Hamlin and Zinn the favourites
Former World Champion Howie Hamlin and his crew Andy Zinn put down a strong marker by winning the Pre-Worlds in Kiel, Germany, but now it’s crunch time as the main event begins on Saturday, the SAP 505 World Championship.
With scores of 1,2,2,1 in the warm-up regatta, Hamlin has been working hard on his speed, something the Americans have been lacking in recent years according to another former World Champion in the 505 fleet, Holger Jess.
“It was 12-20 knots for the Pre-Worlds, but with difficult waves and very, very shifty,” said Jess, who has been working 100-hour weeks putting together customers' new 505s ready for competition. Britain’s Andy Smith and Tim Needham from Great Britain were second overall, with USA’s Mike Holt and Rob Woelfel in 3rd.
Jess is sailing with one of the leading women in the fleet, Meike Schomaeker, and they performed very strongly in the breezy conditions despite weighing just 150kg together. “We were 5th in one race, and coming 2nd in another before we pulled out, and leading another before we retired. That was a bit of a surprise as we wouldn’t expect to go so well in strong winds.”
If Jess is looking to avoid strong winds then he is not in luck for the start of the competition, which is looking big. Then again, too big perhaps, even for a boat as sturdy and as seaworthy as the 505. “Saturday might be OK with 15-20 knots, then 25-30 for Sunday, and 30-35 for Monday,” said Jess. “But the problem won’t be so much the wind as the sea state and the waves. So maybe we don’t sail at all on Sunday or Monday. Then a lay day on Tuesday, and who knows after then? Maybe 8-10 knots for the rest of the regatta!”
Such is the nature of the sailing in the Kiel Fjord, it’s going to take all-round sailing ability to win these Worlds, an ability to get through in good shape whatever conditions are thrown at them. Jess has won Worlds with Wolfgang Hunger, the most successful 505 sailor with five world titles, his two most recent victories coming with current crew Julien Kleiner. Jess still considers Hunger one of the favourites, although: “Wolfgang seems more nervous than usual, maybe because it is on home waters but also because he hasn’t practised too much. Also he bent his mast at the Nationals, so he has had to use a new mast for the Worlds.”
The Germans dominated the podium at last year’s Worlds in Barbados, so surely it’s not unreasonable to expect another German walkover on home waters. However Jess says the home fleet is underprepared. “We are hoping for five German teams in the top 10, and maybe two on the podium, but as a group we have not put in enough work, so I am not sure. Morten Bogacki and Lars Dehne are the fastest upwind boat and could go well perhaps.”
American sailor Mike Holt has finished runner-up in the Worlds before and has looked like coming close a number of times. Jess believes this could be his year. British by birth but a long-time resident of California, Holt has been putting in the hours with his new crew Rob Woelfel. “Mike has flown over from the USA to Europe four times this year, and he has improved his all-round speed,” says Jess. “He is taking it very seriously and I would put him as the favourite this year, maybe even above Hunger.”
SAP continue to provide great support to the class, and this year the media crew will be producing daily highlights shows and live coverage and commentary of the final three days of competition. The tracking and SAP Sailing Analytics make it easy for spectators to understand who’s doing well, and why.
The SAP 5O5 World Championship takes place in Kiel, Germany, over 16-22 August.