I distinctly remember sitting on the rail of a J105 on the Berkeley Circle watching the 505 class tearing up wind in 25 knots of breeze wondering what on earth I was doing sailing a keel boat. Just a few hours later, I was sipping a beer down at the St. Francis Yacht Club with Brian, who had been competing in the 2008 505 PCC’s that day. Brian and I resolved at that point that we would team up to do the 2009 World’s together.
I was very excited about the opportunity to sail such a thrilling boat with not only one of my closest friends but also one of the best sailors I know. That said, I was a bit intimidated by the technical and physical aspects of sailing a 505 on the Bay during August. Suffice it to say, my concerns were laid to rest as the class welcomed us with open arms. The support and encouragement was immediately apparent from the moment that Steve Bourdow and Nick Adamson introduced Brian and me to Doug Hagan. Doug reluctantly parted with Waterat # 8554 so that we would have the opportunity to get started with a great boat.
Without a doubt, the single most influential factor contributing to our improvement in performance has been the generosity with which the veterans in the class have shared their knowledge and knowhow. From the start Brian and I were included in practice sessions put together by Nick Adamson, Steve Bordouw, Mike Holt and Carl Smidt down in Redwood City, while Doug offered useful tuning tips and insights from Hawaii. The opportunity to get our asses kicked by these guys from day one set expectations of what would be required to compete at a reasonable level.
It became abundantly clear that we would have to focus intently on developing our feel for the boat, having spent way too much time during college racing boats that are arguably better suited for Disney Land than competitive sailing on an international level. Between working and other commitments we have made an effort to get as much time as possible on the water in breeze. Given our small size at roughly 180 pounds each, we’ve been forced to develop a technique for keeping up the pace in heavier air. This involved sailing at Treasure Island during weekday nights and competing in as many regattas as possible along the West coast. The 2009 Worlds certainly provided us with the opportunity to improve on our heavy air technique. If nothing else, we learned to recover from capsizing quickly!
Reflecting on our improvement during the 2010 Worlds, perhaps the most important factor was our comfort in a variety of conditions. We’ve managed to develop our ability to compete in breeze by sailing a little lower and faster on the beats while relying on our smaller size to make substantial gains on the runs. Specifically, by watching the top guys on the West coast we learned to sail more powered up on the runs by sailing slightly higher angles and moving our weight way aft rather than aiming to sail a shorter distance to the mark by sailing deeper angles.
On lighter days, we focused more on tuning and our sail plan. One of our key observations was that the top Europeans were sailing with far more mainsail twist than we were accustomed to while also bringing the boom to weather past centerline. Additionally, we raked substantially further forward in the light conditions than we had in the past and switched to a flatter BM main that seemed to twist off a little better. Brian and I benefited from the opportunity to tune with and learn from Augie Diaz as we sorted out our settings for the light and moderate conditions.
By all accounts the 505 class has lived up to its reputation for being the most welcoming, killer group of sailors out there! I look forward to many more years of sailing in the class and am excited by how much more we have to learn.
Editor’s note – Brian and Ted will be competing in the SAP 2011 505 World Championship in Hamilton Island, Australia later this month. Good luck guys!