https://youtu.be/YCYDIt1ix3U.
The Aero can be trailered on a range of small boat trailers, including rolled on its dolly onto a small flat bed utility trailer. If you own a Laser trailer such as the Trailex or Kitty Hawk, Seattle fleet members have figured out an inexpensive and effective way to convert a Laser trailer to carry an Aero, contact Doug for more information.
Store your Aero
There are several excellent options for storing your Aero in the Seattle area. First of course you can store your boat at your home — on a trailer, outside on your dolly, upside down on saw horses, even hanging in your garage. Since the boat is easy to car-top you can very reasonably own, sail, and race the boat without owning a trailer, but if you are car-topping you’ll want to own a dolly for launch and retrieval. (The Dynamic Dolly that West Coast sells easily comes apart for storage and transport.) Of course, if you own a trailer then it’s even easier, and several Seattle Aero sailors trailer-launch their boats. The boat is light enough you can launch it from a ramp or right off the trailer off a staging dock.
Sailing on Shilshole Bay
Much of the Aero racing in Seattle takes place on Shilshole Bay, just offshore from the North end of the Shilshole Bay Marina and there is boat storage for your Aero available at the marina. At the far North end of the marina is “W Dock” (commonly called the “dinghy dock”) where there is dock space available for storing your boat. Boats are stored on the dock, not in the water, and are launched off the dock each time they are sailed. There are “mast up” spots where the boat is stored upright (usually on a dolly with the wheels removed), and there are also racks where boats are stored upside down and you flip the boat right-side up at launch time. As of 2015, dock spots are between $550 and $700 a year, and rack space quite a bit less. There can be a wait list for spots at Shilshole, it is a good idea to start looking for a spot sooner than you’ll need it.
The dinghy dock storage is managed by two different groups, the contacts are: Seattle Yacht Club and the Seattle International 14 fleet Bob Rinker. Another excellent location for storing and sailing your Aero is Sand Sand Point, a community boating center on Lake Washington. Located in Seattle’s Magnuson Park, Sail Sand Point offers storage for small boats in a paved, fenced yard and has several hand-launch ramps perfectly suited for Aero use. (The hand-launch ramps can be used regardless of whether you rent storage space there.) There may be a waiting list for a storage spot at either location.
Sailing and Racing
We are lucky to have so many fantastic venues for sailing here in the Pacific Northwest and the Seattle area in particular. There are now Aeros sailing on Lake Washington, Lake Sammamish, Lake Union, and Shilshole Bay with great access points for these and other sailing venues. Regionally there are many fantastic venues for Aero sailing within a few hours driving distance, from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, B.C., and a thousand spots in between. The Columbia River Gorge (particularly from Cascade Locks) will certainly be one of the top Aero sailing venues in the Pacific Northwest.
At the moment, most of the RS Aero racing in Seattle is “one design” racing organized by Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle (CYC) that takes place on Shilshole Bay. In addition, Aero’s have sailed (and won) the infamous Duck Dodge on Lake Union during the summer, and there is informal dinghy racing at Sail Sand Point on Friday nights during the summer as well.
Racing with CYC Seattle: CYC Seattle is the organization running most of the Aero racing in Seattle; it is a racing-focused, reasonably priced yacht club with friendly members and good beer. The club maintains a floating clubhouse at the North end of Shilshole Bay Marina and organizes many weekend regattas and weeknight races during the year. You don’t have to be a member of CYC to race your Aero, though joining the club is easy and offers several important benefits, more on that below. For RS Aeros, there is a one-design start on Thursday evenings from April to September at Shilshole as part of CYC’s weeknight racing program. Racing starts at 6pm and if you’re not currently storing your boat at Shilshole you can easily rig and launch your Aero for free from the dinghy launch dock at the marina’s North end. CYC members can pay for a season pass or purchase a multi-night series, but single-handed sailors (members or not) may also show up and pay for a single night of racing — just register at the CYC office by 5PM on the night of racing. CYC also organizes several multi-day regattas (typically on weekends) that Aeros participate in, such as: PSSR (Puget Sound Spring Regatta) in April, the POD Regatta in May, PSSC (Puget Sound Sailing Championships) in October, and Turkey Bowl in November. The best way to keep up to date on upcoming events is through CYC’s Aero Fleet page and by joining the RS Aero PNW mailing list on Google Groups.
Frostbiting in Seattle: The Laser fleet has, for many years, organized a series of winter frostbite racing and a winter regatta called the Frigid Digit. The fleet has graciously invited Aeros to join the 2015-2016 events, which start in October and run through March. Frostbite events are low-cost and volunteer organized, and all participants are expected to help out at least one time on Race Committee.
The Gorge and regional venues: Further afield, the Columbia River Gorge, with it’s ample sunshine and more than ample wind, is destined to become a popular venue for RS Aero racing. Regattas are organized at Cascade Locks by Columbia Gorge Racing Association, which hosted the inaugural RS Aero North American Championship in July, 2015. And over the next couple of years more regional and traveling racing will develop.
The RS Aero has taken off in Seattle, we now have the largest and most active Aero Fleet fleet in the U.S. That means we have an outstanding opportunity to grow the local RS Aero fleet and also grow the sport of sailing, but that work requires volunteer time and effort. If you can help with organizing events, communications and publicity, coaching, social activities, please contact Doug Stumberger.
Many of the RS Aero sailors in Seattle belong to CYC Seattle; please consider joining. It is a racing-focused club that provides first rate racing both on the Sound and on Lake Washington. Membership benefits include reduced race fees, discounts at local stores, and use of the clubhouse facilities. The club is also a springboard for big-boat racing, has a long-standing cruising program, and even offers youth sailing camps during the summer.
Learn about the RS Aero
There are several excellent online resources available to learn more about the boat:
- RS Aero Website
- RS Aero North American Facebook page
- RS Aero International Facebook page
- RS Aero Data Sheet
- Peter Barton’s video walkthrough of the Aero (Peter is the head of the international class association)
- George Yioulos’ review of the Aero (George is the owner of West Coast Sailing)
In addition, local Aero sailors are a great resource for information about the boat and the ownership experience, please free to contact:
Test sails of the Aero are available at Shilshole! Email Doug to arrange a demonstration sail.