Shiro Noguchi is a self-made 505 sailor, literally.
Noguchi got into the International 505 class way back in 1968 when he built a boat with a friend. The Japanese sailor attended his first overseas regatta a year later, racing in the 505 Far East Championship held in Hong Kong.
Noguchi participated in the 1985 505 World Championship that took place in Enoshima, Japan. Business commitments prevented the class veteran from attending worlds for the next three decades.
That lengthy layoff will come to an end this September when Noguchi competes in the 2017 SAP 505 World Championships, being held Sept. 20-29 off Annapolis. “Always, I was thinking to sail the 505 again when I had more time,” Noguchi said. “Three years ago, I retired and met a skipper and got back into the class.”
Noguchi, who resides in the coastal prefecture of Kanagawa, will be sailing with Takao Fijita. This year’s championship has attracted 22 foreign entries from seven different countries, but the one from Japan stands out.
It has been a long time since a Japanese team competed in 505 Worlds and it is a real coup for Annapolis that Noguchi and Fijita are traveling nearly 7,000 miles to do so.
“I don’t believe we’ve had a Japanese entry at worlds for 30 years. It’s important for the class because Japan has a rich dinghy sailing history and bringing them back into the fold could be a huge boost to the 505 Class,” said Jesse Falsone, chairman of the 2017 SAP 505 World Championship.
“Like most older dinghy classes, the 5O5 struggles to remain relevant in the sport where designs are rapidly evolving and participation remains either stagnant or declining. The 5O5 still offers the very best one design dinghy racing and a wonderful sailing experience. My feeling is that if this one team has a very positive experience at our worlds they might bring that enthusiasm back to Japan with them and spark a re-birth of the class there.”
Noguchi, 69, got into competitive sailboat racing aboard an OK Dinghy he built himself and has also campaigned a Laser, Flying Dutchman, Soling and Tornado. The Fujisawa, Kanagawa native fell in love with the 505 from the outset and has competed in a total of five world championships – Hong Kong in 1973, New South Wales, Australia in 1976, San Francisco in 1981 and Adelaide, Australia in 1983 in addition to the aforementioned 1985 event in his home country.
“I learned of the 505 from a book describing sailing techniques that was written by Marcel Buffet. I was very fascinated by the hull shape,” Noguchi said. “Also, while reading a book written by the great Paul Elvstrom, he said the 505 was the best two-man dinghy.”
Noguchi and helmsman Miyuki Kai were one of two Japanese teams at the 1981 Worlds hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club and pulled off quite a feat by winning Race 5. There were a whopping 18 entries from Japan at the 1985 Worlds in Enoshima, where Noguchi and skipper Aiko Saito placed 10th overall.
“We are very much looking forward to coming to Annapolis and competing against the very best 505 sailors in the world. I think this championship will be my last one so I am sure it will be a memorable experience,” Noguchi said. “I have heard from friends that Annapolis is a beautiful port with many sights such as the Naval Academy. Most important, the weather is similar to Japan with not so strong wind every day. We are a very light team (150 kilograms, 330 pounds) and heavy air is not our specialty.”
Noguchi has been involved with boat design and construction while employed with GH Craft, an Art and Science Composite Engineering and Manufacturing firm. He helped build JPN52, the International America’s Cup Class yacht the Nippon Challenge syndicate used to challenge for the Auld Mug in 2000.
Takao Fijita has been competing in the 505 class since 1980 and also attended the 1985 Worlds in Enoshima along with the 1987 Pacific Championship in Singapore. The 63-year-old switched to the Fireball class and attended multiple world championships before taking up keelboat racing for many years.
"It has been six years since I have sailed the 505 and I amexcited to participate in the Annapolis Worlds with such a legendary sailor as Shiro,” Fijita said.
Members of the local organizing committee have helped the Japanese team make arrangements to compete at the 2017 SAP 505 World Championship. Mike Renda, who is working with all foreign entries on travel and logistics, arranged for Yoguchi and Fijita to charter a boat from Massachusetts sailor Tom Hurwitch. Additionally, a host family has stepped up to provide free housing for the visitors from the Far East.
There are also entries from Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Poland already entered in the 2017 SAP 505 World Championship, being co-hosted by Eastport Yacht Club and Severn Sailing Association.
Falsone said time is running short for foreign teams to make arrangements to attend the Annapolis Worlds, but stressed the local organizing committee will do whatever possible to support those that still would like to compete. Falsone said there is still space in a few containers that are already scheduled for delivery. Organizers are offering generous subsidies for every foreign boat traveling in a container, free housing, arrangement of charter or loaner boats and assistance with finding crew.