Thanks to Ali Meller for this great write-up of the 2011 505 North Americans. HUGE thanks also to the many volunteers, our sponsors, American YC, and of course, the competitors, that made this a championship to remember!
This year’s 505 North American Championship was held at American Yacht Club, October 13th to 16th.
With the help of the fall weather this was a great venue, with excellent racing conditions on Long Island Sound, and a great facility and warm host environment in American Yacht Club.
Over the four scheduled days we had good-to-great breeze, though a little too great on the Saturday. The result was wire running or marginal wire running conditions for eight races on the Thursday and Friday, no racing on Saturday, and two epic races in big breeze on Sunday.
The occasional wire running, occasional go low, conditions of Thursday and Friday put a premium on teamwork, gear changing and making the correct decisions, while Sunday’s two races rewarded heavy air boat handling skills and teams observant enough – a challenge in the conditions – to gybe set on some runs.
Knowing that friends I had not seen in years were going to be at the North American Championship, I had planned to “hang out” for the weekend. But a few days before the event started Pip Pearson learned that he had a conflict and would not be able to race Thursday and Friday. His driver, Earle Alexander, phoned me and asked if I could crew. After checking with my employer I jumped on this. Earle and I have known each other for years, but had not sailed together before.
Once on the water Thursday morning, Earle and I couldn't find a point gear and were being squeezed out very early after gating, so we changed our approach and went to gating late and tacking to port as soon as we could clear boats to our right, for clear air. Our upwind vmg was reasonable, so provided no one was holding us high, we were competitive. But setting up to the right of the fleet occasionally had us too far right and eating a header coming into the weather mark. In a fleet with many strong-and-fast teams we had our moments near or ahead of some top teams, but sailing in to the weather mark on a header, slightly-slower-than-the-best hoists and gybes, and a couple of boat handling issues with the transom bridle main sheeting (one was a swim on the last gybe coming in to the finish, which turned a top ten into a back of the fleet finish) would put us back about where we deserved to be in the fleet, in each race.
Our positions also put us far enough back that we were not able to see what was going on at the front of the fleet.
The team that stood out by their consistency was Tyler Moore/Geoff Ewenson; they were in control of the event after two days of racing with results of 1-2-1-4-1-1-1-2. Ethan Bixby/Chris Brady matched their 1-2 on the Sunday with a 2-1. West Coast superstar Mike Holt (2nd in the last two World Championships) drove Jesse Falsone’s boat with Jesse on the wire; they finished second overall. Ethan/Chris’ Sunday results closed the gap to second, but was not enough to get there. Ethan/Chris finished 3rd, while Parker Shinn/Simon Gerson were 4th.
As is typical with 505 racing there were no protests, and I did not see any flagrant fouls while racing. One gate start was recalled when – in light air – the pathfinder had to head up to avoid a 505 or 505s that were not able to get out of the pathfinder’s way. One recall in ten races is rather good. Camaraderie on and off the water and fairness on the course are hallmarks of 505 racing.
Figure 1 Gate Starts are SO MUCH BETTER
505 regattas are not just about sailing; we like hanging out with our friends. A large group went out for Italian food together, and Doug and Marie McKeige opened their beautiful home to the sailors for a Saturday evening dinner party. One of the highlights of the event was that Doug invited some “505 greats” to this dinner to discuss how US teams had finally won 505 world championships in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982.
Ethan Bixby, Cam Lewis, Gary Knapp, and Neal Fowler were there. Tucker Edmunson couldn’t make it and Steve Benjamin was on speaker phone. The idea was that we would all learn from the approaches they used. Of course some of those old rockstars were currently racing 505s at the event! We are still checking if any of this panel session was videotaped, as while very informative, some of it was also hysterically funny; particularly when one panel member was answering questions about the name of his boat – Complex Chemicals Kill --- which precipitated the removal of a group of 14 year olds from the audience by a concerned parent. Gary talked about the long-famous 1982 Ireland World Championship race in which only a few boats survived to finish as a squall passed over them. On the run to the finish, Cam kept the rig in the boat by trapezing aft while also holding the gunnel to act as a running backstay.
The McKeiges also hosted about half (only a slight exaggeration) of the competitors at their home, so many had a very short walk to bed after the dinner party was over.
The event was also covered by photoboat.com, so after racing each day we could check out the photos and video of the racing. A note to event organizers: Allen and Daniela Clark of photoboat.com REALLY WANT AND NEED a ride in a 505. I discussed this with them during the event, but Sunday didn’t seem like the ideal day to do this. All competitors received a link to download event photos sponsored by Heineken. All the photo & videos are at http://photo-boat.com/505-north-americans.html
With Pip back from a quick trip to California Friday night, I thought I was back to “hanging out” for the weekend. Saturday morning it was windy early, and the forecast was for it to build through the day. The Race Committee sortied and initially tried to get things going while competitors stalled on the launching ramp. But the breeze was building and quickly rose beyond what competitors or RC were interested in racing in. Racing was cancelled for the day. Parker/Simon took the opportunity to “borrow” some old 420 sails, rigged them on their 505, and went for a sail; the photoboat.com video footage is spectacular! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5TIRhZ5Kos&feature=player_embedded
Sunday morning looked EXACTLY like Saturday morning, right down to the same wind speed estimates from looking at the waves and foam on Long Island Sound, but the RC was determined to run races. Does anyone know what it was blowing? WOW!
Mark Hurley’s crew Jon Clark had a forearm injury, so I was recruited to crew for Marg. The situation was desperate, as three teams were virtually tied for the top female award, Renka “grandma” Gesing/Adam Gesing, Catherine Long/Stephen Long and Marg/Jon. All three of these teams had had their moments in Thursday and Friday racing, with “grandma” Gesing and Adam leading one race at the
Figure 2 Adam and Renka Squeeze in to Round First
first weather mark.
Figure 3 Sunday Had Epic Conditions
The Sunday conditions were epic, and even left coaster “Holtie” was willing to admit that it was windy. Rather than provide the tack by tack, blow by blow, capsize by capsize, story of how Marg and I did in her new-to-her Waterat, let me tell you how I know Marg, a much more interesting story. Marg is a key part of how I got into 505s.
In 1977 – before some of the competitors at this year’s NAs were born – a 505 sailor in Ottawa named Peter Wood needed a crew on short notice. His regular crew “Igor Meathook” (aka Steve Potts) was a University student and had accepted an out of town job for the summer. Peter had a brand new all-glass Parker, 5992, arriving from England, and needed someone to race it with. Peter’s girlfriend, Marg Hurley, had been racing Albacores and was getting into 505s with a brand new 505 of her own, 5993.
In Barney Harris’s absence from the 505 NAs I can safely write that the Albacore – an Uffa Fox design based on his 1945ish I14 designs – is an outstanding illustration of how far dinghy design progressed from 1945 to 1954 when John Westell designed the 505. Considered a two man Finn in breeze – hike very hard and go slow -- the Albacore’s only redeeming features are that the seat tanks make it comfortable in light air, and the obsolete hull shape is very rounded forward, so the boat has low wetted area, and is RELATIVELY fast in light air. Lest you think I am unfairly bashing the Albacore, my opinions above are based on my extensive experience in the boat, as I STILL own one. But I digress …
Marg was coming out of Albacores, and Peter had years of experience in 505s, and they had matched new 505s, identical except for hull color. Marg had a really good 505 crew, Howie Turner, and Peter needed someone to replace “Igor” in a hurry. Peter must have been desperate because he recruited for crew a brash, cocky 18 year old Albacore sailor who weighed only 140 pounds and who had been in a 505 only once before. That person was me.
Marg and Howie proceeded to clobber us all season long; my recollection is that Peter and I beat them in just one regatta, a drifter, and that my nickname became “micro hook” to match Steve Pott’s “Meat hook”. While perhaps a humbling season for Peter, one season of crewing on a 505 was enough to convince me to never take the Albacore seriously again, and to get into 505s. I bought a Ballenger 505 “kit” a few months later. That was 34 years ago, though I am not certain of the math as I believe that Marg is only 39 now …
Peter got out of 505s years ago and now races – can you believe it – a 2.4 meter; Marg is much tougher…
So tough that at her first 505 regatta with Howie, she was hit in the head by the sharp edge on the bottom of a Z-spar boom on a heavy air gybe, could not see due to the blood in her eyes, but was still steering the 505 while being coached to come up and go down by crew Howie, when she interrupted him to tell him they are going to sail through the finish line, finish the race and THEN head in.
Not only did a temporarily blind Marg finish that race, but a crew who had stepped aside for a heavier replacement was Jan Kouwen -- a nurse -- and she stuck (literally, using steristrips or similar) Marg's scalp back together so Marg could continue racing. Marg and Howie were back in the 505 for the next and all subsequent races. Conditions – very windy and shifty on a narrow part of the Ottawa river – were so extreme that the fleet was cut in half after each race, with the heaviest sailors from two boats getting together for the next race. The exception was Marg and Howie, who did some swimming, but raced and finished every race including the last one, by which time the fleet had dwindled to four 505s (from about 25).
Figure 4 The Boom May Be Round But Marg is NOT Going to Be Cut By a Boom Again!
So tough that even without Jon Clark she was determined to race on Sunday at the NAs, and I was the best (read only) person available to crew. Despite this crew’s short comings, Marg finished both races. All three of the teams contending for “top female” had launched despite the conditions. Apparently “grandma” Gesing and Adam did not finish the first race and did not start the second, but Catherine/Stephen sailed really well and clinched the top female award for Catherine; Marg was second.
Figure 5 Adam and Renka: 505 sailors, grandparents
Top youth team (under 25 years) were Zachery Marks & Brian Kamilar from St. Petersburg YC. Whit Duncan & Chris Burd (combined age under 60) won the raffle for a North Sail jib which they have to pick up at the 505 Mid Winters in St Petersburg in February 2012. Earle Alexander, was awarded Master Helm and Christian Antoni, Master Crew.
While Mike Holt was the only West Coast sailor in attendance, and we lost several competitors due to last minute conflicts, we had an excellent turnout, and a terrific event.
Thanks to John Wyles for his work in getting a fleet going at American Yacht Club. Thanks to AYC for a great event on the water, and to Doug, Marie, and the Ferrarones for their hospitality. Apparently John has developed a great relationship with the local Heineken distributor, as Heineken is a sponsor for all 505 events at AYC. Balestra Capital, APS, Glaser Sails, North Sails, and Zhik were also sponsors of the event.
Figure 6 Thanks to Doug and Ted!
This event would not have happened, or would not have been as great as it was, without John Wyles, the McKeiges, the Ferrarones, AYC, Heineken, APS, Glaser, North and Zhik!