US Built 505s: Builders and Differences

During the nineteen years I have been racing 505s, I have asked a lot of questions about them. Fortunately, people like Larry Tuttle and Ethan Bixby gave me great answers about rigs and boats. The following is my understanding of how the US built 505s of the "modern era" evolved, and what the differences are. It is mostly hearsay, but more interesting than the Simpson trial. As with any oral history, you get rather different versions from different people. This was first written around '85, and revised recently. Parker, Rondar and possibly Kyrwood have all changed their tooling and construction since the article was first written.

Ali Meller


Updated 5 June, 1996

Up to the mid '70s, North Americans just imported 505s, typically Parkers and Rondars, though there were some other builders represented. There were at times other 505 builders in North America, but during the '70s, the bulk of the fleet were Parkers and Rondars.

Around 1975, Larry Tuttle took an unused Butler hull shell, and built an interior to support all the loads the boat was placed under. The Butler hull was made of woven roving, and was heavy and soft, but the framework supported rig loads very effectively. Larry and Ethan won the 1976 North American Championship sailing this boat.

The idea of building a structure inside a soft hull to support all the rig loads, CB trunk loads, etc. interested a lot of people, so Larry and Mark Lindsay got together and built the Lindsay 505, using imported Parker hulls. These boats were just coming on the market when I started in the class in 1977. They had cold molded spruce tanks, mahogany foredecks and an early version of the interior you see on the more recent Lindsays. Steve Taylor/Dave Penfield won the '79 Worlds in one, and Steve Benjamin/Tucker Edmunson won '80. Some of the last of these had mahogany tanks instead of spruce. These boats are normally called Parker-hulled Lindsays. Twelve of them were built in three batches.

Mark and Larry became frustrated with the poor quality hulls they were getting from Parker, so they built a microballoon plug and shaped it to a different design to get the hull shape the wanted. Apparently they just built the plug using a mold that was 'lying around' and then shaped it using the class templates. One honeycomb Kevlar hull was built by Bill Pevear (with help from Larry and Mark) using this mold prior to the plug being shaped. The Lindsay hull shape was influenced by the Kyrwood hulls which had just started to show up at World Championships.

The Kyrwoods are an interesting story on their own. Apparently, a previous Australian builder had tooling that was not within tolerances. The Kyrwood team basically forced the mold into shape using 2x4s and chain! Apart from deforming the rail - apparently you could still see the waves in the Kyrwood (and copies) rail in 1985 - they also changed the hull shape, particularly in the bow area - the waterlines are straighter. The Kyrwood surprised a lot of people when it started turning up at World Championships. It was clearly fast, though the early boats could not carry rig tension. The boats are built with polyester resin, and balsa core. Though their shape has clearly influenced other builders, and they have won several World Championships, my impression is that they are not as durable or as fast as Lindsays and Hamlin/Waterats. I attribute their success to the skill of the sailors rather than superiority of equipment. During the early '80s, Peter Colclough, several times World Champion and long time Parker customer, switched to a Kyrwood boat. More recently, Kyrwood is under new ownership, and is using higher tech materials in their boats. A '96 Kyrwood. This boat was raffled off at the prize banquet!

The first real Lindsay hulled Lindsay is 6910. That batch of boats has honeycomb core, molded mahogany tanks, and in a few cases a carbon fiber beam to handle the compression loading from the mast gate to the forestay attachment point. There may be some kevlar in the skins. Both these and the Parker-hulled Lindsays could be purchased with or without the launcher. 6910 was delivered in the spring of '79 (I think).

About this time, Howard Hamlin lofted out a hull form and built the tooling for the Hamlin 505. Unlike the Lindsay, which started life with the interior framework to support all the loads, the Hamlin was conceived as a monocoque structure. The original boats had very little reinforcing structure, and relied on the skins and the foam core for overall stiffness. Some of the earliest boats are a little soft, as not enough Kevlar was used in the layup. The first two Hamlins raced in the 1979 NAs in Toronto. I think the first sail number was about 6880. Apart from the engineering, the obvious difference was that the Hamlin had almost no wood in the boat. The hull shape was also heavily influenced by the Kyrwood.

When the Lindsay and the Hamlin/Waterat hulls 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 have both tried to minimize rocker. As Larry says, they are pretty similar, but since he designed the Lindsay shape, he prefers it. If you want all the differences, call Larry Tuttle.

The Lindsay boat evolved to one with a little less interior structure as it became clear that the hull could support much of the load. The seat tanks, but not the foredeck, were cored fairly soon after Lindsay-hulled Lindsays were started, creating what became known as a wood look boat, in that the real boat was honeycomb, glass and Kevlar, with a thin layer of veneer over some parts. Another key change occurred about the time that Larry Tuttle left Lindsay and went to work with Hamlin. Lindsay stopped using honeycomb core, and went to foam (and more kevlar in the skins) while Hamlin stopped using foam and went to honeycomb. Cam Lewis's boat - 7093? - is a good example of this later batch of Lindsay boats. It was built in '80 or '81.

Larry Tuttle (Waterat) started building wood look boats - the first, 7200, on a Lindsay hull, the rest on Hamlin hulls - before the end of 1981. I believe about four or five of these boats were built. They look similar to Lindsays, except that the seat tanks have oak veneer instead of mahogany, and everything is cored, including the deck.

Shortly after the batch of Larry Tuttle wood look boats came out, Hamlin stopped building boats. After several years, Larry Tuttle got the Hamlin tooling back on the West Coast and started building plastic boats. The Waterat differs from the Hamlin in some interior details - the main thwart and the top of the CB trunk were lowered for the Waterat. The Waterat also has a little more interior structure than the Hamlin. There were two versions, the foam-and-glass, and the honeycomb-and-Kevlar. The first plastic Waterat built on the Hamlin tooling was delivered in the spring of '83. 7772 - originally numbered 7352 - was the first.

Since Hamlin was no longer building boats, and Lindsay had also stopped, the Waterat was the only US built super boat available. A few more Lindsays showed up over the years, but they were all boats that were slowly finished on already built hull shells. Don and Britta McNeil, long time Ottawa fleet sailors now living in British Columbia, had what is probably one of the very last of the regular Lindsays. 7197. It is also one of the most beautiful as the interior woodwork was almost perfect - the builders still go over and admire it when they see it! 7358 was one of the boats that was completed several years after Lindsay stopped building hulls.

Nick Grey built a deck and seat tank molds to build decks and seat tanks that would fit the Lindsay hull. His boat - as yet unnumbered - was the prototype. One last batch of plastic Lindsays were built using this tooling, around 1990. Shona Moss, Steve Yates, Tom Kivney and George Iverson's boats are from this batch.

Another builder, Ballenger, built a few boats in the Chicago area in the late '70s and a few more in Santa Cruz up until about 1983, but the boats never seemed to measure up to the Lindsay or the Hamlin/Waterat. He re-did his tooling several times; the last being a modified copy of the Kyrwood, but still couldn't build a boat that equaled the Lindsay or Hamlin/Waterat. In his defense, none of the real rock-star types raced Ballengers.

Many of the original foam-and-glass Waterats began to develop soft spots in the hull and tanks. Waterat originally used Clark foam, and the foam did not live up to its manufacturers claims. Waterat stopped using Clark foam, and built a few more foam-core Waterats using PVC foam. None of the PVC foam core boats have had problems. Despite Clark declining to stand behind their product, Waterat instituted a policy of repairing the boats that were returned to Waterat. Another alternative was having Larry contribute money towards the repair. Larry told me that many if not all of the Clark foam boats developed the problem. Apparently the drier the boat was, the longer it lasted. 7772 (ne 7352) built in early 1983, started having problems in late 1987. The Seattle boats that were stored on a dock next to the water had foam problems earlier than any others.

The hull repair is interesting. Larry cuts out the inner skin, scrapes out the old foam, bonds in new foam, and builds a new inner skin. He then fairs the hull if necessary. I was very pleased with the work done on 7772.

Waterat eventually discontinued the foam-and-glass line as they were unable to keep the manufacturing costs significantly below those of the honeycomb-and-Kevlar boats.

The Waterats and Hamlins tended to be delivered rigged (at least partly), while most Lindsays were delivered as bare hulls and rigged by their owners. The West Coast has favored launchers, while the East Coast has favored bags. West Coast sailors mutter about the crew coming in off the wire, and standing next to the mast trying to stuff the spinnaker into the bag while the boat nose-dives into the next wave. East Coast sailors reply that the skipper can stuff the spinnaker with the crew on the wire (with some practice). Bag boats did not make it to the top ten in the Worlds for most of the years after 1982, but then Steve Taylor, Steve Benjamin, Ethan Bixby, Cam Lewis and Larry Tuttle were not going to the Worlds. The only times the US has won the 505 World Championship, it was in bag boats.

The situation with imported boats has changed considerably in the time I have been racing 505s. Whereas several containers of Parkers and Rondars used to be imported each year, the racing successes of the Lindsay-hulled Lindsays, and a bad batch of all-glass Parkers in 1977 ended that. Both the Parker and the Rondar have gone through several major design changes since that time.

In the mid '80s Steve Benjamin at ISP imported several containers of all-glass Parkers. Most of these boats are racing on the East Coast. Most of the ISP imported Parkers were all-glass (no wooden foredeck) in construction, though at least one container of Parkers was brought in that did have wooden foredecks during this time period. The Parker construction problems that occurred in 1977 have not recurred since, though most East Coast 505 sailors consider the Lindsays and Waterats to be better built that these recent Parkers. Parkers did continue to win world championships into the late '80s.

Conclusion

Any Lindsay-hulled Lindsay is good, but many are rather beat up and need refinishing. There are differences in construction between batches. The earlier boats were a little more exotic except that they did not have cored tanks. They were all custom to some extent, and with the exception of 7148, were all rigged by the owners, not Lindsay.

Any Hamlin is good, though the earliest foam cored boats are not as stiff as the mid to late Hamlins with honeycomb core and kevlar skins. Many of the original foam Hamlins are still raced hard on the West Coast. Good quality foam was used, and to my knowledge they have not suffered from any of the problems that the Clark foam Waterats had.

Waterats are great, though the wood look and honeycomb boats are better as more time was taken in construction, and the materials are superior. Honeycomb boats tend to be a little lighter. Obviously there is a difference between early foam boats, and the foam boats built after Larry stopped using Clark foam. However, any Clark foam Waterat is, once repaired, a better boat than a Parker or Rondar of that era. If repaired well, they are quite competitive with the honeycomb boats.


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How to fix up an older 505