How a 505 Compares to Other Sailboats
Last updated December 17, 2004
You may also wish to check a table comparing the power to weight ratio of a number of these sailboats
Another view of power to weight ratios from the Johnson 18 web site.
In a response to the many people who have asked for comparisons between the 505 and various other boats, this article was prepared. As a long time 505 sailor, I have my biases towards the 505, but I have sailed or raced some of the other boats I have included, and spoken at length to people who raced many others. I have invited others to comment and in many cases have included their comments. For further information on most of these boats, check the
class web site links for a home page for that class. You can also check the RYA and Portsmouth handicaps for some of
these classes, and review the Dinghy Database. Please forward your comments to the webmaster. If I think they are usable, I may add them to this article, if they're nasty I may add some disparaging remarks about the people in your class, to this article. See you on the water! - Ali
The 505 is unique amongst very high performance dinghies in being relatively easy to sail in all conditions. The 505 is fast and easy to sail in a drifter in flat water, and it is very fast and easier to sail than other high performance boats in over 30 knots and wind against tide in San Francisco Bay.
505 World Championships are normally held on the ocean, in whatever conditions exist. 505s will race in over 30 knots. Even in extreme conditions, racing is close, and most teams are able to finish
races in these conditions. There are other dinghies that are faster in some conditions, or on some angles, but no other high performance dinghy is blessed with the all round high performance and ease of sailing that the 505 has. It is fast, fun and exiting in all conditions.
Other high performance two person dinghies
Other two person dinghies
Single handed dinghies
Three person dinghies
Though they are both called sailing, and cruising keelboats are often
raced, dinghy racing and cruising keelboat racing are really two different sports. The cruising keelboat is
a much larger investment, requires more crew, does not easily travel
to regattas, and usually races handicap rather than one design. The feel
of a high performance dinghy is totally different from a
think in terms of a small light race car versus a transport truck or Winnebago. If you
are having trouble understanding the distinction, ask me for a ride in a 505,
and we will show you the difference.
While sailing and racing, the two people in the 505 have equally important
roles, and are totally absorbed in making the boat go as fast as possible,
and in race tactics. On a keelboat, much of the crew have specialized roles
- e.g. rail meat - that require little of them until a maneuver is required.
You will become a much better sailor if you race the 505.
If you race 505s, you will be able to hop
into a cruising keelboat and do well, while the reverse is not going
to happen. Recently, a good, middle-of-the-fleet 505 sailor hopped onto the J22,
and finished tenth in their World Championship.
You can race at the top levels of the 505 class for less than a new sail
for the cruising keelboat.
Racing 505s also gives you the opportunity to travel to regattas, party
with friends, and even go to World Championships in other countries - all for
a lot less than owning the cruising keelboat would cost.
You cannot sleep or make dinner on a 505. It is a fast racing and day sailing
machine, not a floating cottage.
Keelboats do not normally capsize, and are kept upright by the keel, rather
than the crew balancing the force of the wind on the sails.
If you really like cruising, keep the keelboat,
and buy a 505 for racing.
Several classes of keelboat are raced actively and have a regatta circuit.
In this regard racing keelboats resemble
racing the 505 much more than they do the cruising
keelboats. Well known examples of racing keelboat classes are the J24, J22,
Melges 24, the Soling and the Etchells. Though they differ amongst themselves
in detail, they are all keelboats with significant amounts of lead in them,
and are all in the 20 to 30 foot range. They all have spinnakers. Accommodations
range from the open cockpit of the Soling, to the spartan enclosed cabin of
the J24. Keelboats are easier to sail than a 505; you do not have to worry
about capsizing in normal conditions in a keelboat, but are much more difficult
to launch. Being much heavier, they are harder to maneuver in tight situations,
and cause much more damage when they hit something.
505 vs. J24
The J24 is a one design, one builder
class. The 505 is much cheaper, faster, much more responsive, and much easier to tow. You
can do the 505 regatta circuit with a Honda Civic, not a Suburban. You
only need to find one other crew to race a 505, though that crew is
essential as the two of you are equally responsible for the success of
the boat. In a J24, weight on the rail requirements mean that you normally
race with five, when there are really only jobs for three on the boat.
You can launch a 505 from a beach by yourself, and can single hand it in
light air. You can buy an entire suit of 505 sails for the price of a J24
genoa. The J24 is very intensely raced by sailmaker teams in many countries,
and has very competitive major events. The 505 has never been dominated
by sailmakers or other rockstars, though many rockstars race 505s. Protests
are few and far between in the 505 class. Most 505 sailors know the rules,
break them rarely, and do a 720 when they do. The speed differences
between J24s are relatively small, emphasizing tactics in J24 racing.
In 505 racing, boat speed can be significant, but is very close amongst
the front part of the fleet. 505 tactics differ in some respects from the
J24s, as the 505 has a wider range of "fast angles" to sail upwind and down.
The wider range of "fast angles" is due in part to the less than optimum J24
keel and its inability to plane upwind, and the light weight of the 505,
allowing it to plane upwind and down.
This gives the 505
more options in many tactical situations. Clear air is also more important
in 505s, as disturbed air can make you go significantly slower, while a J24
at hull speed is not necessarily slowed down as much by some dirty air.
505 vs. J22
The J22 is a one design, one builder
The J22 is a cheaper, lighter and newer version of the J24. It is close
to the J24 in speed, and is a little more responsive.
The 505 is still cheaper, faster, much more responsive, and easier to tow than
the J22. In all other respects, the 505 vs. J22 is similar to the 505 vs.
J24 comparison. As mentioned earlier, a good mid-fleet 505 sailor recently
jumped into the J22 and finished 10th in the Worlds.
The Melges 24 is a
is a one design, one builder
class. It is
sometimes described as a J24 killer.
It is quite a bit lighter, much more responsive, and faster - particularly
downwind - than the J24. The
asymmetric spinnaker makes heavy air spinnaker
work easier. These boats are leading the sport boat charge, and are
generating a lot of excitement. The 505 though, is the original sport boat.
It is faster in a breeze than the Melges 24, and has double the power to
weight ratio (The 505 weighs only 280 pounds all up, less than the typically
sized two person crew). The 505s power to weight ratio allow it to plane
upwind and down in medium breezes. The Melges 24 will plane downwind in medium and strong
breezes only. If you tried a Melges 24 and thought that was exciting,
try the 505. Though very popular, the
asymmetric spinnakers do have limitations.
Asymmetric spinnakers do not handle running or very broad reaching angles
well, and they are
large enough that they frequently cannot be carried on a tight reach in
breeze. Symmetric spinnakers , though harder to
gybe, have a much wider range of "fast angles" The 505, which races 60 degree gybe angles on a Worlds course - a
very tight reaching angle, will
fly a spinnaker on the tight reaches in over 30 knots of wind - and will
be doing close to 20 knots. The Melges
24 normally sails windward/leeward courses to avoid the tight reaches.
Asymmetric spinnaker advocates counter the tight reaching problem by claiming
that reaches are a parade and that runs are more tactical. While this is often
true in lower performance boats, the speed of the 505 in any breeze, and the tactical options
of sailing a wide range of downwind and reaching angles, make reaches the
best time to pass other boats when racing 505s. Reaches are not a parade
when you race 505s!
For example, top 505 sailors have been known to jibe at
the windward mark the first time around, get clear air to leeward of the
"reach parade," and come into the reach mark at a screamingly high angle,
passing a good hunk of the competition. Another favorite is to sail high
of the gybe mark to keep speed up and the boat planing, sail past it, gybe late, and come up high
and fast on the second reach.
The reaching angle restrictions of the asymmetric
spinnaker means that the 505 has a wider range of "fast angles" downwind than
the Melges 24. When planing upwind, the 505 has a wider range of "fast angles"
than the Melges.
While the Melges 24 raises the keel when the boat is put on its trailer, lowering
the trailing height of the boat, and making it easier to tow, you still need
a substantial car or truck to tow a Melges 24. The 505, with trailer and gear,
weighs under 400 pounds, and is less than three feet above the road surface.
Did you know that 4 people on a Melges 24 could find a 5th and 6th, sell the Melges
and buy three ready-to-race brand new 505s, and still have money left over.
The Soling is a is a one design,
class association class.
Though it does not have a "cabin" like the J24, J22 or Melges 24, the Soling
is still a heavy slow boat by 505 standards. Like the other racing keelboats,
it can plane under the right conditions, but requires broader angles and much
more wind than the 505 does to "get going". Solings are a strong Worldwide
Class, raced in many countries. They are an
Olympic class, which encourages
Olympic aspirants to sail it. At the Olympics, the Soling medals are determined
by match racing rather than fleet racing. The Soling requires a substantial car
to tow it, and costs quite a bit more to buy and campaign than a 505.
A Soling (like the Etchells) is noted for high pointing, an admirable feat.
But the 505 can point maybe 15 degrees lower and still beat the soling to the
windward mark in anything but drifter conditions. The Soling has a crew of
Though the Etchells and Soling sailors feel their boats are quite different,
they are actually quite similar. Etchells do not allow hiking like on a Soling,
and have a "cuddy cabin". The Etchells is not an Olympic class and is not
as wide spread as the Soling - or the 505. All the other comparisons of a
505 versus a Soling are true for the 505 versus the Etchells.
The Star is a is a one design,
class association class.
The Star is a very old design, that has allowed the rig to be updated. It
has a strong tradition of very competitive racing. The Star is known for the
heavy sailors - particularly crews - it has. The current rig is very
sophisticated and bendy, and requires some experience to understand and use.
The Star's large mainsail gives it excellent upwind performance in light
air, and exciting downwind speed in heavy air. The Star points very high,
and may be faster upwind that the 505 in light air. The 505 is almost
always faster around the course, particularly in breezes over 8-10 knots, when
the 505 can plane. The Star's fixed keel and weight require a substantial
car to tow it. Stars are expensive. The Star is an Olympic class. Many of
the sailors best known to the public have raced Stars. It is a very competitive
class, and many of the top sailors also race high profile keelboats in addition
to the Star.
The 505 is the quintessential two person high performance boat. It is a closer
comparison to other two person high performance boats.
505 vs. 470
The 470 is a is a one design,
class association class.
The 505 is faster, and much better built so it lasts much longer.
The 470 class rules do not allow cored construction, use of epoxy resin,
or use of fibers
other than glass in an effort to control costs. It still costs as much as
the 505 though. Top 470 teams buy new boats as often as every year, as
the boats soften quickly. The 505 is more adjustable than the 470, as
470 class rules prohibit easily adjustable jib luffs and mast rams in an
Olympic class that has to adjust these things anyway! Keeping
the spinnaker pole on the floor of a 470 is a major pain in the ass (the 505
can stow in on the boom, or wherever you want to).
Also a modern 470 has absolutely no storage space for lunch and
jumpsuits etc. It all ends up in the spinnaker bags! Both the 470 and the 505
are self rescuing, and easy to right after a capsize.
The 505 is all round a higher performance boat, and is more exciting to
sail. The 470
is for quite small people - competitive 470 teams try not to be much over
320 pounds. The 505 has a much wider weight range, around 300-400 pounds,
depending on how you set up the mast. The 470 is an
Olympic class, which encourages some top sailors into the boats. The result in many
countries is a two tier class, with top sailors doing Olympic campaigns,
practicing very hard, and sailing as often as possible, and the rest of the
group way behind. If you want to do an Olympic campaign, like two person
boats, and are the right size and weight, go for it! Just remember that the
505 is more fun to sail, and is a class where you do not have to sail five
days a week to be good. When the Olympics or trials are over, sell the 470 and
buy a 505. Some top 470 Olympic aspirants have raced 505s as they feel
it improves their 470 sailing. At the Olympic aspirant level of racing, the 470
class is extremely competitive. Doing a full time Olympic campaign means
that you are practicing almost every day, so top 470 sailors are much more
"in practice" than top 505 sailors. Olympic classes can be somewhat cutthroat,
as potentially every race and every regatta can count for funding and qualifying
purposes. There is little incentive for top sailors to help their competitors
get better, or to work with newcomers in the class.
Top sailors in the 505 class are happy to answer
questions and help others. Lots of information and support is available
for new 505 sailors. Top 470 sailors race 470 because they hope to go to the
Olympics; top 505 sailors race 505s because they love the boat, the class and the
The Fireball is a is a one design, class association class. It is an IYRU (now ISAF) International class. The Fireball is an interesting design, in effect a scow variant, that was intended to allow easy home construction in plywood. It is a strong worldwide class, sailed in many countries. The flat Fireball bow, and flat bottom surfaces - the boat resembles a "barrel" with flat planes
combined to produce a curved structure, result in some interesting motion in a seaway, though in reasonable breeze, the boat will plane with the flat bow well out of the water. Home built boats are not really able to compete with the professionally built boats, and the class is not growing as it did in the '60s. The North American Fireball fleet is quite a bit weaker than it was, with more activity in Canada than the US. Fireball class rules were recently changed to allow a slighltly modified hull (bow) shape. In the opinion of some Fireball sailors, this resulted in most current Fireballs becoming obsolete for International level racing. The Fireball is close to a 470 in sail area and size; the 505 is faster, better handling in rough water. The narrower and lower Fireball is fast, and feels
faster than it is. As the Portsmouth numbers indicate, the 505 is faster, though the Fireball probably sails to its rating best in windy flat water. The Fireball is somewhat noiser through the water, perhaps due to all the chines. One long time Fireball and 505 sailor characterised the Fireball as a really fun go-kart, and the 505 as a Ferrari. Ian Pinnell, a past Fireball World Champion and past 505 European Champion who is currently active in both classes, describes the differences this way:
505 are by far the nicest boats to sail, especially on the sea. The
competetion is stronger from overseas making it most interesting. Currently we have 8 countries who are capable of winning World championship races. 505 sailors are generally older with more disposable income. I. E. they are more expensive to run and buy. 505 sailors drink more!! ..."
I edited the final sentence of Ian's quote (which was a point where he believes the Fireballs do rather better than the 505s), as it does not meet current political correctness standards...
Both the Fireball and the 505 are self rescuing, and easy to right after a capsize. The Fireball is a good choice for lighter teams in windy venues, and goes well with 470 sized sailors.
The 505 is a higher performance boat than the Fireball. The Fireball is less restrictive in construction and control system rules than the 470, but slightly more restrictive than the 505.
The International 14 is a class association,
development class that has changed, and continues to change considerably within the few basic measurement rules. Many of the concepts now taken for granted in high performance dinghies were pioneered in the I-14. Planing hulls, trapezes, the 505 hull flare and more, were all tried in the I-14 first, and then used for one design classes that were developed with those ideas. The I-14 has a long proud history, dating back
to before the turn of the century. The I-14 is an IYRU (now ISAF)
A development class is fundamentally different from a one design class, as the development class allows a much wider variation between the boats. A significant part of the game in a development class is designing a faster boat or rig. A
one design class seeks to minimize the differences between boats, so that the game is being a better sailor than your rivals, using very similar equipment. One designs normally cost less to race, as you can buy a boat and race it for some time competitively.
In a development class, the next good idea could make your current boat obsolete! In the I-14, beyond development within the (limited) class rules, the class is changing the rules! This is to merge the I-14 with the Australian and New Zealand 14 foot skiffs. All I-14s currently in existence were made obsolete by the rule changes agreed upon earlier in 1995.
Whereas there are 17 year old 505s (those that were built fully cored with epoxy resin) that are competitive at the World Championship
level, I-14s tend to become obsolete in rather shorter timeframes due to the design and rule changes. The latest rule changes will make all currently existing I-14s obsolete, though some may be modified to the new rules.
The current I-14, with its double trapeze, large asymmetric spinnaker, large upwind sail area, and short waterline length, is a fast, very challenging boat to sail. It could be compared to a dragster - fast, powerful, hard to handle - while the 505 is a Formula 1, or an exotic sports car, also very fast but easier to handle, better balanced and easier to handle and suited to a road course rather than a straight line. Though the 505 is narrow on the waterline, the hull flares out to a maximum width of 6' 2". as the boat heels, the rail is immersed, and the center of buoyancy moves closer to the rail; the result is more stability as the boat heels. The 505 also develops very little weather helm as it heels; the rudder rarely stalls even when the boat is being sailed "on its ear". The flare also makes the 505 drier, as the spray is deflected away from the skipper and crew. One 14 sailor who switched to 505s noted that on a 14, you hold onto things, while in the rounded tanked 505, you merely held yourself off them. Once I-14s
have been built to the new rules (I-14 rules changed in 1996), the new rules 14s will be faster - in expert hands - than a 505. The 14 is and will be much harder to sail.
505s are more tactical as they are much easier to tack, and they are easier to sail, so a 505 fleet is racing around the course in breezy conditions, when a significant part of the I-14 fleet is having trouble keeping their boats upright. A top 14 team will make their boat go very fast, and could well be faster around the course than a top 505. Speed comparisons are mixed, as both classes can easily remember occasions they were faster than the other.
asymmetric spinnaker makes the boat extremely fast downwind on its
optimum angle for the conditions. The 505 has a much wider range of "fast" angles" and can tight reach with its" symmetric spinnaker in conditions where the I-14 could not fly a chute on a tight reach.
The level of skill and athleticism required to race an I-14 well is such that most people are not going to be successful racing them, probably not even sailing them! The 14 may be faster, but the 505 is almost as fast, more stable, and easier to sail. While both boats
are self rescuing, the 505 is easier to right after a capsize. People have won races in 505s despite capsizing more than once; you lose more time, and come up with more water in the boat, in most I-14s.
The 505 is a considerably larger class, with over 1200 members, and active fleets in 18
countries. The 14 has never been very numerous, and is not sailed in as many countries.
The One Design 14 is a is a one design,
one builder class.
The One Design 14 is a simplified version of a mid '80s International 14.
The Cross III I-14 hull shape was used, with a cheaper rig, and many of the controls
simplified to reduce the cost. As the name indicates, the OD 14 is a one design
class, so quite different from the I-14 in that respect. Since the I-14
has continued to develop, while the OD 14 has stayed the same, the two classes
are increasingly different. The OD 14 has an
and twin trapezes.
The 505 is more tactical, and being more strongly constructed they will stay
competitive longer. They are less extreme and better mannered, making
the 505 easier to sail. As with the I-14, the OD 14 with the
asymmetric spinnaker is very fast on
its optimum downwind spinnaker angle for the conditions. The 505 is faster the
rest of the time, and is rated noticeably faster by the US Sailing Portsmouth
handicap system. The 505 is easier to sail most of the time, due to its greater stability,
and longer waterline length. The 505s
symmetric spinnaker gives the 505 a much
wider range of "fast angles" downwind, while the 505s adjustable rig gives
it a wider range of "fast angles" upwind.
The strict one design class rules of the One Design 14 do not allow you
to rig the control system to suit you. You have to sail it with the fittings
it comes with, whether or not they suit you. The control systems of the One Design 14
are much simpler than those of a typical 505.
The level of skill necessary to
sail a double trapeze boat well is quite high. The 505 gives you faster
all round performance, is more stable, and is easier to sail. On a windy
day, three sail reaching on the OD14 will be quite a thrill - if you can keep
The Laser II is a is a one design,
one builder class.
The Laser II is a two person spinnaker and trapeze boat built using the
same technologies as its older brother the Laser. It is very numerous in
North America and many countries worldwide, and is a larger class than the 505. Being a high volume, production
boat built like the Laser has caused some problems, as the higher loads
placed on the Laser II (than on the Laser) have caused problems with the
construction methods. The boat is basically uncored - coremat is not a true
core material - and some key fittings are screwed rather than bolted on. The
result is a cheap light fast little boat that does not last very long. Though
simple, the daggerboard construction can cause considerable damage to the daggerboard
and the boat when you run aground. The Laser II is a great boat for kids to
learn to sail on. In many areas it is the boat of choice for youth training and racing. It is too small for adults. Being a very strict one-design,
you are not free to move the (minimal) fittings around so they suit you.
The result is kludged rig controls such as tying knots to
stop the transom block sliding on the bridle.
The 505 is a more sophisticated, faster and longer lasting boat, and is much
better suited to adult sized people. The 505 is a significantly higher performance
boat, yet is no harder to sail than the Laser II, as it is very well mannered and forgiving
for a high performance boat. The 505 also has a much wider crew
weight range, though the Laser II is a better boat for two light weights, or kids.
Both boats are easy to capsize; being smaller, the Laser II is probably easier to right
after a capsize. The Laser II turns turtle easily.
505 vs. 420
The 420 is a is an International, one design,
class association class. It is primarily used as a junior trainer, a role that is has
excelled in for years. It often competes with the Laser II for the two person spinnaker and trapeze junior trainer. While the Laser II is often faster, the 420 resembles its larger
cousins, the 470 and the 505 more. It has a pivoting centerboard, and has a real cockpit, unlike the board boat Laser II. The 420 is smaller, slower, lighter, and easier
to sail than the 505. It is an ideal trainer for kids, or for a parent and young child
combination. Once you have mastered the 420, you can step up to the 505. Both 420
and 505 are self rescuing, and easy to right after a capsize.
The Laser 5000 is a is a one design,
one builder class. It has an asymmetric spinnaker,
and twin trapezes. A system of adjustable width racks and extra weight for light
teams is intended to equalize righting moment and weight between teams.
The Laser 5000 is built inexpensively, and in an effort to build it strong and stiff
out of conventional fiberglass, is heavy. The 505 is much better
built, stronger and longer lasting, though a new 505 costs more. It is a strong
class (505 has 1200 members in 18 countries), with active fleets in the US. The adjustability of the 505 rig allows it handle a wider range of conditions than the Laser 5000.
The Laser 5000 is currently not built in North America, and to my knowledge
is not raced anywhere in North America.
Recent rumors suggest that Sunfish/Laser will not support the Laser 5000 in favor of the Bethwaite 16 foot skiff, the 49er.
The Flying Dutchman was an IYRU (ISAF) Olympic class, but
lost the Olympic status recently. The FD is a class association,
One Design class.
The 505 and the FD were introduced to the sailing world at about the same
time. The IYRU conducted trials to select one of them as the two person
dinghy for the Olympics. The longer heavier FD, with its large overlapping
genoa was slightly faster, and was selected. Despite this initial setback,
or perhaps instead of it, the non Olympic 505 thrived from that point on,
and is a much more numerous class worldwide. The FD has stellar upwind performance,
planing upwind easily, and faster upwind than a 505 in medium and strong breezes. The
lighter 505 is usually faster and livelier downwind. There was an FD
versus 505 event run in England, each class won it about half the time, with
both sides muttering as how they never got their best sailors there, and were
therefore not properly represented. The 505 is easier and faster to tack,
and can respond to windshifts better. The FD is more stable, and has a
higher boom. The FD is easier to sail, but harder to sail at the top levels,
as rig tuning is critical - even more so than in the 505. A typical FD versus
505 race result, when both classes have top sailors present, is that the first
2 or 3 FDs beat all the 505s, then most of the 505 fleet finishes, then
the remainder of the FDs come in. A 505 fleet is closer in speed than an FD
Both boats allow cored construction and use of hi-tech materials, so good boats
in both classes have long competitive lives.
The loss of Olympic status has hurt the FD class. Though still very strong
in some European countries, it was sailed in many other countries primarily
as it was an Olympic class. In North America, the class has not been strong
for some time. The boats left over from the Olympic campaigners
will last a very long time, and are often bought by sailors for local racing
of a high performance boat. The FD recently increased the size of their
spinnaker and lengthened the spinnaker pole in an effort to improve downwind
performance. Though this was done in part to give the FD 505-like
performance downwind, it is not clear if the FD has improved enough to stay
with the 505 downwind. Many sailors have raced in both classes.
The 505 is rather stronger than the FD in the US and Canada; getting larger
turnouts at most local and national events.
The Vanguard 15 is a is a one design,
one builder class.
The Vanguard 15 is a relatively light, two person non-spinnaker, non-trapeze boat. It is one of the newest designs that fit this description. Vanguard, the builder, is marketing the V15 heavily, and the class is growing quickly in the United States. The Vanguard 15 construction is designed to keep costs down and allow the boat to be built quickly. The Vanguard 15 is simpler, and easier to sail than the 505. The Vanguard 15 rates very slightly slower than a JY15 and slower than an Albacore under US Sailing Portsmouth.
The 505 is much faster, has a spinnaker and trapeze, will last considerably longer, and is an international class raced in 18 countries, not just one. While at first glance easier than trapezing, hiking is hard work, somewhat painful, and not very rewarding (hike a little harder and go just a little bit
faster, trapeze and go twice as fast). Can you race a Vanguard 15
in 30+ knots? The much higher performance 505 is actually quite easy
to sail for the performance level. Clearly, the 505 is not for everyone, and people who are not interested in trapezes, spinnakers, and very high performance, would
be happier sailing a V15.
The JY15 is a is a one design,
one builder class. The JY15 is another competitor in the two person no spinnaker, no trapeze category. It is about the same speed as the V15, based on US Sailing Portsmouth ratings. The JY15 has an optional trapeze and spinnaker - the JY Turbo model - but is not raced with them. The JY15 is simpler and easier to sail than the 505. As with the Vanguard 15, if you are not interested in spinnaker, trapeze and high performance, the JY 15 is a better boat for you than the 505.
The 505 is much faster, has a spinnaker and trapeze, will last
longer, is an international class raced in 18 countries, not
just one. The 505 is much stronger due to the materials and construction. Can you race a JY 15 in 30+ knots?
The Snipe is a is a one design,
class association class. The Snipe is an older design that is probably the strongest contender in the two person no spinnaker, no trapeze category. The sail area is small, and it is heavier and
slower than the JY15, V15, and some other two person boats. It has a
very strong, professionally managed class association, with many fleets and excellent turnouts at local, national and international events.
The 505 is much faster and more exciting to sail, and has a spinnaker and trapeze. Snipes are closer in speed, and easier for beginners and inexperienced or un-athletic people to sail in normal conditions. The Snipe is rather heavier, and harder to drag around on shore. The Snipe has reputation for close tactical racing, but gaining or losing 10 boatlengths is actually much easier to do in a 505 - the 505s look a little more spread out on the race course, but at the top places may be changing just as fast as they do in the Snipe. The 505 has a much wider range of "fast angles" upwind and down, so provides many more tactical options in some situations. Both boats have adjustable rigs that allow the boat to be tuned for a range of conditions and crew weights. The Snipe is very strong in the US.
The Albacore is a 15 foot, plumb bow two person boat, with a hull shape resembling a very old I 14, or a Thistle, which though larger, was based on an old 14 hull shape. The Albacore is a one design, class association class; it is not an IYRU (now ISAF) International class, and is sailed in England, Ontario Canada, and parts of the US East Coast. The Albacore does not have a spinnaker or trapeze by class rules, but is sometimes rigged with them for junior training purposes. The class rules of the three countries differ in some details, for example shroud levers, so Albacores are not a complete one design class. Earlier boats differed more in hull shape, as the class was defined by boats built from an approved mould in each country, rather then by a set of measurments. The older boats were all grandfathered so they can still race. The older single
skin fiberglass boats are not competitive with the wooden, or foam cored boats in wind and waves. The Albacore develops weather helm quickly as it heels, and can be a handful on a windy day, as two people have to control its 470-sized sail area without a trapeze. The boat is fast on a plane and handles well. It is faster than a Vanguard 15 and faster than a Laser by US Sailing Portsmouth ratings. Albacores have seat tanks, inside the rail, so you sit in the boat rather than on the boat, when not hiking out. The Albacore is an excellent stepping stone into the 505; many Albacore sailors have bought 505s. The 505 is a rather higher performance boat that planes much more easily. It is well balanced, and does not generate lots of weather helm when heeled. On a windy day, it may well be easier to gybe than the Albacore. Both boats are self rescuing, and both are easy to right after a capsize. The spinnaker and trapeze of the 505 would not be familiar to Albacore sailors, but are easily mastered, and make the 505 much more exciting to sail. The trapeze, and the adjustability of the rig, allow the 505 to race in extreme conditions where the Albacore, and almost all other dinghies, could not.
The International Canoe is a is a one design,
class association class; it is not an IYRU (now ISAF)
International class, but has international status
under the ICF (International Canoe Federation). It could be characterized
as a restricted development class rather than a tight one design. The hull
design has been standardized since 1970 with fairly loose tolerances
(+- 0.75"), but the rig and blades are pretty much wide open."
The International Canoe has a highly optimized rig, with a small jib
and a fully battened main. Rather than a trapeze, it uses a
sliding seat. It is faster upwind in some conditions than
the 505. The 505 is faster downwind as it has a spinnaker, and is usually
faster around the course, though this depends on conditions.
The 505 is quite a bit stronger in North America and around the world
than the Canoe, being raced in 18 countries. Canoes are raced
in 7 countries with, at best, several hundred active sailors. The
Canoe, like the 505, has a sophisticated rig. A number of boats have
adjust-on-the-fly rig tension and mast rake, as do many 505s. Some European Canoes use jibing boards, and even articulating blades
(trim tabs to get asymmetric foils). In addition I've seen daggerboards
that can be raked and/or slide fore and aft. There is a lot of adjustability
both on the water and shore to set up a rig for a specific weight skipper.
Once a development class allowing different
hull shapes, the International Canoe is now a one design class that
standardized on one hull shape. Pre-standardization hulls have been
"grandfathered" so they can still race. Some development continues
in the US, which does not race as a strict one design class.
The boat is very challenging to sail, and will toss you in for a
swim the moment you are not concentrating. It is really a "full on"
boat that is difficult to relax between races in. While a very high performance
boat, you can heave to in a 505 by backing the jib, and relax between
races while eating lunch.
A canoe tends to be less tactical than a 505, primarily because of the difficulty of tacking.
If you really want to race single handed, the Canoe is the fastest
and most exciting International class to pick. These are cool boats!
The International Contender is a is a one design,
class association class. The Contender has 1
sail, and a trapeze.
The 505 is faster than the Contender, has much stronger
North American fleets, and is considerably stronger around
the world. The 505 is much faster downwind, and in light air
than the underpowered Contender. The Contender never really
"caught on", in North America.
The Laser is a is a one design,
one builder class. It is one of the largest
classes, and is numerous in many countries.
The Laser has very successfully hit a niche for an inexpensive
performance single hander. It has become more expensive
over time, now costing about $4500 for a new, race equipped
boat. At the top levels of the class, Lasers do not last
very long, and are replaced frequently by top competitors.
The selection of the Laser as an Olympic class has strengthened
the boat's position as the most competitively sailed single hander
and probably class, in the world, but has caused the class some
problems, both in terms of the deadly seriousness with which
some of the competitors now take racing, and in the weaknesses
in the boat itself that Olympic-level competition is revealing.
Upper mast sections break regularly, and mast steps break
with depressing frequency, not just in older boats as before.
Because of the desire to "minimize cost", the use of additional blocks
in the control lines is prohibited. Years ago people started inventing
complicated rigging methods that basically build up a set of "blocks" by
tying small bowline loops and running the lines back and forth. This
doesn't work too well because of the high friction, plus it wears out the
lines really fast. So to save the cost of a couple of blocks, you need to
replace your vang (and cunningham, and outhaul) lines every other race.
Recently the rules were changed to allow the use of thimbles in the
lines to reduce the friction; I suspect that the added purchase that
will be possible by this method will result in even more broken masts.
The Laser has a narrow optimum weight range. It is a great boat to race
if you are 175-185, over 6 ft tall, and very strong and fit. The extreme
one design rules prevent you doing anything to the boat to adjust it to
different crew weights.
The 505 is much faster, much longer lasting, and is much more
tuneable, allowing a much wider crew weight range to sail
them. Since it is an Olympic class, competition in the
Laser is very keen; competition in the 505 class is also
quite keen, but no-one is doing a full time 505 campaign.
You can have a family a job and a normal life and still
race 505s successfully; you cannot with a Laser. When you tire of
the Laser, try the 505 fleet. There are many ex Laser sailors crewing
and skippering 505s.
The Finn is a is a one design,
class association class. It has been an Olympic
class since the '60s. The Finn is a bigger heavier boat than the Laser,
and is optimized for larger, heavier, very strong males. Though quite
easy to sail in light air, the boat is extremely demanding in medium and
heavy air. In Finn's the bailers in the floor are to let the blood out.
Many of the greats, like Paul Elvstrom, have raced Finns. If you are over
6 foot, over 185 lbs. very strong and fit, and you want to go to the Olympics,
the Finn is an excellent choice. When you are on the last beat of a long
Olympic course on a windy day and you are very tired as you slowly beat
up the leg, the sight of a 505 planing easily upwind at twice your speed
with the crew flat out on the wire and the skipper waving as they go by,
may make you wonder if you made the correct choice. You are encouraged to
inquire about 505s, as Finn sailors can make ideal 505 crews.
The Europe is a is an Olympic, one design,
class association class. It is optimized for lighter people
than the Laser, probably a little lighter than the Laser Radial, and much lighter than the Finn. It has a single sail, and no trapeze.
It is sailed by women in the Olympics, though in other events both sexes sail the
Europe. Since it is not as restrictive in rules as the Laser, it can be set up to suit
the sailor. The Europe uses a carbon fiber mast, which can be adjusted to match
the sailor's height and weight. In this respect if resembles the larger and heavier Finn, and is not like the Laser and Laser radial, which have narrower optimum weight ranges.
The Moth is a is a development,
class association class. They are very highly developed. Current Moth designs are very light, narrow, fast, and challenging to sail. They are probably the most difficult dinghy to sail well, being only twelve inches wide. Current Moths have racks for hiking out on. A few International Moths are now using hydrofoils.
The Lightning is a is a one design,
class association class.
The Lightning is a much heavier, larger, 3 person boat. It is
a hard chined design, originally intended for sheet plywood
construction. The 505 is much easier to tow and move around the drysail area, and is
much faster in any wind. Both boats are quite tunable. The 505
uses a trapeze, while all three sailors in the Lightning have to
hike to keep the boat upright. The Lightning is very strong in
North America and is strong Worldwide.
The Thistle is a is a one design,
class association class.
Thistle is a strong US Class with a great organization, and lots of fleets. The Thistle has
good local and national racing. Old wooden Thistles "woodies" as well as newer
fiberglass boats are equally competitive. The high - by 505 standards - hull
weight allows boats to be built stiff and strong without using exotic
materials. At the construction weights used, the Thistle lasts indefinitely, though wooden parts can rot if not properly protected and maintained.
Thistle is a three
person boat that is sometimes sailed by two. It has a large sail area, and includes
a spinnaker, but has no trapeze. You have to hike hard in a breeze on the
Thistle's narrow gunwales. To control costs, the Thistle does not allow
many control systems - as some other one design classes have done. The result
is that you cannot put on some control systems that would make sailing the boat
easier. In 2000, the Thistle finally allowed twing systems, maybe possibly in response to this article complaining that they did not. :-) This article used to say:
For example, the Thistle does not allow spinnaker sheet/guy twing systems,
you have to grab the guy and manually hook it into the guy cleat when you gybe.
The combination of large sail area, no trapeze, an inability to adjust mast bend and shroud tension while racing, means that the Thistle
is overpowered in a good breeze. I have been told that
"There is no class rule that prevents racing above a certain
windspeed. Itís the race committee's call. Generally, sustained winds
over 20 knots (with the higher gusts that accompany them) will be enough
to discourage races."
These are conditions where the combination of the 505's
trapeze and very adjustable rig are making it very fast and very exciting
to sail. In light air, the Thistle's large sail area makes it a stellar
performer; it can even challenge the 505 in drifters.
The Thistle is self rescuing, but as photos on the Thistle home page indicate, the procedure with older boats involved leaving two people in the water while one climbs in, and tries
to bail the boat out faster than water comes in the top of the centerboard trunk. "Thistles with recommended flotation (which would include all built since the mid-1970s) can be self-rescued after scooping all of the crew into the boat, though at least a short period of bucket bailing
to get the gunwales well above the chop will hasten a return to the race."
505, you can right the boat with one person on the CB, scoop up the second person or have them climb in, open the bailers, sheet in and go- the boat will be bailed dry in a couple of minutes by the suction bailers, and if you are quick, you will not lose much. The moment the 505 is upright with
two people in it, you are back in the race!
The Flying Scot is a is a one design,
class association class. The Flying Scot is a popular
North American class. Boats are roomy, heavy, beamy and quite stable. They
are however difficult (sometimes impossible) to self rescue if they do
capsize, though they are normally quite difficult to capsize.
Flying Scots are raced by two or three people. The Flying Scot uses
a spinnaker, but is so stable, it does not need a trapeze. Flying Scots
are popular family boats. The stability and high boom make it an easy
boat to sail. Racing is usually close, as Flying Scots all seem to go
almost the same speed. The heavy construction means that boats last a
long time. They are very simply rigged.
The 505 is much faster and livelier, and more challenging to sail. It is not
as numerous in North America, but is a strong
International Class, raced in
at least 18 countries, while the Flying Scot is US only. The 505 requires a somewhat higher level of fitness
and agility than does the Flying Scot. The 505 is quite a bit easier
to capsize, but is easily self rescued if you do capsize. The 505 has many more controls,
making it a more complicated boat, but also allowing the crew to adjust the boat to suit
the conditions to a greater extent than in the Flying Scot.
- Cruising Keelboat
- Cruising keelboats have accommodations - berths, a head, and some kind
of galley. While anything can be raced, cruising keelboats are really not optimized
for racing, but for day sailing or cruising. Cruising keelboats normally race under
a handicap system such as PHRF or IMS, that attempts to assign a numerical
handicap to each boat. After applying the handicap, the boat with the lowest
corrected time, wins the race. Without going into a detailed discussion, no handicap system can perfectly handicap different types of boats, in a wide range of conditions. Many sailors prefer having the handicap as an excuse for their performance. There are a phenomenal number of different cruising keelboats out there.
- Racing Keelboat
- A racing keelboat is a keelboat designed and built primarily for racing.
In many cases, it may race under PHRF or IMS as well. To do so it must have minimal
berths, head and galley. A successful racing keelboat design has enough
of that model built, that it normally races against similar boats, as a
one design not under
a handicap system. Examples of well known racing keelboats are the J24, J30,
Melges 24, and Melges 24. Some racing keelboats make no effort to meet PHRF
and IMS requirements, as they are intended to race one design exclusively.
This means that they do not need berths, head and galley. Examples of this type of
racing keelboat include the Star, Soling, and Etchells.
- Development Class
- A development class has looser class rules than a one design class.
The intent is not to have boats that are close to identical, but to foster
development of faster boats and rigs within the parameters of the development
class rules. Over time, development classes become faster, as faster hulls
and rigs are developed. This change results in older boats being obsolesced, but
allows a development class to stay current with new ideas and technology. In this
regard, a development class is different from a one design class, where all
boats are built to a similar design, and the class measurement rules are tight, so
that differences between the boats are minimized. Well known examples of
development classes are the International 14 and the Moth. In both these classes
current boats are quite different from the boats of say 15 years ago. The new
boats are faster, and differ markedly in shape.
- One Design Class
- A One design class is a class where all
boats are built to a similar design, and the class measurement rules are tight, so
that differences between the boats are minimized.
The one builder
classes are one design classes, as only one version of the boat is built. One
builder classes often dispense with detailed measurement rules, as the builder
assures that the boats are the same shape and weight. This is not always
successful, as even boats in one-builder classes sometimes differ. Some one
design classes have very close to identical boats, while others allow
some variations, though not in hull or rig dimensions. The Laser is a very
strict one design, where an owner is allowed almost no leeway in where fittings
are mounted, while class association one designs such as the Snipe,
Lightning and Thistle, have hulls and rigs built to a close tolerance, but allow
the owner to select a mast section, and to lay out the control systems to suit
them. One Design classes seek to stop or at least minimize change, to prevent
the obsolescence of boats, and protect the owners investment as long as practical.
One Design classes emphasize the sailors sailing ability, as opposed to development
classes which include a test of the designers in the mix.
- Class Association Class
- A Class Association Class is run by an association of boat owners. The
class association controls the class rules, and has boats measured to ensure
that they meet the class rules. Anyone, or at least multiple builders, are
allowed to build boats of that class, provided they meet the measurement rules.
Normally, an owner can select a mast and boom from any manufacturer, provided
it meets the measurement rules. There may be some flexibility in how the
mast is rigged, depending on which class it is. Well known examples of class
association classes are the Snipe, Thistle, Lightning, 470, 420, 505, Finn,
- International Class
- The International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU) now renamed the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) has conferred the status
of International on a selected number of classes. Stringent requirements
regarding number of continents and countries having fleets, class
measurement, class administration, and major event procedures must be met
for classes to retain International Status. There are currently
a number of International Classes in four categories, boards, centerboard boats,
keelboats, and catamarans. The following are the International centerboard
For further information on IYRU (now ISAF) International Classes, link to the
IYRU Home Page.
- Laser II
- OK Dinghy
- Olympic Class
- A small number of classes are selected for use in the summer Olympic's
yachting events. These classes are often known as Olympic classes.
For the '96 Olympics, the Olympic classes are:
- 3 person keelboat - Soling
- 2 person keelboat - Star
- 2 person catamaran - Tornado
- 2 person dinghy - 470
- 1 person dinghy - Laser
- 1 person dinghy - Finn
- 1 person dinghy - Europe
- 1 person sailboard - Mistral
- One Builder Class
- A One builder class is created, and at least initially, run by the
builder, not by a class association. A key aspect of a one builder class,
is that only one builder, or only builders licensed by the primary builder,
can build boats of this type. The similarity of the boats is normally controlled
by all builders using tooling - molds - that are in theory identical. Though
builder classes usually try to create a supporting class association, the single
builder retains considerable influence over the class. The lack of additional
builders means that there is no competition amongst builders to build better
versions of this class. Builders are in business to make money, not to foster
the activities of the xyz class, so the one builder class is at the mercy of the
builder. For example, the builder has little incentive to help owners fix up
very old boats; the builder makes no money doing so, and may forgo the opportunity
to sell a new boat. In many cases, builder classes disappear when the builder
determines that it is no longer economically sound to continue building boats
of this type. Well known examples of one builder classes are the J24, Laser,
Mumm 36, Laser 5000, One Design 14, Hobie 14, Hobie 16, and Hobie 18.
- Asymmetric Spinnaker
- The asymmetric spinnaker is set on a bowsprit rather than a spinnaker
pole. It resembles the cruising keelboat's cruising spinnaker or gennaker.
It looks like a large, full foresail tacked to a bowsprit. The leech and
the luff are different in length, and the sail is always flown with the wind
flowing around the luff first, then sliding along the sail to the leech. The
use of a bowsprit rather than a spinnaker pole means that gybing the asymmetric
is really just like gybing with a large genoa up. The asymmetric cannot
be gybed with the spinnaker full like a symmetric can, but is normally rather
easier to gybe. There is no pole to gybe
as with the traditional symmetric spinnaker. However, the bowsprit is either
fixed, or is able to angle only slightly aft. This prevents the crew from
rotating the sail to windward, and effectively limits how low the spinnaker
can be carried. Asymmetric spinnakers cannot normally be carried below a
broad reach, and usually collapse before the boat is on a dead run. They
have a narrow optimum angle, and less effective above or below that angle.
They are best suited for light weight high performance boats that would
usually want to sail high angles on runs.
The asymmetric is a recent innovation in racing sailboats, and its use is
limited to the I14, One Design 14, Melges 24, Laser 5000, and a couple of other
- Symmetric Spinnaker
- A symmetric spinnaker is, as the name indicates a symmetric sail (bilateral
symmetry), with equal length luffs. One side is the luff on one tack, while
the other is the luff on the other tack. It is set on a spinnaker pole, which is
attached at the inboard end to the mast. The spinnaker pole can be rotated
anywhere from the centerline of the boat (straight forward from mast) back
to the shroud (sometimes aft of 90 degrees). This allows the crew to pull
the spinnaker to weather, and keep it out of the windshadow of the mainsail.
During a Gybe the spinnaker pole must be moved from one side of the boat
to the other, a maneuver that some find intimidating.
Ali Meller / email@example.com