The SAP 505 World Championship will start at Hamilton Island, Queensland (Australia) on Saturday 26th March.
Mark Thornburrow and Laurence Mead see each other at many sailing events, usually as opponents in the highly competitive world of Etchells keelboat racing, but this time, the two have combined forces as the only Hong Kong entry at the SAP 2011 505 World Championship.
The two have purchased a new boat and aptly named it 50/50 – in honour of the age both turned last year and for their hopes of a top finish.
Both are normally at the helm of their respective boats, but one had to give way and become crew for their assault on the two-person 505 dinghy. 'That would be me, Mr T (Thornburrow) is a much better dinghy helm than I am,' Mead conceded at the Pre-Worlds warm-up, where they scored a good seventh place in the final light-air race.
However, the two are equally good helsmsmen, constantly waging a battle from Asia to Australia and beyond for the title of Hong Kong’s top Etchells sailor, where they are fairly even in the results stakes. 'We don’t get precious about who beats who,' Mead states.
Here, at Hamilton Island, that separation has changed, as they are sailing together for the first time in years, against a very hot fleet of world champions across various classes.
Friends since they met has 10 year-olds in Hong Kong, Thornburrow was born there, while Mead was born in Britain and immigrated to the Asian city with his family at eight years of age.
Thornburrow last sailed a 505 at the world championship 28 years ago, at which time he sold the boat to Mead who sailed for the world title a year later. That is the last time Hong Kong was represented at the 505 Worlds.
'We were talking after our 50th birthdays, and I said to Mr T, ‘let’s go to the 505 Worlds to celebrate’ – the Hamilton Island location got the better of me – and he agreed,' Mead says.
'I rang Holger Jess (the German boat builder), who is also competing here, and asked him ‘give us the latest machine please’. He has been very encouraging and helpful.
'We are the ultimate 50 year-olds who wanted to get back into 505 sailing. I think we are having a mid-life crisis!
'We went out on our new boat for the first time on Monday; it was very painful getting on the wire (trapeze). It made me realise I should have spent more time in the gym,' he said.
Thornburrow is glad they made the trip to Hamilton Island. 'The location is beautiful and our sailing has gone well so far. The 505 is still the great boat I remember it to be, and you couldn’t beat Hamilton Island for a location,' he said.
Due to their absence from the class, the Hong Kong crew knows only two of their competitors here, but conceded they were not so worried about the rest of the fleet’s form, as they can’t see their name on the gold medal. They say light to moderate breezes would be ideal, but would do their best no matter how hard it blows.
For a bit of pre SAP 505 World Championship practice, the two sailed Thornburrow’s 47ft catamaran up from Brisbane! Fitness is not hard to achieve either; dragging the boat up the sand to its resting place is working wonders for their arm and leg muscles, according to both.