The 505 class owes a tremendous amount of gratitude to all of those who helped organize this great event and to our sponsors as well. Doug McKeige has been a generous contributor to our class ever since he joined over six years ago and this year, as the lead organizer of the event, he did not let up. Heineken, North Sails, Glaser Sails, APS and Zhik have also consistently been strong supporters for whom we are grateful.
One of my favorite things about the 505 class always has been and always will be the quality of people that it attracts. The reason I first got hooked was because Mike Martin took me for a ride on his boat at a Team Tuesday practice in the spring of 2005. Donning a trap harness he obviously hadn’t worn in years (you could tell because each leg strap was about 3 inches too long), Mike willingly let an 18 year old kid drive his boat and later that year convinced someone to help me get into the class by selling me their boat at a great price. Howie Hamlin then put his entire garage (read world class tool shop) at my disposal so I could re-rig my new boat and copy his layout.
Friendships become so strong that people are even willing to travel across oceans and continents as was testified by Pip and Earl coming all the way from Australia to sail with us. I had to tow a boat from a neighboring yacht club to American for someone who was chartering and Pip readily offered to help even though he was missing dinner. There is a bond in 505 sailing that we all cherish because it is capable of bringing us together each year as though little time had passed.
This year was no different as we quickly caught up with one another and excitedly took to the race course to test our skills. I have often pondered why I enjoy racing so much more than simply sailing and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is because racing brings out the best of sailing by challenging us to be both faster and smarter and it provides a reward for when you succeed. Each day of the 2011 NA’s provided an excellen opportunity to enjoy these challenges and starting with the first race, gave us a clear view of who was on top of their game.
On Day one the wind was out of the East and there was a good sized chop as the waves funneled down Long Island Sound. Most teams were raked to 7 or 8 with crews fully out on the wire while some of us were raked back as far as 6. Large shifts made it difficult to determine which side would pay off, but it seemed that the right was primarily dominant with some large left shifts occasionally working their way down the course. Huge distances could be made or lost on the downwind legs by deciding to either wire or sit run. With the surfable waves, Simon and I thought that our aggressive technique allowed us sit a little longer than we otherwise would and on a few runs we nervously worked our way down the middle of the course as other teams wired out to a side. Most of the time this paid off, but it was critical to keep a watchful eye out for puffs and holes. On the first run of the first race a pack of boats wired out to the left side and lost huge distances by sailing into a lull that made it difficult to get back to the mark. Tyler Moore and Geoff Ewenson quickly showed that they were going to be the boat to beat that day by knocking out a 1, 2, 1, 4.
Friday presented us with an entirely different wind direction and some new variables to figure out. The wind was a bit lighter than the first day and with spotty breeze there were still huge gains to be made or lost. The left seemed to consistently pay off at the top of the course and most races started off with a drag race to that side. Tyler Moore, Ethan Bixby and Mike Holt seemed to have tremendous height (I got pinched off by all three of them) and were able to get punched off the line while punishing any boats who dared to start to windward of them. Downwind often proved to be a tactical chess match. A wrong decision could put you in a hole and cost half the fleet. Even when you made the right decision, breeze filling in from behind sometimes compressed the fleet so that the leaders were scrambling to maintain their lead. In one race I rounded the windward mark in third place on the way to the finish. It was clearly not windy enough to wire run and Tyler, Brian Kamilar and I were fighting each other for the lead. At one point I looked back to see Mike Holt, miles behind us, come around the windward mark in a puff and start wiring out to a side. Three quarters of the way down the run, all of a sudden, Mike is now hurtling back through the center of the course in 4th place and hot on our heels. Everyone in the front was then trying to figure out when to start wiring and which side to go to. Besides Tyler Moore and Mike Holt, most of the fleet’s finishes were up and down quite a bit it seemed.
Saturday everyone showed up to halyards slapping against masts and the entire Sound covered in whitecaps. As teams wearily got suited up and rigged their boats, the race committee went out to see how bad things actually were. They registered gusts in the low thirties and with the breeze expected to build throughout the day, it was an easy call to cancel racing for the day. There were a few of us who were contemplating going sailing anyways and ripping around to put on a show, but with another windy day of racing to go, no one was willing to run the risk of breaking gear. Matt Barry and I were trying to figure out a way to get on the water and for a while the club 420’s didn’t seem like such a bad idea. As we were talking it over, Matt came up with a brilliant idea and said, “Why do’t we just put 420 sails on a 505?” I recognized a genius idea when I heard it and we ran over to the sail locker and managed to find one main that had all of its battens. We raked the mast back to 0, extended the jib-tack up about 6 inches to make room for the forestay block and improve our sheeting angle and made an extension for the jib halyard. For the main we extended the halyard and outhaul and lashed the tack to the mast. One of the Canadian teams even supplied us with a short-luff spinnaker, but without a retrieval patch, we couldn’t figure out a way to take it down. In hindsight, we could’ve only rigged one of the guys and done a windward takedown, but for whatever reason this thought never crossed our minds.
Launching proved to be a difficult task with the wind pushing us down into a giant rock pier and very little runway to get flow going over the blades. There was a floating line anchored beyond the pier to pull ourselves out with, but it wasn’t tight enough and so we were still drifting down towards the rocks when Pip came and noticed the problem and got a bunch of guys to yank on it and pull us to windward. Once we finally cleared the rocks and got sailing, the boat actually felt great.
After getting our fix, Matt and I joined everyone over at Ted Ferrarone’s for horse shoes and bocce ball tournaments. That night Doug and Marie McKeige were kind enough to host an amazing party with delicious catering, sailing footage and videos from Photoboat and a bunch of great stories from one of the most comical figures to ever sail 505’s, Cam Lewis. Ali Meller tells the story better than I can in his write up of the event, but between the explanation of his boat names, “Complex Chemicals Kill” and “Nancy Says No”, and why the drugs of his day weren’t as bad as the bass salts kids are doing now, Marie thought it was a good time to escort all the kids out of the tent.
Sunday morning the Sound was once again filled with white caps and the wind was howling. With gusts in the mid to high twenties there was some debate in the parking lot about whether it was too much, but thankfully they made the decision to sail us and we got a day of racing to remember. Simon and I knew we could have a tough time holding on to our 4th place with some heavier teams like Drew and Ramsey right behind us. The first beat we were having a tough time keeping our lane and we had started getting a left shift so we decided to tack out and go right. The breeze started clocking back and we watched the entire fleet falling into our hip as we approached starboard layline. We tacked and crossed almost everyone, rounding the mark in 3rd which we managed to hold onto.
Simon and I were the only ones who did gybe sets around the windward mark (except for Holt on one leg) and by the time we got to the leeward mark or finish, it seemed like the whole fleet had disappeared. Anyone can challenge me on this, but I think Tyler, Ethan and I were the only ones who didn’t flip that day. Even Holtie and Falsone went for a swim. Needless to say, it was really windy and a lot of fun.
There are tons of photos and video on Photoboat.com for anyone who wants to take a look. The regatta was a huge success and will definitely be remembered as such. Thank you to all of the regatta organizers and sponsors as well as to the teams who traveled long distances. We are grateful for all the hard work that went into making this event what it was.