Fixing up your boat
Getting Into the 5o5 Class on a Tight Budget
Updated February 14, 19
Ed. - I saw 505 4565 at the 1993 North American Championship in New Bedford. The boat leaked badly and most of the rigging barely worked. It must have been quite frustrating to sail it. Andrew Cole bought 4565 shortly afterwards, and has done a great job of fixing the boat up and getting it back on the race course.
Yes you can get into the 5o5 Class for less than the cost of many used Lasers. The following is a breakdown of expenses which I incurred while acquiring and preparing a 5o5 last year. Before I begin, every boat is different. If you want a boat in which to win a North American or World Championship, this article is not for you. Do yourself a favor and buy a new or used Waterat or Lindsay. This article is geared toward producing an entry level boat at a fraction of the cost of a Superboat (see the homepage article on differences between boats). The boat in the article is by far the most fun for the money of any boat I can think of. The boat is not wholly uncompetitive, and when just sailing around on a breezy day I can't imagine anything faster.
I bought my boat last summer after talking with Nick Trotman one day. I said something like "i'd really love to get a 5o5, but they are way " too expensive for me." we discussed the prices of competitive boats for a " while. These seemed very low, but still too much for me. Somehow it came up that an older boat was for sale near where I was working. I contacted the guy and went out to see the boat. The boat looked in reasonable shape, and had all the main parts (hull, mast, boom, blades, sails). Obviously I had some work ahead of me, but not too bad a job. The price for the boat and all the equipment was $950. The price included a Rapide dolly as well. At the time I felt as if I were getting the deal of the century, but looking at lists of boats for sale, this is about right. You can get a similar vintage boat for between $250 and $1500. While a $250 boat might give you more cash to use in repairs and modifications, the price of parts which a $1000 boat might include can quickly negate the savings.
If I were doing this again with what I know now I would definitely look for some certain things in the boat. First, is the mast in good shape? A new mast is over $1000, and used they still run in the neighborhood of $450+. Second, look at blades. As long as the rudder works or is easily repairable, it is probably not as critical as other things. The centerboard should be in serviceable shape. A new centerboard is between $550 and $650 and used boards are nonexistent. A gybing board would be a real find, but an old standard board is all right in an old boat (this is what I'm using right now). Next look for major structural problems. I haven't found any with my boat, but there is another article on the homepage which describes some things to look for. A lot of hull repairs can be done by anyone with some fiberglass experience or with a little help, but be realistic about your abilities as professional fiberglass work is expensive. Look at the boom and running rigging, but do not rule out a boat because of rigging problems. This stuff is the easiest to repair or replace cheaply. As long as the boom is in one piece you should be ok. Lines are pretty inexpensive to replace one by one, but if all the lines in the boat need replacing it could get expensive (5o5s do have a pretty good length of line running around). Last I'd look at sails and spinnaker pole. Plan to buy some good used sails seperately. Used sails in good shape are pretty cheap compared with new sails, and most older used boats probably won't have too many newer racing sails anyway. Spinnaker poles are cheap new, at about $130, a used Laser II pole is nearly identical as well (within an inch).
Ok, back to my boat. Once I had the boat, there were a few things I needed to do. Many of the controls were in the wrong places or run wrong. Three words for keeping costs down while redoing rigging; Recycle, Recycle, Recycle. I put every cleat, line, block, washer, screw (useable), in a bag to reuse if the opportunity arose (which it often did). When redoing the rigging on a 5o5 it is very important to make sure everything runs smoothly and cleats in a good place. Find someone in your area with a good current boat and take a lot of pictures and ask a lot of questions. If possible, get someone active in the class to sail with you and suggest ways to improve your rigging. If you don't have any 5o5s in your area, try to get to a regatta which will have 5o5s, or write a class member and get pictures. And again, ask questions until you know more than everyone else in North America (this won't happen); you will find most 5o5 sailors love only one thing almost as much as sailing the boat, and that is talking about it. (Ed: Eh tu, Brute!)
The biggest single obstacle for an older boat while racing is poor boathandling caused by improperly working controls. Here is a list of all the control system modifications I made to my boat (Parker 4565).
- The jib leads were completely wrong. After a lot of research and even more questions, I opted for a fixed lead. I did this for a number of reasons. First, many good 5o5 sailors do not adjust jib leads very often. Second, this kept costs down a lot. I looked into the cost of just about every adjustment system I had seen or had heard of, and then some more, and all cost a fair amount of money. The fixed leads cost $32.50 for a pair of cheek blocks to turn the sheet forward, and I recycled another pair of Harkens for the actual lead block (my lead blocks are tied to a padeye at the tank thwart join and adjusted to the class standard position, this allows me to adjust them between races if necessary). Check the tuning sheets on the homepage for measurements on nearly everything from spreader height to centerboard pin location.
- Next I moved the mainsheet ratchet as far forward as was practical. This is important because it allows you to stay further forward during tacks. If your boat does not already have it, install end boom sheeting. This is a very inexpensive modification (move the aft block on the boom to the end, attach a pair of eyestraps to the corners of the transom, and make a split mainsheet using your current one). Moving the ratchet is also cheap and easy.
- I was lucky in that the jib halyard and shroud adjustment systems were usable as they came. I replaced some of the lines and adjusted the lengths to get the mast straight from side to side and ensure the rake would adjust through the 25'9"-25'1" range (this seems to be about the maximum adjustment you ever need sailing a 5o5). If you are not lucky enough to have these systems work, there are various ways to set them up for different budgets and degrees of adjustability.
- The trapeze system on my boat was all right, but the handles were too low and the line was pretty old. Both of these problems were fixed with minimal expense using recycled line and a pair of $.05 nicro press sleeves. I also switched the handles to the spinnaker stopper disk type.
- One of the last modifications I made which turned out to be about the most beneficial was to improve the vang. My boat had a Parker standard setup with the tackle coming down through the centerboard cap, aft, and out to the sides just in front of the traveler. This system seems to work all right when the boat is on shore, but while sailing, the cleats are in the wrong place, and the lines bind on the blocks on the centerboard cap whenever the boom is out at all. I now have a system pretty close to a Waterat standard. Using the same tackle between the boom and the base of the mast, attach two Harken bullet blocks near where the vang attaches to the bottom of the mast to replace the blocks in the centerboard cap. Next attach two micros to the corners where the bulkhead and tank meet on either side. The vertical position of the micros will depend on where you will lead the line aft. I lead it aft just over the top of the thwart, so the micros were positioned about 1/2 inch higher than the top of the thwart. Likewise attach two micro cheek blocks (Harken 233) about 1/2 inch higher than the thwart to turn the line up to the cleat. Affix small cam cleats on the tank above the cheek blocks. Look at a Waterat or get pictures of one and pick the best place for the cleats. Make sure they are far enough forward not to be under your forward leg while sailing upwind in normal position. Ensure when installing all the blocks that the line runs straight through, and doesn't chafe or bind the blocks. This will make a huge difference in the sailability of the boat. Replacing the vang cost about $60 in hardware and fasteners (make sure you get large stainless bolts and generous backing plates for everything, remember, the vang carries pretty heavy loads).
Fortunately, my boat came with a decent current jib and spinnaker. However the best main left something to be desired. I bought a year old main in good shape for $200. Most of those sails are in nearly new shape, you may be able to find slightly older and cheaper sails which are still in good shape.
The last major repair I have planned is to replace my bailers. Unfortunately, bailers are expensive, I forsee spending $150 on the pair. This didn't seem very important until sailing two races at the midwinters when I failed to finish in light air because of a boat full of water.
While this boat is not a world beater, it is a lot of fun. It got me to some windward marks at Midwinters well inside the top ten before major tactical errors put me back in the teens where I probably belong. The nice thing about any 5o5 is that you are going really fast no matter where you are in the fleet. Even in the back half of the fleet at Midwinters, we were still ahead of the first One Design 14 most of the time.
Costs of Rebuilding and Rerigging 4565
Boat (with dolly) $950 Mainsail $200 vang $60 jib leads $32 jib and Spin sheets $40 (I think) new spin hail. $25 West Epoxy $25 misc lines and parts $100 Total $1432 (estimated for completely race rigged boat)