After three days of heavy air and stiff competition, Dave Chapin, a 19 year old college student from Springfield, IL, won the Tenth Sunfish World Championship held in Medemblik, Holland, June 28 through July 4. Dutchman Cor van Aanholt finished second after a protest eliminated Derrick Fries of Drayton Plains, Ml, from that position and the series, and Paul Fendler of Rye, NY moved into third place. The championship series was dominated by Chapin, Fries and van Aanholt who held top positions in five of the six races.
Held for the first time in Europe, the six-race one-throw-out series was sailed on the IJsselmeer, formerly the Zuiderzee of Hans Brinker fame, in winds gust-ing up to 25 knots and temperatures hovering in the mid-60’s. After the first two races of the competition, Chapin, Fries, two-time Sunfish World Champion, and van Aanholt (1978 Dutch Laser Champion, winner of the Kieler Woche 2 week earlier) emerged as the top contenders, Chapin finishing first, Fries second and the Dutchman third in both.
The order shifted in the third and fourth races with van Aanholt in first, Chapin second and Fries third, despite a lightening of the air to 20 knots in the fourth race. Former World Champion, Paul Fendler, who had won the practice race on Friday, held fourth place with a 4-9-4-10, followed by Nat Philbrick of Pittsburgh, PA, with finishes 7-5-8-4.
The seemingly unbreakable hold on the top three places by Chapin, Fries and van Aanholt changed in the fifth race, with only Fries maintaining first place. David Driver of Barrington, Rl, took second, Joel Furman of Bellport, NY, third and Dave Chapin, fourth. Van Aanholt dropped to 14th.
In the sixth race, Chapin and van Aanholt again battled for first, followed by Paul Fendler and Alan Beckwith of Wayland, MA. By the conclusion of race six, however, the tables had turned and Joel Furman of Bellport, NY, finished first, with Holland’s Eric de Vries second, Paul Odegard of Vernon, CT, third, Alan Beckwith fourth, Will White of West Hartford, CT, fifth and Paul Fendler sixth.
Ably hosted by the Royal Yacht Club Hollandia, the event drew 23 European contenders: 20 from Holland, two from Denmark and one from Germany. 37 sailors competed from the United States, along with 27 sailors from the Caribbean and South America, and one from Canada.
If there were any problems, they were small. Some competitors were delayed at the quay-type launching area, and several races had two or three recalls, many sailors having difficulty seeing the starting flags. The Ijsselmeer, reportedly 10 to 12 feet deep, produced steep chop at times, which, combined with the heavy wind, gave some competitors a hard time.
But, as most sailors reported, the problems were more than compensated for by the racing. As Alan Beckwith commented, “Because of the heavy air and relative cold, the racing was really challenging. You had to give all you had physically and mentally and then not make any mistakes. All the races were different and not easy tactically. We had good races from the practice right on through.”
One point of interest was the almost universal use of the Hookansen rig. This is the method where the halyard is tied lower, the rig hoisted short of the top of the mast and then, before running the halyard down to the cleat, wrapped around the gaff and mast where the two intersect. Designed for use in heavy air, the Hookansen rig supposedly makes the boat more stable and easier to control.
Many Americans were not familiar with the rig and many last minute tactical adjustments were made. For Chapin, though, second place finisher at last year’s Worlds in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and 1977 O’Day Champion, the Hookansen is old hat. He used the rig in last year’s Championship and claims to have used it consistently since.
Although the Dutch are well known one-design sailors, many Americans anticipated that their relative newness to the Sunfish class would be a factor in the final outcome. However, with three Dutchmen finishing in the top ten, it was apparent that their sailing skills overcame their unfamiliarity with the Sunfish.
The awards were scheduled to be presented at a candlelight dinner held at the Kasteel Radboud, a medieval castle dating back to 1288, but were delayed a day pending final jury decision on the van Aanholt protest. Competitors enjoyed an authentic cold buffet featuring raw herring, smoked eel, and numerous salads, all prepared according to local custom.
The following day at the Hotel Het Wapen van Medemblik, the top three finishers, Chapin, van Aanholt, and Fendler received gold, silver and bronze medals for their efforts. Trophies were awarded to the top 13 finishers, as well as to the top three finishers in each of the six races. Gijs van Omme of Netherlands Antilles received a special award for being the most improved sailor in the series, finishing 32nd, after placing 60th in last year’s event. A special trophy was
awarded to Ingrid Bakker of Holland for being the top woman finisher of the four women participating in the event, and a trophy was also awarded to Paul Fendler, for winning the practice race.
In addition to the trophy ceremony, Ten Cate sponsored a dinner at the Hotel West treating participants to local fish and eel specialities, and Alcort sponsored a “Cook-your-own” barbe-que of chicken, pork and burgers. The opening ceremony was held at the Medemblik town hall at which the Mayor extended his official welcome to participants with snacks and drinks.
To most competitors the town of Medemblik provided their main source of entertainment. A weekly flea market on Monday in the town square attracted the souvenir and gift getters while others used the lay-day as an opportunity to explore the countryside or travel to Amsterdam. Most of the competitors stayed with local families, and where language barriers couldn’t be broken, communicated by hand and facial expression. According to Beckwith, one of the biggest surprises of the event was that the Dutch really do wear wooden shoes.