When Carl Smit won his first world championship, he was in a foreign country without his family. That is why the Annapolis resident appreciated the second one just a little bit more.
Smit teamed with Mike Holt to capture the 2017 SAP 5O5 World Championship, clinching the series with one day to spare. With Holt steering and Smit doing the hiking and trimming the headsails, the duo closed out the regatta by winning one race and placing third in two others on Thursday.
For Smit, an Annapolis resident, securing a second world crown on the waters off his adopted hometown was a triumphant moment.
“That’s pretty special. Having my wife and kids here makes it really nice,” Smit said. “Because it’s rare that we can get the whole family to a worlds. So it’s just neat that they can be part of this.”
Smit is a 1995 graduate of the Naval Academy, serving as captain of the intercollegiate sailing team as a senior when it captured the Sloop National Championship. After living on the West Coast for a while, Smit returned to Annapolis after accepting a job with Under Armour.
Organizers of the 2017 SAP 5O5 World Championship said from the outset that versatility would prove crucial to winning. That is because Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay figured to deliver a wide range of wind conditions over the course of a week.
An Eastport Yacht Club member since 2013, Smit volunteered to serve on the local organizing committee for the SAP 5O5 World Championship. Some class stalwarts were wary of coming to Annapolis because of its notoriously fickle conditions. However, regatta manager Jesse Falsone had said from the outset that an all-around team would wind up winning.
Falsone, an Edgewater resident and member of co-host Severn Sailing Association, knew the Chesapeake Bay would deliver light, moderate and heavy air over the course of a week. Holt and Smit proved to be the best all-around team, which was a surprise even to them.
“It’s amazing, just amazing. We didn’t really know for sure until we came ashore. We kept running the numbers and thinking we won, but we weren’t positive until we actually looked at the scoreboard,” Holt said. “It’s fantastic, especially here in Annapolis. This is not a venue at which we thought we could possibly win.”
This is the second SAP 5O5 World Championship for Holt and Smit, who captured their first together in 2015 off Port Elizabeth, South Africa. They have developed a reputation as heavy air specialists who did not perform well in light to moderate conditions.
“It does make us proud, because we’ve always been considered heavy air sailors. To come here to Annapolis and be able to win a world championship held in a range of conditions is just brilliant,” said Holt, a Santa Cruz, California resident who owns a software integration firm.
Holt-Smit placed second in Race 1 in moderate wind (10-11 knots) on Sunday then won Race 2 in relatively lighter air (7-10 knots) on Tuesday. Holt was asked why the IO Integration team fared better in those types of conditions.
“I lost a bunch of weight,” Holt said. “Carl was supposed to, but he failed on that mission so I did it all by myself. Actually, today Carl’s weight was good. I certainly wasn’t going to complain about it today.”
Smit mentioned that he and Holt have worked to improve their performance in light to moderate air, traveling to Europe to compete against 505 teams that are strong in those conditions.
“We knew this was going to be a really tough venue because light air is generally not our favorite. That being said, we knew we had to get better in the light stuff to have any chance here,” said Smit, a member of co-host Eastport Yacht Club. “We felt good going into today because we put some decent results on the board in the lighter conditions. It was tough sailing today as well because there were still some big shifts, some big puffs. We’re just so psyched to win this championship. It’s just a great feeling of accomplishment.”
This is the third SAP 5O5 World Championship for Holt, who won in 2014 with Rob Woelfel as crew. Considering the caliber of competition in Annapolis, the British native never imagined clinching the regatta with one day of sailing remaining.
“That’s just crazy, completely crazy. Our goal going into the week was to simply have a chance on the final day,” Holt said. “Those last days are always scary, so to avoid having to worry about the last day is just fantastic.”
All the heavy air specialists were thrilled to wake up on Thursday morning and hear the forecast for 15-20 knot winds. That proved accurate, although significant shifts and large holes tested the 87-boat fleet.
Defending world champions Mike Martin and Adam Lowry had their best day of the regatta with results of 2-6-1. Martin and Lowry showed off their heavy air chops with tremendous boat speed and almost flawless maneuvers.
“Super tough, super tricky conditions because there was sort of two breezes, one coming out of the river and one coming down the bay,” Martin said. “It was up and down, back and forth – just really challenging. So we’re pretty happy with our finishes today.”
Runner-up status will be up for grabs when the SAP 5O5 World Championship concludes with one race on Friday. Gill Race Team, comprised of Andy Smith and Roger Gilbert from Great Britain, are currently in second place with 29 points. Edward Conrads and Brian Haines, another San Francisco Bay area team, are four points behind in third.