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An interview with Dave Kirkpatrick on the 2022 505 North American Championship

by David Schmidt 15 Feb 08:00 PST February 16-20, 2022
Should this photo become the cover of the book which tells the 505's history? © Christophe Favreau / www.christophefavreau.com

The International 505 Class traces its historical roots to 1953, when designer John Westell penned the lines for an 18-footer he dubbed the Coronet. The boat competed for a berth as Olympic equipment but lost out to the Flying Dutchman. The following year, a French sailing club asked Westell to modify his design to their specs and to a shorter (5.05 meter) waterline. The boat became an internationally recognized class the following year, and, in 1956, the freshly minted 505 Class hosted their first World Championship on the waters off of La Baule, France.

A glance at the long list of world-championship results (an unbroken chain, marred only in 2020 by the pandemic) reveals a lot of American teams, dating back to the 1963 Worlds, which took place off of Larchmont, New York. Since then, local strongholds across the country have consistently produced top 505 talent, which adds significant gravitas to the class' annual North Americans.

The 2022 505 North American Championship is being hosted by the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, in Clearwater, Florida, with racing taking place on the Gulf of Mexico (just outside of Clearwater Pass) from February 17-20.

I checked in with Dave Kirkpatrick, class information officer for the American Section of the International 505 Class, via email, to learn more about the 2022 505 North American Championship.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, are there any notable geographical concentrations to this entry list?

We hope to see 35 boats this year.

Last year's championship, which was held in Newport in early fall, had 31 entries. A closed Canadian border and a bunch of other difficulties, mostly to do with Covid, left us without the Canadian contingent and kept some people on the sidelines, so we hope a few more boats are able to make it to Clearwater.

The strongest North American fleets are in the Pacific Northwest, San Francisco Bay/Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, [the] Chesapeake Bay, Narragansett Bay, Ottawa, and Kingston, and each of those fleets should have a few boats, at least.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off of Clearwater in mid-to-late February? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Clearwater is a pretty ideal place to sail in mid-February—warm green water and usually nice breeze! It's usually either a sea breeze or a front, both of which are great for 505 racing.

Most people seem to enjoy stronger breeze when the crews are on the wire the whole way around the track. The boats really respond to those conditions, but, fortunately, [the boats] sail well in a huge range of conditions, so as long as there's at least some breeze we're happy.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Ethan Bixby seems to do well whenever there's a regatta in Clearwater, but that's also the case no matter where the regatta is—Ethan's pretty fast!

Generally, Clearwater is a pretty open track without a lot of local knowledge required. One side or another might be favored for some reason but Clearwater doesn't have a reputation as being a local-knowledge venue.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

Be ready for anything. We have a total of six days of racing between Midwinters and North Americans, and there's an excellent chance we'll see a huge variety of wind strengths and temperatures

Do you have any teams that you're eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

U.S. boats have won five of the last six Worlds, and the North American fleet is generally very strong [and] with an awful lot of depth.

It's hard to look past current World Champs Mike Martin and Adam Lowry, who narrowly beat Mike Holt and Carl Smit to win the 2021 North Americans. Holt will sail the 2022 NAs with Rob Woelfel, and they've won the Worlds together before.

If the rumor is true, we'll have one British former World Champ joining us, and Florida native Nic Baird [who is sailing] with Eric Anderson are another top contender.

Several-time 470 Olympian Stu McNay is a new face in the Class and will be sailing with veteran crew Thomas Barrows. It shouldn't take them very long at all to get to the front. But there are a handful of other boats that can cause lots of trouble.

One of the wonderful things about the 505 Class is just how deep the competition is - any boat in the event could be leading a race at any time, many boats could win any given race, and any one of a bunch of teams has a reasonable shot at taking out the regatta win.

How many races do you and the other organizers hope to score over the course of the regatta? Also, how are you guys managing the racecourse? Traditional racing marks, or will you use some of the new GPS-guided autonomous robotic marks such as MarkSetBots to administer the racecourse?

Over the four sailing days, a full regatta would be 12 races. Throw-outs kick in after the fifth and tenth races are complete, so if we have the full 12 races, then each boat's top ten races would count.

We generally sail windward/leeward courses although there is an option for courses with reaching legs.

We used MarkSet Bots at the Newport NAs last fall, which people loved, but Clearwater is a lot shallower than Newport so setting traditional marks is much easier there, [so] we'll be back to traditional marks for this event.

Obviously organizing and running a big regatta amidst a still-churning pandemic isn't easy. Can you tell us about the biggest logistical and organizational hurdles that you've had to clear to make this happen?

Stay tuned, as things are still changing by the day.

The 2021 North Americans were actually scheduled to be held in Clearwater, but the state of the pandemic in February of 2021 was not at all conducive to running the regatta then and there.

The West Coast fleet bought a shipping container and trucked their boats east to Newport on that, then it stopped in Maryland for an awesome event over Halloween weekend, and now it's in Florida, waiting for teams to fly in and sail. Fingers crossed that [international] borders are open and people are able to get to Florida safely and reasonably conveniently.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

Clearwater Community Sailing runs a pretty green set up on an ongoing basis, with a well-tuned, tight, and efficient race committee team. Though there is obviously an impact from sailors traveling to the event from faraway places, the Class generally does an impressive job of minimizing single-use plastics and waste in general.

Most sailors use reef-friendly sunscreens and are generally out in front of environmental awareness. The ocean is our playground and we love it and try to treat it well.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

Despite the high level of competition within the Class, we actively welcome new sailors and do whatever we can to help people get involved in 505 sailing.

[For example,] each day after racing, we host debriefs where the top teams openly share their thoughts and settings from the day. Several fleets have loaner boats for interested sailors to try, and the Class regularly has grants and other programs to help young and new teams to get to the regattas.

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