A night out with Mike Holt

The one thing that grabs you when you meet Mike Holt is that he exonerates the “ordinary genius!” I recently met him downtown Chicago in Timothy O’Toole’s on North Fairbanks, running late, I landed in the basement and there he is the current twice International 505 world champion at a table sipping a quite beer and no-one knows who he is?

I think the one great thing about Mike is not just his love of the sport, but it’s that he really has the “International 505” somehow flowing through his veins; from his humble beginnings in Essex to traveling the world, I still think, he thinks, he owes the class something when he has brought so much to the class himself.

He must be the most traveled 505 helm ever (up there with Howie), he tells me that he did the “Bloody Mary” in London in January, renowned for being baked in Californian sunshine, who in the right mind would fly 5,000 miles to prove you can race in near “bloody” freezing conditions. Only a mad Englishman living in San Francisco!

So on we go to the local Indian (one of Mikes most favored cuisines) and we get on to the topics of the finer points of sailing, he is a lucky chap with both Rob and Carl being top class crews and a couple of boat around the world, he has made the class his own playground (through brutal hard work), but has also brought so many influences and changes to the class.

Back in San Francisco at the 2009 worlds’ where we first met, he was an impressive heavy weather sailor, now he is just an impressive sailor, back to back wins in Kiel in the German heartland and then South Africa (if anyone doubts they way this man sails then take a peak on youtube of the penultimate race where Mike is on a flyer downwind if you don’t believe me), I have never seen anyone sail the angles and constant speed that he showed that day.

So getting on to boats, what makes him so fast, well he has sorted out his loft, got fast around the entire wind range and can sail with any crew, but when it comes to the boat, he has a vested interest in 9072. We keep chatting and he recon’s that this boat has the most wins of any boat ever to hit the 505 world championships, 9 race wins in total and counting and he suggests that the boat is significantly better than his new one.

This is where it gets interesting, because the human in him comes out, “it feels fast, it sails fast, it makes me fast, it just fits, I can’t tell you why it’s just the best boat I have ever sailed”, quite a line from a man, but it matches his personality with new insights about how he sails.

You see it’s not visual he is talking about feel, the feel for constant speed, height, the ability to always come back no matter where you are.

But more importantly is that he constantly recognizes he makes mistakes, if he could undo all of the past, would he now be on 4 world championship wins (he got the lowest overall points in both San Francisco and Australia), but when many look up to this man for guidance, he is still learning and adapting himself, that’s a demure man for you!

So what next, well he tells me he is heading to the Australian nationals, he said he hasn’t done that one before! And then I quiz him about Weymouth in 2016, mentioning that this is going to be one of the toughest fleets ever.

“That doesn’t bother me”, he says, “look at Kiel, if you can win there you can win anywhere”, and he will be in 9072 his favorite speed machine, so will he equal the gods of Colclough, and Krister (the only sailors to achieve 3 in a row), as he already sits abreast of Farrant, Marks, Elvstrom, Buffet and the rest.

There is definitely more to come from this champion and he is looking fit, sharpe and more than anything makes more water time than many do over several years!

Weymouth will be a battle worth watching.

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