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Martin and Lowry win 5O5 World Championship at St. Francis Yacht Club

by St. Francis Yacht Club 3 Oct 2023 22:40 PDT September 23 - October 1, 2023
Mike Martin and Adam Lowry, 2023 5O5 World Champions © Christophe Favreau / www.christophefavreau.com

Sixty teams from eight countries competed in the action-packed 10-race 2023 5O5 World Championship held September 26 to October 1 at St. Francis Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay.

Optimal 5O5 conditions prevailed throughout the week, making for close racing and an exciting outcome that came down to the performances in the final moments. Mike Martin and Adam Lowry went into the last race two points behind their sparring partners Eric Anderson and Nic Baird, but sailed a strong race to take the championship, finishing with 17.2 points overall. Anderson and Baird finished in second with 21 points.

Mike Martin, now a five-time World Champion, said, "The week could not have gone better for us in the end, but it was definitely a tough week. Our goal with our training partners is to push each other and to be duking it out for first and second in the last race of the Worlds, which we did."

Their prize was well-earned, especially given that the regatta was not at all plain sailing, as Lowry noted.

"It was just a really hard, turbulent week," Lowry, now a 3-time World Champion, said. "On the second day we had a lot of wind which we like and were winning the race when we had a freak capsize; that was an emotional down. Then on day four we got holed as we were idling the start line between races, the boat filled up with water and nearly sank. It was amazing sailing, but it's not until you cross the finish line that you can take a deep breath."

Martin and Lowry did receive redress for the incident that caused damage to their boat.

American teams took all three podium places with Mike Holt and Carl Smit (USA) taking third place overall, finishing with 27 points. Nathan Batchelor and Sam Pascoe (GBR) took fourth with 39 points, and Ian Pinnell and Alex Davies (GBR) were fifth with 48 points.

Martin and Lowry, who last won Worlds together in 2019 in Freemantle, Australia, went into the regatta with a definite edge, having won the 5O5 North Americans the prior weekend. Yet Martin noted that Anderson and Baird, who are 25+ years junior to Martin and Lowry, had become very good.

"Eric was third in Freemantle and has been our tuning partner since 2018," Martin commented. "He is incredibly dedicated and focused, and he is fully on board with our approach of sharing all the information to make your tuning partner faster. He and Nic have put in so much effort and it's great for both teams. Eric and I have had 60+ practice days this year and I think that's what you see - the people who can put the time in come out on top. We couldn't be happier with the way it turned out."

Baird and Anderson are equally thrilled with their results, after taking 14th at their first World Championship event in Cork, Ireland, last year. Anderson emphasized just how tight the racing was at the top of this year's fleet.

"Second was a fantastic result for us and we're super excited, especially after being in such a tough situation going into the last day score-wise: the third-place boat couldn't end up fourth but could end up second, and the first-place boat, which was Mike and Adam, could only be first or second, so both of those teams were out to get us," Anderson said. "We had a really good start and walked away with the first race, so in the last race we were just fighting with Mike. As we'd locked in second, it was just a fun last race."

Baird added, "We won four races which were all very memorable because we didn't come close to winning any races last year. We've worked really hard all season getting fast in the conditions that you see on the Bay. Windy days are always about just getting off the line clean and using our speed to punch out and be strong. We were able to do that in most races where it was blowing more than 15-16 knots. We knew we were fast in those conditions and just needed to keep it simple. We're super grateful to Mike and Adam—both of them have helped us tremendously this year."

With its challenging currents and tides, San Francisco Bay is hard work for newcomers racing on it for the first time; Batchelor, racing his sixth World Championship, concurred.

"The current is very challenging; I learnt to sail in a place in the UK where the range is 14 meters, which is huge, so I'm used to current but on the Bay, it is learning more about how it changes and where it changes, and we have a better idea about that now than we did!" he said. "We had great conditions with the wind building a lot throughout each day which was challenging but we were really pleased with our results. We've had a great experience sailing on the west coast for our first time."

Principal Race Officer John Siegel said, "I'm frankly euphoric because setting up for gate starts west of Alcatraz was a challenge that we worked on for a long time. It mitigated the long beat back to the yacht club that happens if racing takes place on the Berkeley Circle. My 37-strong volunteer team worked very hard to make this change happen, and accommodating rabbit starts can be challenging. It's an honor and a privilege to work with this fleet and to be able to view this racing up close. The 5O5ers are tremendous athletes."

"We were absolutely delighted to host one of our favorite fleets and we are thrilled to congratulate club members Mike Martin, Adam Lowry and Eric Anderson and their respective team members for their tremendous performance this week," StFYC's 2023 Commodore Beau Vrolyk commented. "It's always a thrill to watch the performance of the 5O5s downwind, and if you have participated in a rabbit start, you'll know it's a relatively unique and thrilling way of starting boats in a big fleet!"

Event Chair Harrison Turner said, "The mantra for this event has been 'beam reach to the bar' and we were able to provide that by sailing a racecourse on the west face of Alcatraz for the entire event. We spent over nine months looking at that venue making sure it would work for the championship. It's been a great event, warm and sunny with good breeze every day. The class is very gracious—I was out on the water watching people hit marks because of the current but then do their penalty turn and keep going—that doesn't always happen. The camaraderie amongst the fleet and the sportsmanship is at the very top. A big thanks goes out to all our volunteers and race committee who did a fantastic job, and our event sponsors Ovington Boats, Ronstan, Sømand, West Coast Sailing and Zhik."

The 2024 5O5 World Championships will be held in Varberg, Sweden, August 1-10, 2024.

Full results can be found here.

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