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World Championships sailor profiles Number 2

This edition, Andy Smith


NAME: Andy Smith

AGE: 49

HOMETOWN: Nottingham, Great Britain

OCCUPATION/EMPLOYER: Operations Shift Manager in a 2000MW Coal Fired Power Station. German energy company UniPer (formerly E.ON).

CURRENT SAILING PARTNER: I’ve been sailing with Tim Needham since the end of 2009 when we bought our first 505. Prior to sailing together we competed against each other in different Fireball teams. Tim is a great crew and we remain close friends on and off the water.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ATTENDED: Since 2010 in Denmark all the worlds except Hamilton and Port Elisabeth. I also competed at Hayling Island in 2006 with Norman Byrd alongside Fireball sailing that year.

TOP FINISHES AT WORLDS: Fourth in 2014 at Kiel and seventh in 2106 at Weymouth.

NOTABLE CAREER RESULTS: Winning Kieler Woche in 2016 and also UK Nationals/Pre-worlds in 2016. We were also the 2013 UK National Champions and the 2014 French National Champions.

Placed second at 2014 Pre-worlds in Kiel.

FAVORITE 505 SAILING MOMENT: Lots! Majority of 2016! Big breeze and clear blue skies in Hyeres, Just after winning Kiel week and, being told by Wolfgang Hunger’s shy young son that I was the best sailor! Flattered, I smiled and said “no chance” and suggested that he should tell his Dad instead!

  The Kiel worlds and pre-worlds I think tops it. Mixing it with Mike Holt for the first time and realizing that all our hard work had paid off going quickly and having the consistency to finish top eight in every race. Having now sailed in the class for seven seasons I can actually confirm that it is the best dinghy I have ever set foot in and the people that sail them and associate with them from all over the world are the nicest you will ever meet.


Q: I know you come from other one-design dinghy classes. What attracted you to the 505?

A: I’d always thought that 505s looked like the ultimate boat since being in my teens and seeing magazine photo’s and occasionally being able to see one sailing. It was a huge class in the UK in those days.

  My father worked with John Kobilanski, who was a pretty good 505 sailor. One winter we stored his boat in our garage. I spent many hours looking at it! I always dreamt that one day I would sail one!

  At the age of 15 I was lucky enough to have a sail in a pretty good 505 at school, but no racing. In my 20s I started sailing Fireballs and after a number of years getting to grips with trapeze boats. The 505 always seemed like a natural progression. In 2006 I was lucky enough to get the chance to sail the 505 worlds in Hayling.

  That year gave me a real insight and after a year or so hatching a plan with Tim (Needham), my garage was big enough and so we bought a boat at the end of 2009.

Q: You enjoyed considerable success in the Fireball, Mirror and other classes. Can you provide a quick rundown on your accomplishments in other classes?

A: I started my sailing career in Mirror’s, but I didn’t enjoy much success in the class until I returned to sailing them in my late 30’s with my son Tom, when he was around eight. It was a perfect window for both of us when he was old enough and the Worlds were in the UK 2009. We managed to win! My proudest moment in sailing!

  Prior to that I sailed Fireball’s for many years and the most successful years were winning the Europeans in 2003, the 2004 Worlds in Adelaide and runner up in 2005 in the UK. We also won the Europeans in Perros Guirec, France in 2006.

  Aside of that I have sailed other ‘national’ classes winning the Miracle Nationals in 1995 and a number of Open Meetings and Inland Championships in all the above and also the Scorpion dinghy.

Q: How does racing a Fireball or Mirror translate to the 505?

A: There are obviously many similarities to sailing any dinghy well. In Fireballs and Mirrors there is less to adjust so the emphasis, certainly in the Mirror, is on strategy with very small differences in boat speed and close racing.

  There were many interesting combinations of older and more experienced versus young, light and very fast! The Fireball is more adjustable in terms of the rig and is more comparable to a 470 in terms of performance. In the 1990s it was an extremely competitive UK class and you could regularly expect 50-60 boats at Open Meetings.

  The Fireball fleet in the UK all used very similar hulls, rigs, foils and fit outs all being pretty much identical. There were a number of different sailmakers. As a result it was almost like ‘strict one design’ racing, so important to learn to sail the boat quickly in combination with learning to be a good racer with excellent boat handling all essential in order to do well. All of that is clearly really important with the 505, but there is also more with the 505!

Q: What did you find dramatically different about racing a 505? Did you need to learn or improve anything in particular to be successful?

A: I think the 505 is similar in the fact that all the basics of sailing apply. BUT, it’s more physically demanding, everything happens that bit quicker and, in addition, crucially requires a good ability to optimise the boat (particularly the rig) across the wind range whilst also being able to exercise the race skills. In the 505, with so many options of hull, rig and foils that it can take a while to understand.

  When we started 505 sailing properly in 2010 we seemed to “hit the ground running” – concentrating on sailing like we knew how. But then we started to really think deeply about it in order to try and get better. We probably began to overanalyse which resulted in a drop off for a while.

  At the same time you have to keep everything in context and the fact that there is so much strength in depth in the 505 fleet, particularly below 10 knots I think. That was where we really felt we had to find something. We started to make changes with foils and rig settings and alignment. It started becoming possible to understand more about what worked and what didn’t.

  We also worked hard with our long-standing sailmaker P&B, which has supported me for 20-plus years and this also helped massively. We coupled everything into prioritising what was important and how we could make adjustments with our boat and our rig through the wind range. While doing all this it’s easy to forget how to actually race! Tweaking our approach helped us become more consistent and allowed us to start properly racing again.

  I think it has certainly helped me to learn the building blocks from other classes and then bring

them all together with the 505.

Q: How much would it mean to win the 505 World Championship? What do you feel must happen for your team to accomplish that feat?

A: Winning the 505 Worlds would mean everything. There is so much depth and experience in the fleet, with Olympians and so many World Champions from other classes, that winning the 505 Worlds has to be a big deal for any dinghy sailor. We’ve worked hard at it for many years, assessing many pieces of the jigsaw in order to improve. To make it happen and to have any chance of winning in this fleet it is essential to continue to work very hard in improving our personal preparation and working to eliminate our sailing weaknesses. In addition, making our own share of luck and no mistakes, sailing out of our skins and being fast across whatever conditions we face. Oh, and really enjoying the sailing!

Q: What are your thoughts about coming to Annapolis for Worlds? There has been debate about possible light air days. Are you comfortable sailing in light air?

A: Annapolis sounds like a fantastic place to sail and a great city to enjoy off the water, although I have never been there before! The sailing area seems petty complex, with many opportunities to take advantage of wind and tidal effects.

  I’d agree that the September stats for Annapolis seem to suggest that the breeze is generally lighter rather than windier. However, from what I have seen of East Coast events over the last couple of years there can be a range of wind speeds.

  It will be important to be quick across the wind range, with maybe a bias to lighter air. As I mentioned earlier, light airs was a big problem for us when we started out in 505s but over the last three or four years or so we have worked really hard to address that. It’s still difficult to be as fast as some of the really light teams in sub-10 knots but we have had some good results in lighter events over the last couple of years. Maybe a serious diet is called for! We will see…

Q: What can you tell us about the current state of the British 505 fleet? Is it strong, deep with talent, active? Are there plenty of good events around Great Britain?

A: Our home Worlds last year attracted in some good sailors from other classes and brought some notable ones out of retirement. We have some talented sailors and our results at the Worlds and other events last year reflect that.

  Our open meeting circuit, as with so many other UK classes faces some challenges. There are so many dinghy classes in the UK which dilute numbers down and this can make it difficult for clubs to commit to running events for low turnouts. However, we do run a number of Open Meetings and training weekends each year, mainly focussed around the East and South coast but also spreading up into the North of England and Scotland.

  Our Nationals over recent years have been particularly successful and we appreciate foreign teams from USA, Australia and France coming over to sail with us. We are lucky to be able to quite easily get over to the bigger events in Germany and France. We’re continuing to grow the UK fleet and would like to fit into the Europa Cup in following on from the successful Worlds in Weymouth last year when the calendar will accommodate.


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