Getting Into the 505 Class:
Picking a Boat

Updated 4 January, 2002

This article was originally written for the original 505 North American web site. It is written from a North American view point, and references 505s from builders that North American 505 sailors are more familiar with. While prices of new 505s go up from time to time, and a number of builders not mentioned in this article have built great 505s and great foils, spars and sails, that are available used in various countries, I believe the basic points in this article are valid even if you are not in North America - Alexander "Ali" Meller


You don't have to own a boat to race in the 505 class, seriously! You can crew for someone and learn more about the boat. Also, many crews own boats and look for skippers to drive them.

However, buying a new or used 505 is a good way to get into the class. Here is some information on what types of 505 are available.

How Competitive Do You Want To Be?

The most important thing to consider is how competitive you want to be. If you are determined to be among the top teams in North America, and you are going to put the time and/or money into doing so, you need to buy equipment that will not hold you back. As Larry Tuttle has said, "Your equipment should be just a little better than you are."

On the other hand, if you don't lie awake at night plotting how you are going to win the Worlds (perhaps you are a normal, well balanced, well adjusted person - we can fix that!) and don't expect to be in the top five, you do not need the best (and most expensive) equipment. A decent used boat in which you can be competitive in you local fleet, and learn more about 505s in, may be your best choice.

Apart from buying a new Waterat - approximately $22,000 - a new KISS Rondar - approximately $13,600, a new Witchcraft - approximately $14,500 - or a new 505 built by one of the many other 505 builders, there are (somewhat arbitrarily) three quality levels of 505 available used.

They are:

There may be quite a range within each level, and some used boats will need a lot more TLC than others. In some cases, with some work and investment, it will be possible to upgrade a boat from classic level to decent used racing level. We believe that a boat either is, or is not, a super boat. No amount of work and investment can make a super boat out of something that is not.

Super boats

History

For much of the 505 class's history, Parker of England has been the dominant builder. Parker 505s won the World Championships an incredible number of times. During the early to mid '70s the importance of having a stiff boat was becoming apparent. It was thought that the key was building a boat that could carry rig tension, and minimized movement between the rig, the centerboard and the rudder.

Larry Tuttle built a boat based on an unused Butler hull shell that tested this premise. Though heavy and quite soft in panel stiffness (the Butler hull was not cored and was built of woven roving), frameworks inside the boat allowed it to carry high rig tension loads, and prevented the centerboard and rudder from moving relative to each other and the rig. This boat, Pressure Drop, won the 1976 505 North American Championship.

The idea of building a structure inside a soft hull to support all the rig loads, CB trunk, etc. interested a lot of people, so Larry Tuttle got together with Mark Lindsay Boatbuilders and began building boats with similar internal structures on imported Parker hull shells. These boats are commonly called Parker-hulled Lindsays; twelve were built in several (three?) batches. They have mahogany plywood decks, molded spruce (later mahogany) seat tanks, and mahogany centerboard trunks, thwarts etc. These boats were very successful, winning the 1979 and '80 World Championships - the first wins ever by US teams. When new, or in very good condition, these boats are very beautiful. They could be excellent examples of the decent racing boat category despite having numbers less than 6500 (built before 1979).

At about the same time, Kyrwood 505s from Australia were appearing at World Championships. At that time, the Kyrwoods were very fast, had some differences in hull shape to the Parker hull (all within the tight class tolerances), but could not carry lots of rig tension.

The Lindsay 505s

Dissatisfied with the weight, panel flexibility and lack of lateral symmetry of the Parker hulls of the time, Mark Lindsay Boatbuilders decided to build their own hulls.

Mark Lindsay Boatbuilders built a plug, developing a 505 hull shape that was quite different (again within the tight tolerances - we're talking about subtle differences) from the Parker shape. They built a series of Lindsay-hulled Lindsay boats, with the same interior as the earlier Parker-hulled Lindsays, but a different hull shape, and most importantly, a fully honeycomb cored hull with epoxy, glass and Kevlar skins. These boats retained the interior structure of the earlier Parker-hulled Lindsays, including carbon fiber deck compression beams in some cases. The first boat out of the mold was 6910 (in 1979). These were the first super boats. If maintained or restored, these boats are VERY competitive. The hi-tech hulls appear to last indefinitely. There were lots of engineering changes to these boats over time. They went from honeycomb to foam, upgraded the skins, fully cored the tanks, and reduced interior structure when it became apparent that the monocoque structure could handle the loads.

A Lindsay-hulled Lindsay won the '81 and '82 Worlds. The same boat came out of semi-retirement, and was in 2nd place going into the last race in the '90 Worlds. It finished in the top ten in the 1998 Worlds!

Though the woodwork on these boats requires maintenance, the boats appear to remain competitive at the top levels in the class, indefinitely. That is to say that they have not slowed down yet, and the oldest are 23 years old! Mark Lindsay Boatbuilders stopped building these boats in about 1980.

The Hamlin 505

About the same time, Howard Hamlin lofted a hull shape, and built tooling on the West Coast. Unlike the Lindsay which evolved from a boat with an internal stiffening structure, Howard's boats did not have - or need - an internal structure, relying on the very stiff monocoque structure to handle the rig loads. The boats were fully cored, both the hull and the one-piece tanks-deck-bulkheads-transom molding. The first Hamlin was about 6880 (built 1979).

Hamlin boats have very little wood in them; just the CB case sides and aft thwart.

Hamlin boats have been very successful and share the longevity of the Lindsay boats. A Hamlin built in 1980 won the '92 pre-worlds regatta, a very heavy air event. That team was favored to win the worlds, but the crew was injured in the first race of the worlds, and could not complete the event. The same boat -- several owners later -- did well at the 1999 Worlds.

There are some variations in construction among Hamlins. The earlier boats are foam cored, while the later ones are honeycomb. As with the Lindsays, the layup schedule changed over time, being glass or glass/Kevlar.

All Hamlins are primarily fiberglass/Kevlar with honeycomb or foam cores and epoxy resin, with little wood. This makes them easier to maintain than the Lindsays.

When Lindsays and Hamlins are compared, you see two different ways of trying to get similar effects. They are both minimum width at the waterline, and maximum width higher up. They both tried to minimize rocker. I have owned and raced both, and wrote an article about the differences.

The Waterat 505

When Hamlin stopped making 505s the tooling was unused for several years. In 1983, Larry Tuttle, now at Waterat Sailing Equipment, made arrangements to use the tooling and started building boats similar in appearance to the Hamlins. Waterat made some interior changes, lowering the forward thwart and the centerboard trunk cap. The Waterats probably have a little more interior structure than the Hamlins.

Waterat made both honeycomb cored, Kevlar skinned boats, and a lower cost foam cored, glass skinned boat. Both models were epoxy layups. Twelve of the lower cost foam-cored Waterats were built, about nine of them with Clarke foam. Most of the Clarke foam boats had problems with the foam, though Waterat has successfully repaired Clarke-foam Waterats. Waterat then built only the honeycomb-cored model. Waterats are still being made; Waterat was the only active US 505 builder from 1983 to 2000. A new US builder, Witchcraft has just started up.

Being fiberglass/Kevlar, honeycomb/foam and epoxy just like the Hamlins, Waterats require less maintenance than the Lindsays with their extensive woodwork.

Waterat also made about four beautiful wood-look boats that appeared similar to the Lindsay, in that they had wooden veneer over the cored tanks, wooden centerboard trunk, CB trunk cap, thwarts, transom, and a cored - unlike the Lindsays - foredeck.

Until recently, Lindsays, Hamlins and Waterats were the only fully cored, epoxy layup boats made. The Rondars - built in England - are now also of epoxy construction (as of 505 8300, built about 1992). Rondar also changed the hull mold for 505 8400. These fully cored post-8400 Rondars have won something like five of the six world championships since their introduction.

Unless badly damaged, very poorly maintained, or badly rigged, Lindsays, Hamlins and Waterats are competitive at the top international levels of the class. More detail on the US built super boats is available.

Decent Used Racing Boats

Though the polyester layup boats do not retain their light weight and stiffness over time like the super boats do, they are very competitive when new, and are still excellent boats when older. Examples of these boats are:

We arbitrarily include boats with 6500 or higher numbers in this category. 505 number 6500 was probably built in 1977, so these boats were built after to that year. Both Parker and Rondar have made numerous improvements to their boats over the years. In North American, none of these boats are competitive at the "top 5" level, but can be very competitive at the local level. Due to the continuing improvements, and their "aging", what year a Parker or Rondar was built, how hard it has been raced, and how well it has been maintained are significant. Weigh any boat you are seriously considering; minimum all up sailing weight for the 505 is 127.4 kg (just over 280 pounds). All up weight is basically the complete boat ready to go sailing, less the sails. Ten to fifteen pounds overweight is OK. You can usually lighten a boat by using thinner lines and lighter fittings. Be wary of boats that are more than fifteen pounds overweight.

Kyrwood, an Australian builder, also made excellent boats. Older Kyrwoods fit into this category. Kyrwoods have been competitive at the international level, winning several World Championships during the '80s and in 1990. As with the Parkers and Rondars, they do not retain their stiffness like the super boats do.

Another US builder, Ballenger, made some polyester layup 505s. Ballenger made several changes to the hull shape and the construction from his early boats to his later ones. Early boats had partly cored hulls, while later ones were more fully cored. Some Ballengers had Kevlar in the skins, while others were glass only.

Great examples of Decent Used Racing Boats, in excellent condition, are available for as little as $2500.

If not already upgraded, these boats can benefit significantly from upgraded foils and mast, and improved control systems. Putting Waterat foils and a Proctor "D" mast rigged to US tuning sheet standards makes a significant difference in these boats. A new rigged Proctor D is $1000 -- $1400, though decent used masts can be had for $250 - $500. A Waterat centerboard is a little over $700 new, while the rudder is about $500 new. Centerboards and rudders are available used from time to time.

Classic boats

A large number of Parker and Rondar 505s were imported into North America until the mid '80s. While the boats newer than 6500 qualify (if in good condition) as Decent Used Racing Boats, the older ones do not. There are also older boats from other builders that were imported - or built in the US - until the mid '70s.

Many of these are still excellent boats, but they do not have the panel stiffness and the ability to carry rig tension, that the newer boats do. They are still faster than almost any other type of boat on the water, and in light or medium flat water conditions, a good sailor may be able to beat a super boat. You can check the North American 505s for sale list for Classic 505s for sale.

Some 505 fleets consist primarily of classic boats. You could have great racing in a classic 505 against other similar boats. There is growing interest in "Classic 505" racing, using these boats, in some fleets. Classic 505 racing could become something like racing vintage racing cars; you may wish to race a 1960 Ferrari 250 GTO, but you may prefer not to race as hard as a professional driver in a current racing Ferrari.

As these boats were built between the mid '60s and the late '70s, there are significant differences - both Parker and Rondar made improvements over time.

As with the Decent Used Racing Boats category, some of these boats can be improved significantly by upgrading foils, rigging the mast to US standards, and improving the control systems. Beautiful boats of this type can be had, ready to sail - for as little as $500. I believe that some of these boats could be upgraded to the Decent Used Racing Boat category by doing this work, though by the time you have replaced all the lines and fittings, bought a better centerboard and so on, you may have spent your way into the decent racing boat category.

Launcher Versus Bags

The vast majority of the 505s in the world are spinnaker launcher boats with the spinnaker launcher opening at the bow, in front of the jib tack. Bag boats have the jib tacked on the bow, and launch the spinnaker out of bags suspended underneath openings in the foredeck, on either side of the mast. Since the 505 predates launchers, the earliest 505s were bag boats. The 505 was a pioneer in the use of launchers. The US East Coast is probably the only place in the world with bag boats in any numbers.

Despite the jib tacks being about 9 inches apart, there appears to be little difference in upwind speed between otherwise similar bag boats and launcher boats. In general, hoisting, dousing and dousing with crew on the wire are easier to do in a launcher boat. Provided the skipper and crew have practiced each maneuver, a bag boat can usually hoist, douse and douse with crew on the wire as fast or faster than a launcher boat. A launcher boat may be able to douse faster, allowing them to carry the chute closer to the leeward mark. In a bag boat, the crew is usually the one pulling down the spinnaker, so the skipper can focus on steering in tight leeward mark roundings.

You can make either approach work well for you.

Masts, Sails and Foils

There are lots of successful 505 rigs around the world. The Australians are very fast with low rig tension and sideways bend, while the US has used high rig tension and minimal side bend setups. There are several different rig styles used in Europe.

If you are getting into the 505 class in North America, you should try to stay in the mainstream of what top North American 505 sailors are doing. You will find it much easier to figure out your 505, if you can talk with the fast guys in your fleet about how to set it up. Several teams have tried to duplicate rigs that were successful in Europe or Australia, and have not been all that successful. Once you have figured the boat out, and are on the pace, then you can consider experimenting and trying something new. If you are experimenting when you start, you will never know if you are off the pace because of the differences in rig, or because of something else.

In North America ALL top 505s use the Proctor "D" mast. Buy a boat with a "D" if you can, otherwise plan on buying a new or used one to replace what you have. All serious racing 505s use stiff booms, the Proctor 2633, Superspar, Schaffer, and Z-spar all seem to work well.

Most East Coast and Mid West 505s use North sails, while most West Coast 505s use Ullman/Danger sails. Stay with the mainstream! Get a set of what the top 505s you race against are using. You will waste a lot of time figuring out something different on your own. If the boat comes with a suit of other sails, use them for practice but buy a new or used set of Norths or Ullman/Dangers for speed work and racing.

Probably the single biggest improvement you can make to an older boat is to put in a high-quality gybing board. Most top North American 505s use the carbon fiber reinforced Waterat CB, the only other popular board is the Lindsay. Rudders seem to be less critical, but again most top boats use Waterat rudders, with some using Lindsay rudders. If you are so inclined, you could build a high quality home-made foil - some current 505 sailors do. Using a planform resembling the Waterat or Lindsay, and a section from the NACA 00xx family, will result in a board with characteristics similar to your competition.

Conclusion

Decide how competitive you want to be, and buy an appropriate boat from one of the three categories. You can save a lot of money by buying a boat that needs TLC or upgrades; however, are you going to be able to fix it and upgrade it yourself?

Decide whether you want a launcher boat, or a bag boat, or if you don't care. It is possible to convert one to the other - bag to launcher conversions run $1000 to $2000. Going the other way can be a lot cheaper, and you can do it yourself.

Stay in the mainstream in terms of equipment and rig settings. Buy a boat with a Proctor "D", or figure on acquiring a decent "D" as soon as possible. Buy a boat with a Waterat or Lindsay centerboard, or plan on upgrading to one of those as soon as possible. Buy a set of Norths if you race against East Coast or Mid West boats; a set of Ullman/Dangers if you race against West Coast boats.


One newcomer's experiences with older boats from different builders.


Ali Meller