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Severn Sailing Association Hosts 505 Training Clinic May 11-13

posted May 6, 2017, 12:44 PM by Brendan Heussler

Steve Sparkman provides coaching, top teams will attend to offer advice 

Sailors considering competing in the 2017 SAP 505 World Championship in Annapolis should mark their calenders for the weekend of May 11-13.

Local organizers of the SAP 505 World Championship will conduct a training clinic that weekend that will help competitors of all levels to prepare for the regatta and venue.

Severn Sailing Association will host a two-day training clinic on May 11 and 12 with a day of racing following on May 13. This weekend session, being sponsored by the 5O5 American Section, will feature on-water coaching from veteran 505 sailor Steve Sparkman.

Sparkman, a former collegiate sailing coach, will lead drills, offer observations on trim and boat-handling, and help sailors of every level to improve their performance. Collaborative off- water debriefings will discuss performance differences between teams and crucial observations will be offered by Coach Sparkman and top sailors.

Two-time 5O5 world champions Mike Holt and Carl Smit will be in attendance and have graciously agreed to provide attendees with expert analysis about rig setup, sail trim and crew responsibilities. Other top teams participating and offering assistance include reigning East Coast champions Chris Behm and Jesse Falsone along with reigning Midwinter champs Mark Zagol and Drew Buttner.

Falsone pointed out that European teams have been and will continue to hold high-level training sessions in preparation for the upcoming season, with top competitors always looking to improve their sailing.

“It’s often said that ‘You are only as good as the people you train with.’ It is also well known

that ‘there are no secrets in the 5O5 class.’ Both statements are true,” said Falsone, chairman

of the 2017 SAP 505 World Championship. “Attending clinics makes everyone better because

you spend dedicated time in the boat lining up against teams that will push you to improve and

those teams share everything they are doing, from technique to boat setup.”

“If the American teams want to represent well in home waters, then clinics like these are imperative,” Falsone said.

Sparkman was a standout member of the co-ed dinghy team at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and got into coaching shortly after graduation. He spent five years coaching at the College of Charleston, which received the prestigious Fowle Trophy while he was on staff. College of Charleston also captured numerous national championships while he was on staff.

Sparkman mounted several campaigns in the International 505 class, teaming with Henry Amthor for the 2002 World Championship held off Fremantle, Australia then hooking up with Tyler Moore for the 2005 Worlds in Santa Cruz, California.

Extensive coaching experience combined with in-depth knowledge of the 505 class makes Sparkman the ideal choice to serve as lead instructor for this training session. He intends to put attending teams through boat speed drills, both upwind and downwind, along with small segments of boat-handling exercises.

“A primary focus will be placed on getting to know the sailing area in terms of local conditions,” Sparkman said. “Hopefully, we’ll have some varying wind velocity and direction so we can help everyone improve their settings in each.”

Having the likes of Holt-Smith, Behm-Falsone and Zagol-Buttner participating will provide a benchmark for Sparkman to judge other teams.

“We want to cross-reference rig setups. We can gauge off the top speed boats and help everyone elevate their game,” said Sparkman, who currently coaches Team Racing at Christ Church Academy. “We’ll do rabbit starts as part of training drills. We’ll also run some races with windward and leeward gates as well as a gybe mark for practice.”

Holt and Smit teamed to capture the 2015 SAP 505 World Championship, held off Port Elizabeth, South Africa. It was a triumphant moment for the pair, which had previously posted runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2012.

Smit, an Annapolis resident, is ready and willing to offer off-the-water advice about big- picture issues that prospective world championship competitors must consider.

“I think Mike and I could help some of the other teams with the overall season planning leading up to worlds,” he said. “You can’t just show up in September and expect to be competitive. It’s a building process and you need to devise a constructive plan.”

Smit, Holt and some of the other accomplished sailors playing a lead role in the clinic will be hands-on with regard to helping other teams with getting the rigging right.

“We’ll take a close look at everyone’s rig setup and tuning. Sometimes it’s just a matter of clearning up the rigging and making sure all the gear is good enough,” Smit said. “You don’t want to have the boat become the excuse. You can’t feellike the gear is holding you back.”

Smit points out that a big part of becoming an internationally competitive team involves simply knowing the proper way to sail a 505 and clearly defining how duties will be split between the helmsman and crew.

“I think it’s crucial to have a discussion about processes and procedures. Who does what, when, where and how?” Smit said. “We’ll talk through how some of the top teams do things. It’s important to break out responsibilities and how to perform maneuvers. Mike and I will do some demonstration in terms of how we do things.”

Lastly, Smit believes it’s imperative for 505 sailors to keep things simple and be smart about how they devote their time and efforts.

“A lot of times, teams get focused too much on the little stuff and not the more important factors that really matter,” Smit said. “I think we’ve all chased the Holy Grail of looking for this magic piece of gear that will make us go faster than everyone else. That isn’t really the answer. There are other factors that are more crucial to success.”

Cost to participate in the three-day training session is $75. Interested sailors should contact Bryan Richardson at Bryan.Richardson@gmail.com. To register for the 2017 SAP World Championships, visit the following link: https://yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eid=4206 

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Brendan Heussler,
May 6, 2017, 12:44 PM
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