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'Simply the Best' - the history of the 5o5 class by Dougal Henshall

by Mark Jardine 26 Feb 12:24 PST 26 February 2023
'Simply the Best' - the history of the 505 class by Dougal Henshall © Mark Jardine

For many years now the story of one of the sport's most iconic dinghies, the 5o5, has been shrouded in something of a mystery. Where did that wonderful reverse flared hull shape come from, because back at the start of the 1950s there was nothing else like it.

There was talk that it was another designer, Austin Farrar, who was a long-term close friend of John Westell, who went on to produce the flared International 14 Thunderbolt that many saw as the precursor to the 5o5. But who had the idea first, where did the idea come from, and how - and why did, a plan to build such a revolutionary hull shape become a iconic reality that would take the dinghy scene by storm.

After all, these were the years when performance dinghy sailing was just starting to gain a foothold as an almost distinct genre apart from the mainstream side of the sport, so there was little in the way of a roadmap for the game changing designers, led by Holt, Proctor and Westell to draw on for inspiration. Moreover, none of them thought that they were designing boats that would become enduring icons that would still be with us 70 years later, so until now the records of what actually happened have been sketchy. But in what eventually became an 8-year project (badly delayed by the pandemic) author Dougal Henshall, who has previously written the definitive works on the International Contender and Merlin Rocket, has sought out the sailors who were there and could answer the questions that until now have been matters of conjecture. Having laid the foundation to the 5o5 story by documenting those early years, the book then advances forward in time, picking up on the many innovations that first found their place in the FiveO fleet. The narrative would not be complete without the roll-call of incredible topflight sailors who raced the boats, despite only an elite select few managing to add their names to some of the most sought-after prizes in the sport, the 5o5 World Championship.

It is only right that such a big story should, in the end, be told in a big book, one that weighs in at more than 2kg and contains not that far short of a quarter of a million words, spread across 400 plus pages, along with both black & white and full colour prints (when colour sailing pictures became available). The glossy, hard-back book has been arranged to read like a story that will immerse the reader into not only the history of one of our greatest boats, but of the social and technological changes in dinghy sailing over the last 70 years.

Order you copy via Simply The Best - Troubador Book Publishing or email

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