Mike Holt has spent most of his life dreaming about becoming world champion and today it came true with victory in the final race of the SAP 505 World Championship in Kiel. Together with crew Rob Woelfel, Holt went into today’s showdown as one of six teams with a chance of winning the title. The British-born resident of Santa Cruz in California had twice gone into the final day of a 505 Worlds only to finish runner-up. “I don’t think we’ve ever had anything like this though,” said Holt before racing. “Six teams gunning for the title says how competitive it has been this year.”
The key decision all week has been when to exit the gate start. The young Australians, Pete Nicholas and Luke Payne, have opted for an early start nearly every race and today did the same. They were joined by Holt, while the other world title contenders waited a few minutes as the pathfinder sailed out to the right-hand side of the course. The two British teams still in title contention, Andy Smith/ Tim Needham along with Ian Pinnell/ Dave Shelton, started late and found themselves on the wrong side of the first shift. The early starters were doing well out on the left, with Holt and the Australians moving into the lead towards the top mark.
For the next three and a half laps of the 75-minute race, Holt and Nicholas were engaged in a tight boatspeed duel in medium to strong winds, the Australian boat overtaking downwind but the Americans bouncing back on each upwind leg with slightly superior pace. Holt later commented: “We felt we were the same pace as the Aussies downwind but we were playing it safe. We didn’t want to push it in the waves. All week we’ve been looking to keep it simple, just do the important things well.”
Rob Woelfel commented: “Our main focus was to finish in the top three today, because we knew if we did that we'd win. On the last beat we didn't care if the Aussies won the race. As it turned out, because we were sailing hard, we got them just at the finish, by about half a boatlength.” The Aussies had one more tack to cross the line and by the time they had completed their turn, the Americans had taken the winner’s gun by just two seconds. Holt and Woelfel hugged each other, the culmination of a brilliantly executed campaign that made the most of their high-wind expertise. “I’ve been doing this a long time, it’s been an ambition for a long time,” said a jubilant Holt. “There are so many good guys that sail Five-Ohs, it's very competitive, so very pleased to have done it, and Rob is just amazing.”
There was no disappointment in the Aussie camp. They acknowledged Holt and Woelfel as the worthy winners. “We were aiming for a top 10, and anything more than that a bonus,” said Luke Payne. “Very excited to get 2nd. We were improving the whole regatta and managed to find some really good speed by the end. Now we've got to see if we can a world title!” Considering they’re in their mid-20s and this was only their third time at a 505 World Championship, Nicholas and Payne can surely expect to win a world title in years to come.
The battle for 3rd place was the closest, with Smith and Needham making a late charge through the fleet to almost steal the final podium place from the Germans, but Wolfgang Hunger and Julien Kleiner’s 3rd place across the finish was sufficient to finish on equal points with the Brits but win the tie-break due to their higher finishing positions during the regatta. Hunger had missed his chance at a record sixth world title in the 505, but another podium finish was a respectable result for a team that has done very little practice this season.
With 173 entries, this was the third largest world championship in the 60-year history of the class. To look back through the winning moves you can browse through the SAP Sailing Analytics, and watch recordings of the live coverage of the regatta, all to be found at the official website: http://www.sap505worlds.com