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It’s about the Beer, not the Boat

Published on April 2nd, 2019

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
I do tire of hearing people compare boat performance and then using that as a basis for judging what is the better one design class. To me that is short-sighted chest-pounding.

The purpose of a one design class is to bring together like-minded people to enjoy comradery and competition in a boat they enjoy and feel competent sailing. When everyone is doing the same thing for the same reason, the beer tastes better at the end of the day.

But a one design class also needs reliable suppliers, which has been a struggle for the International Laser Class Association. As a result, their 50 year old design has competition from newer and well-supported options such as the Melges 14 and RS Aero.

What sparked my interest in this topic was a humorous review from 2016 when a Laser sailor, after buying an RS Aero, listed seven of the reasons why he thought his Laser was the better boat. Except he didn’t.

In a sequence of back-handed compliments, he went about explaining how the newer design was easier to sail, but is easier better? Maybe, but I suspect the skills needed to sail a Laser well lead to a more developed sailor. Either that, or I just enjoy banging my head against a wall as I try.

Anyway, you be the judge …

1. Recognition
Anybody who sees me with my RS Aero usually comes over and starts ogling my boat and drooling on it and babbling about how cool it looks and acting like a little kid in a toy store two weeks before Xmas, and generally being really annoying.

“What is this?” they eventually ask in spite of the fact that it says RS Aero quite clearly on the hull. Duh!

Whereas when I take my Laser to the local boat ramp, everybody recognizes it as a familiar and much-loved boat, which is why they usually come on over and ask, “Is that a Sunfish?”

2. Weight

The total weight of a Laser is about 170 lbs so you can get a great workout doing things like hauling it up the beach after four hours of hard sailing, or helping little weak people to lift their Lasers on to the roof racks of their super-high giant SUVs.

Whereas the RS Aero only weighs about 75 lbs so it practically runs up the beach by itself and you can lift it on a roof rack with your little finger so it provides absolutely no fitness benefits whatsoever.

3. Mainsheet Fun
The Laser has been cleverly designed with the mainsheet running to a traveler at the rear of the boat and nice square corners at the rear end of the hull which will conveniently catch the sheet if it trails in the water when you are gybing and give you a surprise by quickly capsizing the boat and throwing you in the water. Ha ha ha!

Whereas the designer of the RS Aero, for reasons I just don’t understand, designed it with a center sheeting system so you get none of the above-mentioned surprise capsize fun that you get with a Laser. Boring!

4. Bathtub Fun
Similarly, the brilliant man who designed the Laser gave it an ingenious tiny auto-bailer that carefully and slowly drains the water out of the cockpit. So if you are lucky enough to stuff the bow of a Laser into a wave you will fill the cockpit with water you will be able to enjoy a nice refreshing soak in a cockpit full of water for about ten minutes while the bailer gently empties the cockpit.

It’s even better than that really because all that water in your cockpit slows the boat down so you can have an even more relaxing time soaking in the tub as you wave to all your buddies sailing past you.

Whereas the designer of the RS Aero foolishly designed the RS Aero with an open transom that drains the water out of the cockpit so fast that it’s all gone before you can get a chance to enjoy it. Boring again!

5. Head-banging Fun
One of the most exciting things about sailing a Laser is that the boom is so nice and low that you have to duck down really low to avoid getting conked on the head by the boom every time you tack or gybe. I even had an instructor once who used to tell us to “kiss the cleat” every time we tacked. This is an excellent exercise for keeping you agile and flexible as you get older.

Of course, sometimes you don’t get quite low enough and you get a sharp knock on the head from the boom to remind you to try harder next time. And then after racing you can compare the bruises and bumps on your head with your fellow Laser sailors and boast about them over a few beers.

Whereas… yes you guessed it, the RS Aero has completely done away with this feature of the Laser. The boom is so high you could practically stand up during gybes! What fun is that? If you don’t have any injuries what are you going to boast about?

6. Tossing the Caber
One of the best things about the Laser is that it has a sleeved sail. To rig the boat you just slip the mast into the sleeve and then lift the rig into the air like one of those Scottish blokes tossing the caber and pop the mast into the mast step.

This is so much fun to do and great exercise especially when it’s blowing 30 knots. It is always gratifying to show off your “tossing the caber” skills to the newbie Laser sailors who haven’t mastered the art yet. And if you are really lucky, some gorgeous little lady Laser sailor will ask a manly man like you for help in tossing her caber.

Whereas the RS Aero has a bit of string called a halyard to pull up the sail. What a crazy idea! Anyone can do that. Even gorgeous little ladies.

7. The Wisdom of Crowds

Lasers have been around since 1971! Over 200,000 Lasers have been sold! Where I live in Rhode Island we regularly get 40-50 people out sailing Lasers in our local frostbite fleet all winter long!

So if you like bumping gunwales with the same 40-50 guys you have been bumping gunwales with for the last 45 years – and who doesn’t? – then the Laser is the boat for you.

Whereas if you buy a new RS Aero you will have all the hassle of trying to persuade your friends to buy RS Aeros and come sailing with you. And then you will have to persuade some sailing club to host your RS Aero fleet. And then you will have to persuade regatta organizers to let RS Aeros come to their regattas. Who needs all that botheration?

And then, at those RS Aero regattas, you might end up racing people like former surfers and windsurfers and kiteboard sailors and even recovering keelboat sailors – people who have never even owned a Laser in their lives! Can you believe such people actually exist? Do you really want to associate with them? Oh the humanity!

To read the comments that followed this report… click here.

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