Please select your home edition
Henri Lloyd 2017 Elite 728x90

The search for Mad Max... Now extends beyond the Thunderdrome!

by David Henshall 6 Jan 12:35 GMT
The 505 © Dan Phelps / US 505 Association

If there is one true 'sea story' still waiting to be told, then it has to be the narrative that goes back some 65 years to the birth of the 505 and then comes forward in time, charting the progress of this amazing and truly world beating dinghy.

With detailed research and a lengthy list of interviews, some of them with sailors who were actually present at the time, the book of the 505 is now taking shape and what a tale it has to tell. Those who think they know the story of how the Anglo-French 505 came into being will have to think again, for there is a lot more to the story that has been previously understood.

Crucially, this is not a one-dimensional story of yet another British innovation, but is more akin to a highly detailed analysis of how international competition went global in those halcyon days of the 'golden era' of our sport; this will be the story of an International Class, told internationally. However, there are some issues, as currently the book is very 'bow heavy' in that the opening chapters, 1952 – 1960 take up almost one third of the book to date. Yet this is probably the last chance for this detail to be collected and even now, many of the trails are cold, as key players in the story are sadly no longer with us.

One such stumped line of research is vital to the correct telling of the birth of the 505, as it involves the man who was the patron of the Coronet, the boat that would ultimately become the 505. Yet the story of Max Johnson is lost in time. We know who he was, his birth, marriage and death and a bit about his sailing, but nothing in any detail. Max was though the funding behind the whole project, though he may well have had his own agenda for this.

Max had been born in Birmingham in April 1912 and had been in the Navy and travelled to the US, before ending up living near to Chichester. Max was an International 14 sailor at Itchenor and was well known to other 14 sailors of the time, amongst these was John Westell. Max clearly believed and trusted John's obvious eye for a quick boat, as he commissioned him to design Coronet for the IYRU Performance Dinghy Trials and the rest, as they say, is history!

We also know that Max was something of a visionary regarding the development of GRP/glass fibre as he was involved in the development of the very earliest 'plastic' car bodies for the young Colin Chapman and his innovative Lotus racing cars. Max was also involved in the early production of GRP dinghies and he is pictured below taking his family for a row in what would then have been a novel development. Sadly, Max would die at the early age of 55 in July 1967 – and at that point, the trail does indeed go cold.

The hope is that there is still someone out there, who might remember Max, or Max and John and what they were doing in these extra-ordinary days that would do so much to define the very nature of performance sailing. Do YOU have any recollections of Max at Itchenor, or anywhere else, back in the day when maybe glass fibre was a poor alternative to wood? If you do have any stories regarding this crucial part of the story, the Project Office for 'Simply the Best; The story of the 505' would love to hear from you. Please email in the first instance to .

In the meantime, work on completing not only the chapters telling the story of these formative years, but on how the boat became simply the best dinghy, sat at the pinnacle of the international dinghy scene, will continue.

Many thanks and a Happy New Year to all,

Dougal/Simply the Best/2018

Related Articles

RS Aero New South Wales State Championships
A great weekend with superb coaching at Balmoral Sailing Club Balmoral was the first Club in NSW to adopt the RS Aero and is now up to 10 boats. As the Class is so new in Australia the NSW Distributor and event sponsor, The Life Aquatic, hired Michael 'Fletch' Fletcher as the coach for the weekend. Posted today at 2:43 pm
Next generation Seldén Furlex Electric
The world's biggest selling jib furling system Seldén Mast is delighted to announce that they are launching the next generation of the Furlex Electric, the most recent addition to their iconic Furlex product range. Posted today at 1:00 pm
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 7 Day 22
The finish line is tantalisingly close for the leading teams With less than 200nm to go on Day 22, PSP Logistics is still in the lead but as the team waits for the wind to fill in, Skipper Matt Mitchell is wondering how the last stretch of the race will pan out. Posted today at 12:46 pm
Henri Lloyd Shadow 3D Racing Range
Engineered around APAPTIVE technology providing flexible solutions Henri Lloyd's new race collection is engineered around APAPTIVE technology providing flexible solutions depending on end use. Posted today at 12:00 pm
Schweppes Viper Worlds Cocktail Party
Winding down in Perth after a hard day's sailing After a hard day's sailing with four races completed, sailors were able to let their hair down at the Western Australian Maritime Museum for a cocktail party. Posted today at 8:32 am
Harken RYA Dinghy Show Preview
New products galore! Here's a sneak preview of all the new Harken products launching at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show. Posted today at 8:30 am
New monohull record in RORC Caribbean 600
Rambler 88 completes the course in 1 day 13 hours 41 minutes George David's American Maxi Rambler 88 crossed the finish line in Antigua on Wednesday 21st February at 01:21:45 AST in an elapsed time of 1 day 13 hours 41 minutes and 45 seconds, setting a new monohull race record. Posted today at 6:57 am
Schweppes Viper Worlds at Perth day 2
Jerwoods lead as regatta passes halfway point After the second day of the Schweppes Viper Worlds in Perth, Western Australia, a total of eight races have been completed and scores recalculated to include a single drop. Posted today at 5:58 am
Coming Soon: The Crewsaver Watersports Range
It's almost here! It's almost here! See at the RYA Dinghy Show on 3-4 March 2018. Comfort. Style. Performance. Posted on 20 Feb
New Class Association Stage at RYA Dinghy Show
This year some 50 Class Associations will be exhibiting Each year hundreds of exhibitors fill the halls of Alexandra Palace with all things related to dinghy sailing for the RYA Dinghy Show, presented by Suzuki in association with Yachts & Yachting and Gill, from boats and kit, to gadgets and clothing. Posted on 20 Feb