10 years ago my wife and I decided to get into sailing and we scanned the classes looking for a boat. We read about the 505 and all its attractive qualities and it all looked good until we came across the “Recommended Crew Weight = 350 pounds” clause in the description. Hmm, what do we do?
Not to be put off, we pursued and it is a good thing we did. We have sailed on some windy days in Hyannis and Santa Cruz and we seemed to survive most of what the wind has challenged us with. The 505 is a boat that is way too much fun and is so adjustable that it can accommodate a huge range of body types for the various wind conditions. I am 5′ 8 and 160 pounds. My wife, Deb, is 140 pounds and 5′ 7 in weight. Throw on a wet suit, fleece and harness; and I gain a few pounds but that is not much.
This article are my suggested tips for being able to sail the boat competitively in big fleets.
Recommendation 1: Make Boat Handling your first priority. Practise, Practise, Practise. Big teams are not very fast if their boats are upside down. Sure they may kill you on a heavy air upwind leg but if they screw up a gybe and dump; you will sail past them with a smile. In training, we often set a watch that has a beeper that goes off every minute or so and when you hear the signal, you tack. Not only is this good for your fitness, it forces you to tack when your not ready. We also sometimes not use a watch and tack only after you get the boat going smoothly but you have to be honest with yourself and tack immediately and not take a break. This works well when practising gybes.
Recommendation 2: Focus your training on off-wind speed. If there is any leg that favours light teams, it is the downwinds; especially with windward-leeward race course. Make this your specialty, become a speed junky, and learn how to sail the boat flat and low. This is where a partner boat comes in handy where you are always trying to sail lower than they are but keeping their speed or going faster. If the other team is heavier and they are sailing lower and faster than you, then try to figure out why because this should not happen.
Recommendation 3a: Board Position: If you cannot afford to have multiple boards for different wind conditions and you are stuck with a standard size; spend a lot of time sailing with the board in different positions. Try kicking the board back while making a windward mark. Learn how much you can pull the board back without sacrificing too much point with a partner boat.
Recommendation 3b. Board Size. Last year we purchased a 380 HA board and it revolutionized our boat for the better. If you think about it, 380 is the size of some of the rudders out there. There is no question that it is very small but it means EVERYTHING to us. The boat is completely controllable on the upwind and we are experiencing greater speeds on the downwinds. What you lose in righting moment on the upwinds, you gain in speed on the downwinds. There is no excuse for good boat handling and this remains to me my first recommendation but if you want to pour money on your problem, start by buying a new board. See the picture below for a comparison.
Recommendation 4: Exposure to Heavy Air: Be safe out on the water and don’t do anything foolish but also try to expose yourself to heavy air conditions as much as possible. Heavy Air sailing is a mindset. The more you are exposed to it, the more it becomes second nature. The best way to do it safely is to sail lots of regattas. Usually the events come with adequate crash boats and people will look out for you if you get into trouble so going to lots of regattas is a good thing.
Recommendation 5: Sail Trim. Learn how to make your sails as flat as possible if the wind comes up. Make sure you have key controls like reefing points on the main, barberhaulers for the jib, etc.
Recommendation 6: Fitness. People make mistakes when they are tired. The more you can minimize this with good fitness, the further you are ahead. Before going to Santa Cruz worlds, my wife and I trained like crazy. I averaged 120 km a week on my bike, 3 hours in the weight room and 10 hours of “on the water training”, on top of all regattas we were in. It all paid off.
Other Notes (not necessarily recommendations but rather observations):
a. We also sail with a Proctor D. Although we have never tried it, I think a Proctor Cumulus would be too stiff for us. That is all I can say about that and don’t have hard data to prove it.
b. Don’t be afraid to crash lots. Crashing in a race is terrible but in training, go and get wet because you will learn how to right the boat efficiently and quickly. This is useful at big competitions.
c. Windward-Leeward Races. I have to be up front about this, I am a strong supporter of sausage courses. I find them more tactical and they allow smaller teams to be competitive. Tight reaches were fun but they really seperated the men from the boys and I think it is good for the class to do more windward-leewards. Also it makes it easier to run training regattas because a RC can simply set up the two marks and not have to guess gybing angels. I am sure this comment will spark some controversy but this is my position.
In conclusion, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. This is a truly wonderful class, with wonderful people and a lifetime to cherish. I would hate people to turn away from this boat just because they think they are too small to play.
David Adams, 8696