Ali Meller reflects on sailing in Santa Cruz, CA
I was able to race the SCYC Fall Open this past weekend, as Waterat (Larry Tuttle) and Steve Bourdow did an amazing job on a partial refinish and then rigging upgrade on 7200, and I was able to convince Mike Smith (who last crewed for me in 1995) to come out of a five year 505 retirement, and race with me.
Sailing in Monterey Bay is ... magical. It can be very windy, though East Coast and West Coast 505 sailors use two different scales to judge windspeed in knots.... aka "the East Coast" scale. The West Coast guys were saying perhaps 20 knots at the weather mark on Saturday; I thought it was rather more; like close to 30 (I would have sworn 25-28 in the puffs). But whatever the wind speed really was ...
As you go upwind in Santa Cruz it typically gets windier the further offshore you go. So you can easily start the race in 15 knots and be in 20-25 at the weather mark. And if you go further it just gets windier (30+). You are sailing in waves on top of ocean swells, and at least this past weekend, the waves and swells were not quite in line with the wind, so starboard tack was almost straight into them, while port tack was a lot smoother. We were racing in breeze that would be a Small Craft Advisory on the Chesapeake, with almost certain postponement/abandonment by a local RC. I am not kidding. The Sunday of SSA Fall where none of the 505s raced and just Carlos and I went out and sailed around without every gybing or putting the kite up, was tame compared to this past weekend in Santa Cruz.
The West Coast guys measure rake aft from the mast head, over the top of the transom, to where the transom meets the hull. You put the tape measure just enough off centerline to clear the rudder fittings on the transom. 25 '8" is the "standard" number (measured forward this is 3' 4"). But for some reason when they rake to less than 25' 0", they don't call it 24' 8", rather they call it "-4". I continue to think that measuring forward is more accurate and reproducible, but Larry or Steve B. calibrated the rake using the West Coast scale. I need to figure out what this rake is using the measure forward measurement, as this is off the scale of the conversion table I have. I bet most of the 505s in Fleet 40 cannot rake this far. The West Coast guys have typically moved cascades to along the CB trunk to get enough range.
We were raked to max on 7200, which is now -3 (24' 9"). Most of the West Coast boats can rake a bit more than that. This is EXTREME rake by East Coast standards. Not only do you HAVE TO HAVE a flattening reef in to get under the boom, the flattening reef cringle needs to be a fair distance up the leech to raise the boom enough. At this max rake I think the bottom of the boom was 2-3" over the top of the seat tanks (when I sheeted it in a bit). This was eyeballed in between waves and spray, so may not be an accurate estimate. For me, tacking required kneeling in the bottom of the boat and bending way down, almost kissing the cockpit floor. The crew has rather more room than the skipper, but the boom is also lower at the crew position than when the rig is stood up.
Sailing in the waves and swell and breeze is amazing.
I have not raced in this sort of condition in years and was rusty. So was Mike. We swam before the first race (and nearly missed the start) and swam again gybing during the race.
The top West Coast teams are racing full on regardless of wind strength, with no hesitation about hoisting the kite, or gybing at the correct tactical moment (no waiting for a lull). The middle and back of the fleet (the ten boat fleet had multiple World and North American champions) did swim on the bad gybes. The top teams increase rake racing upwind as the breeze increases, and they have tied the ram down tackle into either the forestay or shroud tackle, such that as they rake, the ram is pulled down. So it is a two string operation (ease forestay, tighten shroud) rather than a four string operation (ease forestay, pull ram down, tighten shrouds, adjust vang).
Planing upwind in those conditions is something hard to explain, you have to be out there, depowering the boat enough to be able to actually sail it, and you need to keep it close to flat and in the groove (push the bow down). Downwind with the kite is also amazing. Do try to avoid stuffing the bow into the next wave; move further aft in the boat! And don't bear off, keeping sending it! A lot of West Coast teams use gybe stoppers so the board does not gybe back and forth in the brief instants when you unload the board.
For those interested in rigging details.
The "go to" mast appears to be the Selden Alto. I think some still use the SuperSpar M2. The Selden Cumulus is now a "special order" and is not stocked. Everyone has double poles, HA boards, Glaser main and jib, some P&B kites. Holtie uses all P&B.
We used 7200's Cumulus, now rigged much like Mike Coe's SuperSpar M2, with fixed angle/length carbon upper spreaders and upper shrouds. The 7200 Cumulus also has fixed angle/length lower spreaders, mounted a little lower than the 10' 4" (124") standard on the mast. 7200 now has shroud tracks, so I decided I did not need angle adjustable spreaders as I could move the car on the track. This may work until someone makes a change in the luff curve of the mainsail. In an effort to save weight and particularly weight in the ends, the main and upper shrouds are Marlow D12 Max 99. The forestay and forestay extension will be after I make them up. This probably sounds "sketchy" to some, but the rig stayed in the boat and I did not notice any particularly strange bending in the mast. The rig is noticeably lighter than normal when you pick it up. I have no data on how long Dyneema shrouds last, whether they have to be kept out of sunlight, etc. The shrouds on Mike Coe's 8841 are the same stuff and are over a year old.
We were not fast, but I believe that was mostly us, not the boat. We improved steadily, rounding the windward mark 4th in the last race, but losing Holtie/Eben on the run to the finish when they worked low on us and gybed inside. We ended up 5th overall, mostly a reflection of everyone behind us crashing as much or more than we did.
I have not raced all the fabled 505 venues, but I have raced some of them.
The North end of Lago di Garda (Garda Lake) at Riva del Garda is renowned in all the one design classes that go there. Durban South Africa has hard-to-believe-the-size Indian Ocean swells and big breeze. But Santa Cruz is up there as one of the fabled venues. And racing in big breeze and ocean swells and waves really demonstrates what an incredible boat the 505 is, and just how good the top teams are.