ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND – At long last the weather cooperated and organizers of the 2017 SAP 5O5 World Championship took full advantage of a day with steady, consistent wind. Principal race officer Sandy Grosvenor reeled off three races on Tuesday, bringing the series total to four and ensuring this is now an official championship.
Tuesday proved eventful as the British team of Andy Smith and Roger Gilbert grabbed the overall lead while the German entry of Nikola Birkner and Angela Stenger became the first all-female team to win a race at the SAP 5O5 World Championship.
Smith and Gilbert won the day with a solid score line of 3-6-2 to take over the top spot in the standings with a low score of 21 points. That is two better than a pair of American entries – Mike Holt and Carl Smit along with Edward Conrads and Brian Haines.
“We certainly didn’t expect to be in the lead coming off the water today so that was certainly a pleasant surprise,” said Smith, who lives in Nottingham, England and boasts a pair of Top 10 finishes at 5O5 Worlds. “We were conservative all day because we felt like we had good speed. We had our heads out of the boat, Roger in particular, trying to make the boat go fast. I think most of the time we were in the middle of the race track, just trying not to get caught on one side or the other.”
Smith and Gilbert are sailing as the Gill Race Team and doing their first world championship together. Smith felt the conditions – northeasterly winds ranging from 7 to 10 knots – suited the tandem well.
“We’re quite a new team sailing together and we’re rather light in terms of crew weight so I’d say up to 15 knots is our optimum breeze,” he said. “We hear the forecast is supposed to be for more wind on Thursday, but we’ll see. If it’s windy, I think it will favor some other teams a bit more than ours.”
Nonetheless, Smith and Gilbert are thrilled to be where they are at the moment. They finished 10th in Race 1 on Sunday so really have not sailed their throwout.
“In all the sailing I’ve done, I’ve found it’s always good to be in the lead at any point in a regatta,” Smith said. “It’s still early so we’ll go out there on Thursday and just try to maintain consistency.”
Wednesday brings a scheduled lay day for the 87-boat fleet with sailors being given an opportunity to explore Annapolis or perhaps go sightseeing with their families in nearby Washington, D.C. As Smith indicated, the forecast for Thursday is promising and there is a good chance Grosvenor will try to complete three races again.
A throwout enters the equation following five races and that would most benefit past world champions Mike Holt and Carl Smit at the moment. Holt and Smit, who won the 2015 SAP 5O5 World Championship together, absorbed a 15th in the second race on Tuesday and will be keen to toss that result. Subtract the 15th and Holt-Smit would be winning the regatta on the strength of a 2-1-5 score line.
“We’re happy. It was really tough sailing out there today. I think it was one of those days when you had to keep your head on because everything was changing and you never felt safe,” said Smit, an Annapolis resident and member of co-host Eastport Yacht Club. “There are a lot of teams in the hunt and we’re just thankful that we haven’t thrown it away yet.”
Smit said the team battled for the lead throughout Race 2 and finally closed out the victory on the final run. “In the first race, we were early gate and punched out early then caught the first shift. We played the fleet and the shifts, but we finally ground it out on the last run,” he said.
It was an easy day to get caught on the wrong end of a significant shift and Holt-Smit felt the sting of doing so during Race 3, going from the front to the back in a hurry.
“Even the 15th was a victory of sorts because we were 38th around the first mark and had to fight our way back,” Smit said. “I think overall we did a good job of keeping our heads out of the boat and were probably playing the shifts in the middle of the course – just looking for pressure all the time. There was no right answer today, that’s for sure.”
Conrads and Haines, who list Mill Valley, California as home port, won the last race on Tuesday and also posted a sixth and a seventh. They have been the most consistent team, having notched all single digit results.
“It was a tough day on the water. In the last race we were able to get off the line better than we did in the first two and we also chose the correct side of the course,” Haines said. “We did not get off the line wellin the first two races. In the second, we got a little lucky that the right came through. Had that not happened, we would have been really deep.”
Haines said he and Conrads are slowly learning the vagaries of the Chesapeake Bay, which has a well-established reputation for delivering 20, 30 – even 40 – degree wind shifts.
“There were definitely some big shifts and toward the end of the day the current began to play more of a factor,” said Haines, son of sailing legend Robbie Haines.
Haines acknowledged that the boat named “It’s Big, It’s White,” will not necessarily move up in the standings once the throwout comes into play, which is not necessarily a bad thing at this point.
“I’m not sure we would benefit as much as some others by the throwout. We still have a lot of sailing and who knows, we might have a throwout in the next race.”
For the uninitiated, the 5O5 class uses a unique “gate” starting system that employs a pathfinder – also known as the “rabbit.” That designated boat, always the 10th place boat going into the day, sails close-hulled on port tack as fast as possible. Every other boat in the fleet must then dip the pathfinder.
Birkner and Stenger, sailing Bikini Atoll, served as the pathfinder on Tuesday and found it to be a great benefit. After placing 10th in opening race of the day, the German duo picked up a favorable right-hand wind shift and walked away from the fleet to win Race 3. It was historic as no team featuring both a female skipper and female crew had ever won a race at 5O5 Worlds.
“We are super happy and super proud!” Stenger said of the accomplishment, which helped propel Bikini Atoll up to seventh in the overall standings.
Please find complete results and other regatta information at this link:
Please find the SAP Analytics at this link:
SAP 5O5 World Championship highlights for Day 1 and Day 2 are now online at: