Home on the Bay

Ch­e­sa­peake Bay 505 sailors make a bid to bring their world cham­pi­onship to fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, with hopes that light winds don’t spook the herd.

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O In­ter­na­tional 505 sailors love big breeze. The en­dur­ing im­age of the high-per­for­mance dinghy is blast­ing down­wind un­der spinnaker in 25 knot winds, so the class world cham­pi­onship should be held in a venue known for de­liv­er­ing heavy air, right? After all, a true and wor­thy 505 cham­pion should be able to han­dle those types of con­di­tions, right? Or is all that a myth? It is ob­vi­ous from the se­lec­tion of An­napo­lis, Mary­land, with its no­to­ri­ously fickle con­di­tions, as site of the 2017 SAP 505 World Cham­pi­onship, that there are nu­mer­ous other fac­tors in­volved. Qual­ity race- com­mit­tee per­son­nel, a suit­able yacht club, an army of vol­un­teers, and a lo­ca­tion that is fun to visit are just as im­por­tant as re­li­able breeze.

“Peo­ple want to do Worlds at places that are fun to va­ca­tion,” says Carl Smit, an An­napo­lis res­i­dent and past world cham­pion. “That’s why they picked Kingston, Bar­ba­dos and Hamil­ton Is­land, Aus­tralia.”

Some of the most renowned heavy- air venues in the world have hosted 505 Worlds with Santa Cruz and San Fran­cisco — a pair of class hot­beds — top­ping the list within the

United States. Ac­cord­ing to sev­eral 505 vet­er­ans, Dur­ban, South Africa, is among the windi­est places the class has ever gone.

The ma­jor­ity of lo­ca­tions that have hosted the 505 World Cham­pi­onship, how­ever, are more akin to An­napo­lis, un­pre­dictable and just as apt to pro­duce no wind as strong wind. Even Fre­man­tle, Aus­tralia, fa­mous for its re­li­able sea breeze, did not live up to its rep­u­ta­tion when the 505 Worlds were held there in 2002.

“It seems like ev­ery venue that we go to, the lo­cals say, ‘ It’s never like this.’ Un­less you go some­where ex­tremely pre­dictable,” says Ali Meller, a life­long 505 sailor and former class of­fi­cer, “like Santa Cruz in mid­sum­mer or San Fran­cisco in fall, you are going to get a mix.”

There are some teams at the top of the class that crave a world cham­pi­onship with mul­ti­ple days of 20-plus knot winds. Mike Martin, who has won world ti­tles as a skip­per with Jeff Nel­son (2009) and Adam Lowry (2016) is a heavy-air spe­cial­ist. Mike Holt and Carl Smit, who teamed up to cap­ture the 2015 crown, also tend to do well in a blow.

“I think there is a cult of us that al­ways looks for lo­ca­tions with windy con­di­tions,” said Smit, an An­napo­lis res­i­dent who pre­vi­ously lived in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia and rou­tinely raced on San Fran­cisco Bay. “Mike and I love heavy air, but we

didn’t man­age to win worlds un­til we got bet­ter in light air. For a long time, we were super-fast in a breeze and not very com­pet­i­tive in the lighter stuff.”

Truth be told, the ma­jor­ity of 505 sailors do not want to be bat­tered for an en­tire week. For most, the time and ex­pense in­volved with trav­el­ing to the world cham­pi­onship is not worth the risk of suf­fer­ing a cat­a­strophic boat break­down a day or two into the re­gatta.

“I think the fleet, as a whole, wants to sail in a venue that won’t break the boat and won’t leave you so beat up that at the end of day you can’t en­joy din­ner and drinks,” Smit says.

The 2017 SAP 505 World Cham­pi­onship is sched­uled for late Septem­ber in An­napo­lis and will be co- hosted by Sev­ern Sail­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and East­port YC. It marks the first time 505 Worlds has been held on the East Coast since 1988 when Hyan­nis, Mas­sachusetts, hosted.

That was the first 505 Worlds for Jesse Fal­sone and got him think­ing that An­napo­lis would be an ideal host city the next time the class de­cided to come to the East Coast. Fal­sone, who was run­ner- up at the 2005 Worlds as crew for Martin, never imag­ined it would take al­most two decades to come to fruition.

Fal­sone, who has raced 505s out of West River Sail­ing Club and Sev­ern Sail­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, got se­ri­ous about putting to­gether a for­mal bid on be­half of An­napo­lis in 2013. SSA had de­vel­oped a solid 505 fleet and thus pro­vided the core group of vol­un­teers needed to serve on the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee.

“I thought all the peo­ple and in­fra­struc­ture was in place for An­napo­lis to con­duct a top­notch world cham­pi­onship,” says Fal­sone, who is serv­ing as re­gatta chair­man. “Sail­ing-wise, I think we’ll prob­a­bly get a full range of con­di­tions, which will re­ward ver­sa­til­ity. You can­not be a one-trick pony and ex­pect to win in An­napo­lis.”

In con­sid­er­ing East Coast lo­cales, the Amer­i­can sec­tion of the In­ter­na­tional 505 class also looked closely at Mi­ami and New­port. How­ever, nei­ther city had enough ac­tive 505 sailors to spear­head the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

New York’s Amer­i­can YC made a spir­ited ef­fort to host the 2013 505 World Cham­pi­onship and thought it had the bid locked up, but at the last minute, the class de­cided to go to Bar­ba­dos in­stead. Spurned and dis­ap­pointed, the Long Is­land fleet sub­se­quently died out.

“For fleet- de­vel­op­ment pur­poses, I think it’s im­por­tant for the class to mix it up when award­ing Worlds,” Smit says.

An­napo­lis didn’t be­come known as one of the world’s pre­mier sail­boat- racing des­ti­na­tions for noth­ing. The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay can cer­tainly de­liver a big blow in late Septem­ber, but the na­ture of this par­tic­u­lar body of wa­ter is that it can just as eas­ily be light and shifty. Smit ad­mits he’s heard some grum­bling, mostly from the Cal­i­for­nia sailors, about hold­ing a 505 Worlds in An­napo­lis.

“It’s very po­lar­ized,” says Smit. “There are a lot of heavy-air gu­rus that joke about sched­ul­ing a re­gatta at a windy venue at the same time. There are a lot of other peo­ple who are super-ex­cited about com­ing here. They know there will be good racing, chal­leng­ing racing and fair racing.” Q

“Sail­ing-wise, I think we’ll prob­a­bly get a full range of con­di­tions, which will re­ward ver­sa­til­ity. You can­not be a one-trick pony and ex­pect to win in An­napo­lis.”


Wey­mouth, U.K., of­fered pre­ferred con­di­tions for the 505 with high winds at the 2016 World Cham­pi­onship. PHOTO :


Lo­cal fa­vorites, Chris Behm and Jesse Fal­sone, pre­pare for Worlds in An­napo­lis; the range of con­di­tions at the 2017 venue will force sailors to use many facets of their skill sets. PHOTO :

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