Stay in the Mainstream:
Some Suggestions for Sailors Getting into the 505 Class

Updated 8 March, 2003
Though very rewarding, the 505 is a complex challenging boat to race successfully. This article discusses the author's contention that most people getting into the class should take a mainstream approach, rather than trying to do things differently right from the start.
Bringing Ideas From Other Places And Previous Classes
The International 505 is raced on over 18 countries, in a wide range of conditions, by teams with a wide weight range, and with different sailing styles. As a result, a number of different rigs, different sail designs, and different foil designs can be found.

Newcomers from other classes often bring with them knowledge and experience different from what current 505 sailors have. Frequently, newcomers experienced in other classes attempt to gain a performance or boat handling advantage from the beginning, by rigging their boat to suit their theories and previous experiences. In my experience, this rarely works well, and has held back many people getting into the 505. To my knowledge, the only person in North America who was able to develop a successful rig variant shortly after getting into the class, was Steve Benjamin, one of the people who developed the "straight mast" American rig based on the stiff Proctor Epsilon mast. Steve won the 1980 505 World Championship, but was still defeated in 1981 and 1982 by the older Proctor "D" based standard US rig, which still predominates in North America today.

Easier to Climb Learning Curve with Standard Rig and Settings
Though easy to sail considering the performance level, the 505 has a learning curve you must climb before you can race a the top levels of the class. Getting up this learning curve is much easier if you are using equipment and tuning settings similar to what the best boats you will be racing against are using. In the 505 class, information is freely exchanged, and competitors often tune up with each other before the start of a race. You can get on the pace much faster if your boat resembles fast boats you are familiar with - and race with, and you can duplicate their settings and their boat handling techniques. Call up the North American champion - or write Macy an e-mail - and talk to him about his tuning ideas; did you see Macy's article in the Pre Season 1995 Tank Talk? Don't just talk about them, try them.

As was stated earlier, there are a variety of rigs that are competitive right up to the World Championship level. Some teams seek to use a rig popular elsewhere (like the "floppy" rig used by the lighter Australian teams), in the hope that it will work for them. Unless other boats in your area are using this rig, you will have to figure it out and tune it by yourself, a very difficult and time consuming task.

Great Ideas That Did Not Work All That Well
Believe it or not, pole launchers, double pole systems, extra purchase on spinnaker halyards and retrieval lines (in a launcher boat), spreader angles adjustable while sailing, shrouds mounted on fore-and-aft tracks, high gybe angle centerboards, non gybing centerboards, laminar flow section centerboards and rudders, rudders that went part way underneath the stern, foam-cored foils, rotating masts, Elvstrom masts, Z-spar masts, Proctor Stratos and Epsilon masts, continuous trapeze, trapeze wire twings, rod rigging, and a whole lot of other ideas have been tried by top North American boats; most of them have been rejected as they do not work consistently, if they worked at all.

Since writing this article, the author has decided to try a pole launcher!

I am not against such experiments; they are necessary to move forward and to improve. Indeed, some of them are currently in use in other countries. I merely point out that they are difficult to do, and are best attempted after you have figured out a standard boat and standard rig, and can use that as a benchmark.

Stay In The Mainstream At First
For your own success, resist the temptation to change the boat until you have raced it awhile. Early on, any changes you make to the boat should be to make it more like the top boats you race against. In North America, that means you should use a Proctor "D" mast, Waterat foils, and North or Danger/Ullman sails. Read the tuning sheets on this home page, and try those settings. Put the fittings and control systems in the same places the top boats do. Tune up with the fast boats on your coast. Swap crews for a few minutes with a fast boat and figure out what they do differently from you. Find a Waterat 505 rigged by the builder, and note how the control systems work, and where in the boat they are placed. Outside of North America, adopt whatever rig is used by the top boats you race against. Some top teams are switching from the "D" to the Cumulus. The Cumulus is very similar to the D, but stiffer sideways especially in the tip. This is thought to better support the loads from the high spinnaker halyard on the Long Luff Spinnaker.

Try to avoid using non-standard masts, sails, or centerboards; you will not know if speed differences are equipment, tuning or technique related.

Once you understand the rig, and can develop reasonable speed in most conditions, you can try some experiments to get more speed, or better boat handling. Experimentation just like this is what lead to the close-to-standard rig and setup currently used by almost all the top North American boats.

Unless you really are God's Great Gift to Dinghy Racing, you are better off doing what the fast boats you race against are doing (when in Rome, do as the Romans do). If you are not meeting your goals right away, keep working at it. The 505 is a sophisticated high performance boat. It is easy to sail, but difficult to sail as well as the best. It takes time to learn how to get great speed out of the boat, and to learn the tactics appropriate to a high performance boat. Remember that its more exciting to sail than almost anything else you could think of, so tuning and practicing are FUN!
Alexander "Ali" Meller

The author has been racing 505s since 1977, first as a crew then as a skipper. He is still learning (and re-learning) the subtleties of racing the boat successfully. After some experimenting, his 505s (currently three) are rigged to the standard Waterat layout, have Waterat foils, Proctor "D" masts, and North sails. He is more successful than he used to be!