505 Worlds Coming to the Capital

Published on September 21st, 2017

Annapolis’ billing as the “Sailing Capital of the United States” will be put to the test when nearly 200 sailors from 12 different countries come to town September 24 to 29 for the 2017 SAP 505 World Championship.

Designed in 1954 by John Westell of the United Kingdom, the 505 has developed a reputation as a heavy air dinghy. Some die-hard members of the class feel the world championships should be conducted in venues that tend to deliver high winds.

But the selection of Annapolis, with its famously finicky winds, makes it obvious that many other factors are also important. 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 a reliable breeze.

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

Some of the most renowned heavy air venues in the world have hosted 505 Worlds, however, the majority of locations that have hosted the 505 World Championship are more like Annapolis — unpredictable and just as apt to produce no wind as strong wind.

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

There are some teams at the top of the class that crave a world championship with multiple days of 20-plus-knot winds. “I think there is a cult of us that always looks for locations with windy conditions,” said Carl Smit. “Mike (Holt) and I love heavy air, but we didn’t manage to win worlds until we got better in light air.”

Truth be told, the majority of 505 sailors do not want to be battered by big breeze 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 said.

While the Chesapeake Bay can certainly deliver a big blow in late September, 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. There are a lot of heavy air gurus that joke about scheduling a regatta at a windy venue at the same time,” Smit said. “There are a lot of other people that are super excited about coming here. They know there will be good racing, challenging racing and fair racing.”

The 2017 505 Worlds marks the first time the championship has been held on the East Coast since it was held in 1988 at Hyannis, MA.

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Source: Bill Wagner, Capital Gazette

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