Ted and Matt's Excellent Adventure

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May 27, 2022, 9:08:05 AMMay 27
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Matt Hersey and Ted Bjerregard went to the 2022 NA's as the recipients of the class travel grant and went above and beyond with this road trip documentary and trip report. Link to the video and report below.

There is no need to ask, “Why sail 505’s?” to those who have spent even one afternoon on one. It’s not just the boat, but the style of racing—and more importantly the people involved—that makes the 505 class so loved and long lived. A simple but elegant design born in the 1960’s that has evolved into a carbon spaghetti monster, the boat rewards the maniacal. Putting the bow down upwind and pushing as hard as possible on the wire downwind bestows few fallbacks. Conveniently, the fastest way to sail around the course is also the most fun. Long courses and rabbit starts take the stress out of the racing, creating a tactical drag race where finding a better gear than those around you is rewarded through results. 

No questions go unanswered in the boat park. Even though every person sailing is there to win, they are equally psyched to see a new boat in the fleet and are willing to share anything they know get the newcomer up to speed. After a windy day, the club is filled with thousand-yard stares as the adrenaline fades. “How was your day? … Crazy… Could you see anything driving upwind?... Absolutely nothing.” Having sailed 420s and FJs on the Charles River through the fall, lapping a course with 1.5 mile beats off Brenton Reef in Newport in a smokey southwesterly is the promised land. If either of us could, we’d be out there every day wire running with a massive grin. That will forever be our happy place and I cannot thank the people in the 505 class for helping us find it. 

The process of traveling to and competing at 505 Midwinters and North Americans was challenging and not without hand wringing about whether or not we had any business doing such a thing. What reason did we have to take school and work off for a week and break many things on trailers and boats, just to end up back in Rhode Island—a complete circle?

  “Boohoo!” you’re saying, “Boohoo! Waaaah, we got to go sailing in Florida in February!” You’re absolutely right. We got out unscathed, we became better sailors, we became better people—more reliable, more responsible and more resilient. But to say that the good things come easy and without any anger and without any worry or gripe is entirely untrue. What follows is a rambling account of our adventure, mainly written as a thank you to the many characters who are undeniably to blame for the success of our ramshackle run southbound. It wasn’t always easy but we’d do it again in a heartbeat. 

Ted first introduced the idea of sailing a 505 to me amid the pandemic year–2021– at Northeastern University. One of us living on the eleventh floor of a high-rise dorm, alone, masking up to grab to-go meals from the dining hall and logging onto zoom classes. The other, looking sideways at sniffles from roommates across the apartment living room. The prospect of tearing around Narragansett Bay on a 505 was perhaps a dream necessary to pull us through such an isolating time.

            Despite our best efforts to fundraise, we would not touch a 505 together until a month after the 2021 fall college sailing season ended. Ted sailed the 2021 505 season in Rhode Island culminating in the Newport North Americans with stellar crew and even better man, Keith Longson. In the interest of growing the Newport fleet and investing in another 505, Longson offered Ted an investment to scrounge together a boat for himself. Had Ted not been born to Chris Bjerregaard—a man who is currently building a carbon swim ladder out of a scrapped A-cat mast—the idea of buying a college kid a 505 would’ve been befittingly foolish. However, within two months, Ted and his supervising father were able to bring the long dormant Rondar 8852 “Giovanni Giorgio”—lovingly named in honor of the king of discotec—from workably sailable to manageably raceable at a North American Championship. 

            Behind this father son duo, however, was an even larger cast of characters paving the way. Mike Zani, godfather of the Commonfence Point training group, offered wisdom, pictures of his boat’s layout and numerous spare parts. Dave Kirkpatrick managed to whisper in our ears and ensure ambitions for Clearwater North Americans 2022 were not dashed over the long winter. Duane Delfosse gave us a laundry list of items to make sure any 505 we found was worth the commitment of Longson’s investment.

            We wouldn’t have made it out of Bristol without our travel partner, Stu McNay. After his long career in the realm of Olympic 470 competition, McNay travelled to Santa Cruz to sail with Eric Anderson where the duo topped a world class 5oh conglomerate. Interested in continuing, McNay tagged Caleb Paine to hop in as crew for Clearwater, and Ted and I as caffeine-addled college kids to drive the rig down to Florida as fast as possible. 

            The road to Florida was passed by tired eyes nearly the entire way. We left from Commonfence Point after loading up Zani’s loaner boat for McNay at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday night with plans to stop for a quick sleep after D.C. At every state line, we pulled out a phone to record a quick review of the state we’d just traveled through. Such reviews will be featured for audience debate within our vlog. We also snapped quick videos of blurry monuments in the distance—New York’s skyline radiating energy, a sleepy National Mall, and rest stop recommendations and opinions.

The stay in Tampa passed expeditiously and big breeze without a radio held us onshore as the Clearwater Community Sailing Center locked up on a Sunday night. Despite our best efforts, the maiden voyage of Giovanni Giorgio would have to wait until the first day of 505 Midwinters. 

            Our preliminary stay in Florida, however rushed, was thoroughly supported by the Clearwater Community Sailing Center’s manager, Justin Ahearn. From the moment we arrived, Ahearn was always in reach and enthusiastic to answer any question. We would like to formally apologize, in writing, to Ahearn for stressing him out over us missing our flight on Sunday. We did not plan ahead, nor did we realize that getting to an airport—with bags to check—during the boarding period is not an acceptable thing to do.

            Ted and I landed home in Boston late on the Sunday evening of President’s Day weekend. I went straight back to work barbacking in the South End, and Ted had a day to sleep in and get ready for the beginning of the semester. The short three weeks in between delivering the boats and heading back to Tampa for racing went by slowly and uneventfully. However, we both had outstanding ladies to say goodbye to by the time we left for Logan Airport. Thanks go out to Bebe and Julia for supporting us during the long week.

            Returning to Tampa, we found the college crashpad we had been staying at during our first quick run to Florida and finally overlapped with our gracious host. Ted’s close friend since middle school, Ben Onofrio, extended a helping hand–the absence of which would’ve made our trip impossible. Onofrio’s home is the crash pad for many a Rhode Islander and UTampa student and was no different for us. Ben showed us around the city and was always game to hear about our day. We regret nothing but wish we would’ve had a bit more energy to enjoy his and his roommate’s company deeper into the evenings. As he knows, he always has a place to stay with us.

            In fewer words than they deserve, our fellow competitors opened our eyes to what racing sailboats might resemble at its apex. In this fleet, everyone’s a killer on the water and a friend ashore. We could not recall an instance in other fleets where world champions were introducing themselves and asking if we needed advice on anything. Specifically, Mr. Holt discussed with us the benefits and drawbacks to the current layout of the boat. Mr. Hamlin was quick with a file when we noticed a sharp Phillip’s Head screw was slicing up our forestay. Mr. Pinnell was quick to offer advice on our ram system. An exhaustive list of competitors who offered support over the week of competition would include most of the fleet.

            On Sunday evening, we watched the awards ceremony and turned north. Ted dropped off McNay at the airport and then we met back at Onofrio’s. Unlike our southbound trip, we afforded ourselves no stops to sleep or sightsee. Even still, we did not arrive back at Commonfence Point until 10:30 p.m. on Monday night with no interest in seeing each other any longer. We slept until 8 a.m. the next day, unpacked Giorgio and hit the road to return McNay’s car and catch a train for Boston from Providence.

            Ted spent the entirety of last fall explaining the intricacies of the 505 ad nauseum. After the week in Florida, I understand why his mania was so insistent. The boat reacts so quickly to mistakes that you feel like you’ve never grown as a sailor as rapidly as you do in the 505. Every change in foot placement on the wire seems to affect the rig. Incorrect timing when swinging in on a jibe, or a late throw of the main, and you’re swimming. Incorrect trim is immediately punished by stall. All of this to say that when it finally feels right, the mist seems to be clearing from the pantheon in the clouds and the sailing gods may finally be smiling on your poor soul. 

            We are indebted to the 505 American Section for their support of getting our team off the ground. Though we’re yet to accomplish what we dream to on the racecourse, we’re committed for the long haul, eager to spread the good words of “five-oh-five” and “yew!”


            Cheers and deep thanks,

            Ted Bjerregaard and Matt Hersey

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