A Newcomer's Tale
Dave Stetson

A 505 is not a 505 is not a 505. That fact is all too clear to me. Here is a sad story.

I started sailing dinghies nine years ago. I started sailing 505s nine years ago. I know this isn't the orthodox pathway toward 505 greatness (I'm not there yet, no surprise to some), but it is the one I took. Too many years in keelboats will lead to rash decisions. I began this journey crewing in a 5000-series Parker (wood deck, glass tanks, and a hull that oil-canned right under where the skipper would stand to raise the spinnaker, port side only). We usually could beat five other boats, but there was one that always finished a leg or more ahead of us, a 7600-series Parker. We had a decent brain-trust, and we were not spastic, so we were a bit discouraged by this continuing outcome.

The next year, my skipper (with deeper pockets than mine) bought a sleek new Waterat. Instantly, we were on the transom of that 76xx, and occasionally, we were looking over our own transom at all the competition.

I am small (150 lbs, 11 stone, 68 kg), and I lusted for power (not sail-carrying power, but authoritarian power) even though my checking account could ill afford lust. I learned of a 1977 Ballenger for $800; I lunged at the opportunity. After I completely rerigged the thing for maybe another $1000, I went racing. Early results were encouraging. I and my many novice crews were often within sight of the leaders (two of them) and we were always in front of some boats, if we kept the long thing pointed up. This was great! on small water in moderate winds. If we should chance to go to water WITH WAVES, and maybe even with serious WIND, kiss the fleet goodbye, except for those who, like myself, were riding era-old machines. But, even on big water, if the wind was less than 12 mph and the waves were less than 6 whole inches, I could challenge for the lead for a leg or two. So it wasn't some irrational fear of being more than 100 yards from dry land that held me back.

After a time, I had the good fortune to meet an individual who knew what the sheet did before I showed him, but he had used sheets mostly on one of those 80-foot racing palaces. With a year of teamwork under his harness, we were having a good time until we went to the big water - again. This old Ballenger had fixed shrouds, so I craved adjustment; so now that I had a crewperson who understood and cared, I decided to buy a sister-ship of my competition, a 1985 77xx Parker. Everthing worked on the boat, sort of. The major short-comings were a limited range of travel on the shrouds, and a funny stiff mast called an "epsilon." We noticed that we were knocked over with each puff, while our competition, who had recently fitted a "D," stayed flat and motored. I had to have a "D." This was a wise move. Suddenly, I found I liked stronger winds and the shape of the main was far prettier. Competition got better - until we went to big water; well not so much the water, but the accompanying profusion of Waterats and Lindseys. People we had known and trusted to be our companions when they owned more plebian hulls no longer hung around to chat, but instead went to join their compatriots in their California boats. More depression.

After long and careful study, I have observed that Waterats, Lindseys, and the occasional newer Rondar that made it to this side of the pond, appeared to romp, nay, even cavort over and through waves while the reasonably sizable fleet of Parkers appeared to labor a bit more (sort of like barges) when on the wind. I believe this is due to the fact the the bow is finer in the Waterats and ilk than in the Parkers. I observed that Waterats were able to point 10 degrees higher and travel 10% faster (my chagrinned estimate) than the "P" boats. It is very disheartening to watch a boat come through your windshadow, glide under your leeward bow, and plant itself in a position such that you now suck some very distasteful air, at least for a little while until the boat disappears upwind. I wonder if the narrower waterline beam on Waterats, newer Rondars, and Lindseys also contributes to this behavior.

Once we turned the first corner, I also observed that the other boats could think themselves onto a plane. Just set the chute, sit down, hook up, and fly! Even with decent wind, we would usually watch a boat or two go over us, another squad go under us and sayonara. THEN we could make it onto a plane and hold it for a while. I think the flatter aft sections in the run from the centerboard case to the transom has something to do with planing sooner. I think this is what led Rondar, and later Parker, to build new molds. I have no idea when Kyrwood figured it out; early on, I presume. Isn't it interesting how boats measured with the same templates can have different measurements? This gives the thinkers and builders something to think about. [Actually, the 505 measurement rule includes nominal measurements plus-or-minus significant tolerances. Current builders can build to one extreme or the other of those tolerances.]

One other thing about the more prestigous American boats: they are built much more sturdily of epoxy rather than polyester, cored with foam or Nomex honeycomb, with kevlar sometimes (not always), and with carbon fiber sometimes. These boats remain competitve longer and they can obtain and carry much more rig tension (800+ pounds, 365+ kg) than the earlier "P" boats and predecessors. This is the custom in heavier air in much of North America.

[I speak specifically about the 1983-1986 Parker 24s, boats with which I have some experience. Parker have modified the hull shape several times over the last 15 or so years, and their current hull is more like the Waterat/Rondar shape and construction.]

Moral #1: Sailing a 505 is fun, exhilirating, challenging, but not always without soul-searching and speed-searching on the race course. "I would prefer to be at the back of a 505 fleet than at the front of a xxxxx fleet."

Moral #2: If you have an older Classic boat, do the best you can to make it work properly for you and crew. Go to as many regattas as you can. Hope for good luck, but don't expect to win unless the regatta is on one of our Midwest ponds and is on short courses where handling, tactics, and weather sense are more important than flat-out speed.

[From Ali Meller: Even if you cannot upgrade the hull, make the foils, spars, sails, and control systems as much like the fast boats as possible. Write down measurements, and write down what settings you use for given conditions. Look at fast boats before the start. Look particularly for mast bend and outhaul position. Ask lots of questions of the best racers. Try to get into their boats the odd time. Try to get them into your boat. Try to sail occasionally with different good sailors-you can almost always learn more.]

A discussion of a problem which may have contributed to my pathology. Last summer, we went to a regatta in Kingston, ONT. We did miserably in the light stuff, when we pond sailors should be in our element. We did better when it blew. After I returned home, I crawled under the boat to replace some leaky bailer gaskets, and I got dripped on, more than a week since the boat was last wet. I found a hole about the size of a pinhead through the gelcoat. I opened up this hole and found water! I drilled half a dozen holes through the cockpit sole from transom to forward bulkhead and found more water! Therefore ... I drilled quarter-inch holes every two inches through the inner glass layer and into the foam core. I laid the hull upside down in the sun for two days. The boat became noticably lighter; 20-30 lbs lighter, I would guess. I filled up the thousand or so holes with epoxy and microballoons, painted the cockpit sole with polyurethane, and went sailing. The word "cavort" came into my mind when I first went upwind in a moderate breeze, although this kind of cavort is different than a Waterat cavort.

Moral #3: Weigh your boat often, and, if the weight is not less than 290 lbs., do something about it!

P.S. If you have a dark-colored hull, do not lay it upside down in the sun, particularly in the middle of summer. It can do unpleasant things to the composite. I have a light-colored hull and it survived very well.

Unpaid advertisement. Colin Merrett and Paul Young are the honchos at Rondar Raceboats, Ltd. They have made the changes to their hull that I discussed above: narrower entry, narrower waterline beam, and flatter aft sections. They also have gone to epoxy and space age composites. The boats have been the rage in England and Europe, and have done well (very well!) at the three most recent Worlds. Colin would like to sell some of these boats over here and he would very much welcome calls from interested persons (011 44 1225 707550). Ask him about a package deal for this year's Worlds. You can have a new boat awaiting your arrival in the Olde Country.