Annual General Meeting
Point Yacht Club Ė Durban - November 2000
The 505 emerged on the dinghy racing scene in the 1950ís and almost immediately gained the respect of the worldwide dinghy fraternity of being the ultimate, challenging racing machine.
This reputation was held for almost a generation of dinghy sailors but it is a reputation to which we can probably no longer lay claim.
Whilst it is encouraging to see a sprinkling of younger sailors in the fleet, overall, I have a deep concern that as the average age of our membership increases, we face the potential of a decreasing membership in the future.
In recent years the number of annual new boat registrations must surely be of major concern.
In order to address the issue of making the class more attractive to the needs of the high performance dinghy sailor of the 21st Century, we need to examine the possibilities available to us which may assist in attracting this niche market to the 505 without destroying what we already have.
The 505 was conceived by John Westell in the 1950ís as a "one design development" class and significant development occurred during the first 20 years, but how much "development" has the class really undergone in the last 20 years?
It has long been recognized that the sail plan of the 505 is not necessarily optimum, particularly in regards to its downwind performance.
We can certainly no longer claim that the sail plan of a 505 is that of a modern racing dinghy.
On the issue of the downwind sail plan and optimum performance, following last yearís Annual General Meeting, the class sanctioned the use of a larger spinnaker for a one year trial period for the explicit purposes of encouraging experimentation with a view to improving downwind performance and looking to the future.
I am very disappointed that so few of the class have actually taken the trouble to get involved in extensive trials. I understand that several people have sailed with the larger spinnaker on a couple of occasions but I donít accept these brief experience worthwhile or qualified trials.
For those of us who have, the results are clear cut and exciting.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind the proposal at todayís AGM by the I.E.C for the revised spinnaker dimensions is in the best interest of the class and I strongly encourage you to support it.
From my own personal experience over last season and the commencement of our southern hemisphere season this year, I am totally convinced of the improvement and look forward to further refinements in sail design as we gain more experience with it.
The particular surprise to me was the improvement in the way the boat handles in heavy air and heavy seas. With the revised spinnaker dimensions instead of tending to bury the bow in a big sea, the bow lifts and charges over big seas with aggression and spits white water out the back. Itís just great!
I have made a deliberate and extensive effort to interview a broad cross section of sailors who have experimented with the proposed larger spinnaker and it is only as a result of this survey that I have decided to put my support behind the recommendations.
Those of you who know me well, know that I have always been an advocate of preserving the status quo of the class and resist any proposed changes that will obsolete existing boats.
I can assure you my attitude has not changed.
But we seriously need to address some of the perceived shortcomings of the class and meet the needs of the high performance sailor in the 21st century.
If we ignore these issues and cling too strongly to what we have always had, I suspect we will eventually lose our well deserved share in the niche market of high performance sailing.
I recognize that if this proposal proceeds to ballot and succeeds, that many people will fell disaffected by the decision with the prospect of having to replace existing spinnakers in order to remain competitive.
As a class official I feel compelled to promote a change which will be a long term benefit to the class acknowledging that it may create some short term discomfort.
In closing, I wish to acknowledge the contribution to the 505 Class by my fellow members of the executive. Particularly I wish to recognize the time and effort put in by of our secretary Chris Thorne and the endless energy and enthusiasm of our Vice President Ali Meller.
Finally I wish to thank all members of the class who have accepted me as the President with great friendship and who have shown respect for my 40 years experience with the class.
I can assure you I feel very privileged to have been the President of such a wonderful group of people and look forward to many more years of active involvement in the 505 class.
International 505 Class Yacht Racing Association