Aerodyne 43

by George Day

Blue Water Sailing
September 2002


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Rodger Martin’s new racer/cruiser has plenty of horsepower and comfortable accommodations to

It is not often that BWS gets the opportunity to test a boat during a Wednesday night beer-can race, but that is just what happened when we set out to sail the new Aerodyne 43. We contacted New Wave Yachts in Manchester, Mass., representatives of Aerodyne in North America, and they hooked us up with the boat’s owners who in turn invited us to join them on the race course. Why not?

The 43-foot Rodger Martin design is the first of these new production sloops in the country—having arrived last December—and it already has made its mark in racing and offshore cruising circles. After frigid sea trials in Marblehead last winter, the boat was trucked south to sail in Key West Race Week. With virtually no shakedown prior to the regatta, she won her class going away.

Following race week, the 43 changed her colors like the chameleon she is and became a family cruising boat that took her crew around southern Florida and to the Bahamas and back.

In the spring, the boat was trucked back to New England where her owners fitted her out for the Newport-Bermuda Race. Sailing the 635-mile course with a crew of eight, the 43 proved to be fast but not fast enough to catch the much larger Swans and Baltics in her class. As her owners noted, this year’s Bermuda Race was all close reaching in good breezes which definitely favored long waterlines and the “mega-slots” of more traditional, masthead- rigged keel boats. Had the wind offered broad-reaching and running conditions, things would have turned out differently.

The passage home subjected the crew to particularly bouncy weather when their course brought them to an intersection of this year’s huge circular Gulf Stream meander and 30 knots of wind from the north. The waves were breaking in all directions and the crew reports that steering the 43 through, in and over these obstacles was a helmsman’s challenge. Even so, those who made the trip never felt in danger nor did they feel that the modern lightweight design of the 43 was at all unsuited to the task at hand.

So, with some serious racing and offshore passagemaking under her keel, the new 43 set out for a Wednesday night race not only as the scratch boat in the fleet, but also as one of the only blue-water veterans. It wasn’t to be our night. After graciously allowing some of the smaller boats in our class a decent head start, we clawed our way back at the first weather mark, held our own at the leeward mark, and then as we caught a decidedly favorable shift that could have put us in the lead, the wind died altogether. For almost a hour we raced a yellow and green lobster pot with the outcome very uncertain.

Before the race could be called off, the wind filled in once more and gave the last four boats in our class a drag race to the finish line. Unfortunately we finished fourth, sailing hard on the heels of three, would you believe, Aerodyne 38s!

Like all beer-can races, nothing earth-shattering was proved except that enjoyable racing with friends is one of the most pleasant ways to spend a summer evening. And to this crew-member and reporter, it also proved that the new 43 is a lot of fun to sail; despite her racy look and design numbers, the vessel truly has a big-boat feel as she leans to the breeze and moves through the water.

The Aerodyne 43 is the big sister of the Aerodyne 38, conceived by her designer to be a dual-purpose boat. The 43 was not optimized to trick the PHRF, IMS or Americap rules. Instead, as Martin notes in his design comments, “this 43 has legs and will cover ground fast and comfortably with her long waterline and fine ends. Her hull form is a development of the unrestricted design of the Aerodyne 38s, though with more of an eye to fast, easy-motion passage-making, without compromising her ability to break away and sail easily at speeds above her hull speed.”

“Breaking away” is a novel concept in a racer/cruiser, as it means getting the boat to surf on top of the water on a plane enabling it to achieve speeds in the high teens. BWS has had the op-portunity on a few occasions to sail Open 60s and maxi sleds with the ability to “break away” in the right conditions. We can report that once a boat sails past its hull speed and leaves the stern wave behind, it settles down and feels incredibly stable, as if sailing on rails—albeit rails with their share of bumps. The new 43 is not light enough to achieve this performance regularly, and the boat’s owners report that they have yet to sail away from the stern wave. But, the capability is there, and when they do it will be akin to breaking the sound barrier.

Looking at the non-dimensional numbers for the Aerodyne 43, the boat reveals itself to be both light and powerful. Her Sail Area/Displacement of 28.1 is almost double the SA/D of the Mason 43 aboard which we sailed around the world. Yet, while the Mason had trouble sailing faster than seven knots in any conditions, the Aerodyne 43 sails at seven knots in nothing more than a sneeze of breeze and will knock off 200-mile days with alacrity in the trade winds.

The design’s Displacement/Length ratio of 124 indicates that the 43 falls at the performance end of the spectrum, good for speed and acceleration. Yet
the boat is not ultralight by today’s
standards, more than born out in positive statements from the crew that brought the boat back from Bermuda, who were impressed with the comfort level aboard despite the onslaught of wicked cross seas.

The 43 has been designed with a limit of positive stability well in excess of the European Union’s requirements and the requirements in the U.S. of race organizers such as the Cruising Club of American, who run the Newport-Bermuda Race. The boat has a Ballast/Displacement ratio of 37 percent, at the high end of the spectrum by today’s production-boat standards. When you step on deck from the dock, the 43 feels like a much larger boat. When we were hit by an errant puff as we sailed back into Marblehead at dusk, she stood up to the pressure with real authority.

In his designer’s comments, Martin concludes, “The Aerodyne 43 has high form stability, a high-power-to-weight ratio, a long waterline, fine entries for wave penetration and ‘planing’ sections aft for surfing. The 43 is fast, stable, easy and fun to sail for singlehanders, couples or racing crews.”

BWS has sailed the Aerodyne 38 and several other Rodger Martin designs, so there was never a question in our mind before setting out for the Wednesday night race that the 43 would be anything other than a stellar performer. And it was.

As we hardened up at the start line, the 43 gathered way and then the skipper eased her up onto the wind until we were sailing 27 degrees apparent at 6.8 knots in a true breeze of about nine knots. Not bad. This was high and fast enough for us to be keeping up with the 38s in our class but not quite enough to pass them. (The 38s, we should note, were stripped out for racing.)

Making several tacks toward the windward mark, the 43 steadily gained ground as our crew got the sheet leads adjusted perfectly and the main drawing nicely. Whether racing or beating up a bay toward an anchorage, the 43 moves to windward with a kind of easy authority that we associate with larger, narrower and deeper boats.

The 43’s true métier is sailing off the wind. The boat carries her buttock lines fairly straight aft so her stern shape is powerful and the run smooth. As noted above, the 43 can be induced to plane in the right conditions. Unfortunately, the failing breeze during the race was well short of the pressure we needed for a sleighride. That said, we made good progress tacking downwind with the jib out wing-and-wing.

One of the shortcomings of fraction-al rigs sporting 100-percent jibs that sheet inside the side stays is that the sheeting angles are all wrong for running. On the 43 and on other boats of this design, it is necessary to rig a second set of downwind sheets outside the shrouds and directly to the jib’s clew.

Our sail aboard the 43 was not suf-ficient to make judgments on how the boat will handle in a wide range of conditions. We can attest to the fact that she handles very well in breezes between three and nine knots, which
is no small achievement. Yet, as we’ve noted above, the 43 acquitted herself well at Key West, cruised happily across the Gulf Stream, and stood up to the Newport-Bermuda Race and return with speed and comfort and without a breakdown. The 43 is a fully capable blue-water boat and also a lot of fun to sail.


Aerodynes are built in South Africa by Aerodyne Industries, which specializes in the fabrication of high-tech composite parts for the aerospace industry. The company builds seats for commercial aircraft and has contributed parts to our own space shuttle. Boats are something of a sideline for the company, but one to which the company is entirely committed.

The Aerodyne 43’s hull and deck are formed of epoxy-composite sandwiches with Corecell cores between layers of bi- and uni-directional E-glass fabric that are impregnated in epoxy and heat-cured in an autoclave. The hull-deck joint has a four-inch flange that is epoxied together. Interior bulkheads and floors are all structural and are made of foam-cored panels to save weight.

The high-aspect keel with its 6,000-pound bulb has been engineered to the highest strength-to-weight properties possible. The fin is formed of advanced composite laminates and cured in an autoclave. The lead bulb has been designed with data in hand from research undertaken in the keel-development programs for America’s Cup class boats. The top of the keel slides into a sleeve inside the hull where it is sealed in epoxy paste and through-bolted with massive stainless steel bolts.

The spade rudder, like the keel, is formed of advanced composites and cured in an autoclave. The rudder post is all carbon fiber and epoxy for lightness and strength. The rudder post sits on large bearings where it passes through the hull and the cockpit sole. The space beneath the cockpit sole is tight but a person can slip into it to make repairs on the autopilot, the quadrant and steering sheaves, as well as any other electronics mounted aft.

The first Aerodyne 38s that came to the U.S. were light, fast and strongly built. But the glasswork and structural finish was rough by usual yacht standards. Over time, Aerodyne has been able to improve their construction techniques to make the fabrication of the boats simpler and more efficient, and they have improved construction finish throughout the hull.

Engineering systems in the standard 43 are simple, appropriate to the boat’s intended purpose and accessible. The owners of the first 43 added a high-output alternator and a second battery bank, and opted for water and fuel tanks under the settee benches in lieu of the horizontal tanks beneath the floors.

The engine compartment doubles as the center island of the galley with double sinks on top. Access to the Yanmar and sail-drive unit is by way of three side hatches. If the engine has to be removed, the whole island can be unshipped. The engine fits neatly inside the engine box, but there is not a lot of room to spare for adding a second alternator or bolting on a big engine-driven refrigeration compressor. Even though the engine sits in the middle of the cabin, noise levels were less than one might expect due to thick, aluminized foam insulation inside the engine compartment.

The 43 has a pressure water system and salt water plumbed to the galley for doing dishes while at sea. Hot water comes from a six-gallon Raritan water heater. Gray water from the shower and refrigerator flows into individual sumps; the galley sump empties by means of a hand pump into the sink. While the use of sumps reduces the number of through-hulls, these water closets can develop nagging odors and need to be kept empty and treated regularly with bleach.

In boats with shallow bilges like the 43, bilge water and pumps become something of a challenge only because there is no single place for water to collect and water that does get below the floors tends to migrate quickly into low lockers. On the 43, a small sump has been fashioned aft of the engine compartment, serviced by two bilge pumps. Yet, the real solution, as the 43’s owners discovered, is to mount a pump with a long, portable hose so small bilge sections between stringers and floors and around furniture bases can be vacuumed dry at will.

We have been fans of Rodger Martin’s designs for a long time and have watched the progress of Aerodyne with interest. Martin’s boats are always distinctive, with their plumb bows, elegant lines and cat’s eye cabin windows. His boats sail well and are both fun and fast.

The new 43 combines great sailing characteristics with enough accom-modations and comforts to be a fine cruising boat for living aboard and venturing far and wide—at a good rate of speed.

If you enjoy sailing and want to take part in sailing events such as rallies and races in addition to pursuing the cruising life, the new Aerodyne 43 fulfills both missions admirably.

LOA 42’6”
LWL 38’10”
Beam 14’0”
Draft 8’0”
Draft (optional) 6’6”
Sail area 991 sq. ft.
Displacement 16,000 lbs.
Ballast 6,000 lbs.
SA/Displ. 28.1
Displ./L 124
Ballast/Displ. 37%
LPS 127°
Auxiliary 40-hp. Yanmar
Water 75 gals.
Fuel 35 gals.
Base price $325,000

New Wave Yachts
17 Ashland Ave.
Manchester, MA 01944
Ph: 978-526-9996

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