1988 Sunfish Worlds report

Host country and local favorite Donald Martinborough, 29, won his third Sunfish World Championship without winning a race. The 19th Sunfish World Championship was hosted by thet Royal Nassau Sailing Club and for the first time was officially sponsored, by Rolex through Nassau distributor John Bull. The championship was held October 14-22, 1988, and was sailed on Montagu Bay, in Nassau, the Bahamas. Martinborough, a real estate director when off the course, is the first sailor to have won the Sunfish of Geneva World’s three times and delighted the hometown crowd and press with his win. His previous wins were in San Andres, Colombia in 1983, and in Riccione, Italy in 1985.

The Royal Nassau Sailing Club spent a great deal of time preparing for its premier event. Making new curtains, mounting special flagpoles (for flags of the participating countries), and rehearsals for ceremonies were extra details tended to on top of the normal needs to plan for food, drink, registration, race committee and the rest. A fresh coat of paint from stem to stern had the club gleaming.

As the 73 contestants from 11 countries unpacked their brand new Sunfish to prepare for the practice race, there were looks of doubt on many faces with a 30 + knot breeze blasting onto the beach. The boats were provided by Alcort Sailboats, Inc. for a $100 user fee. The practice race was sailed in gusty 20-28 knots, giving everyone a chance to test their equipment. Some were happy with the blow, many were not.

However, by the morning of the first race the wind dropped considerably to about 12 knots out of the northeast, with each race slightly lighter than the last—and the last race was a drifter. The bay featured a sharp chop and marked tidal current which paid a premium to those who read it right. Only Martinborough had the tricky winds and current of Montagu Bay figured out and was able to avoid the holes and read the currents. It was obvious his weeks of solo practice on the bay helped him.

The second day’s breeze was steady in the morning, but lightened as the fleet sailed in for lunch and storm clouds grew to the north beyond Paradise Island where the contestant’s hotel was located. The 4th race started in light conditions that approached drifting as the storm neared. A few miles from the course, but out of danger range, a tornado (dismissed by locals as “Just a Waterspout”) descended from the clouds and whirled in place for 20 minutes. Many competitors didn’t notice the storm until after the tornado was absorbed back into the clouds and the storm started, once again, to advance toward the fleet. Finish orders were jumbled as the new breeze came in from the left, leaving a big hole on the right where the leaders were. Though the squall was short, its 25 knot winds provided for a little bit of planing relief. After the second day Malcolm Smith of Bermuda held on to a tentative lead using a throw-out, on the strength of two bullets. Martinborough was solidly second, and Nassau local Jimmie Lowe was a surprise threat in third.

The third day launched the fleet into a long routine of general recalls, as many as five, before the race committee could get the fleet off. Lowe aced the first race and closed in on Martinborough who sailed his throw-out (a 6th). Smith had a disastrous 35th, which coupled with a breakdown in the next race dropped him out of contention for the top. The second race of the day saw four general recalls, and as the fleet lined up for an apparent fifth recall, the starting signals went off one minute early. Though the race was sailed, many competitors sought redress from the jury and the race was thrown out, to be re-sailed as a third race on the last day.

Before that last day came a lay day which featured a tourist-style trip to Blue Lagoon Island for a day of snorkeling, belly surfing, volleyball, ping-pong, and lazing in hammocks. That night the ISCA Advisory Council and World Council met. On Friday, starting a half-four earlier, the fleet continued to put a premium on that perfect start. Mid-line sag, so common to large Sunfish fleets in the past, came to be replaced with mid-line bulge. After numerous general recalls, races 6 and 7 were sailed, with race 7 finishing just after 3:00 p.m. and featuring a popular win by the top woman finisher (16th overall), former U.S. Midwinter National Champion Nancy Haberland of Satellite Beach, Florida. After race 6 Chris Williams of Brookline, Massachusetts, had many good finishes, and a couple of bad races by Martinborough could give the title to either him or Lowe. However, Martin-borough’s consistency gave him the regatta after seven races, and barring a spectacular

The last race became a battle for third between Lowe, Scott Greenbaum of Springdale, Connecticut, and defending World Champion Bruce Sutphen of New Jersey. After sack lunches on the water and five general recalls, the race was sailed in a dying breeze and fading sunlight. Philip Hall of the Bahamas won the race which saw a lot of low-end finishers enjoy their best race of the event and high-end finishers suffer their worst. Ultimately, the last half of the fleet was towed in with it dark.
The racing was fierce but fair. There were very few fouls, most resolved by 720° turns. One judge was quoted as saying this was the most Corinthian regatta he had ever watched—the sailors obviously knew the rules and sailed by them.
The Winner’s Banquet was held at the nearby Royal Nassau Yacht Club. The awards to Martinborough brought deafening applause from the hometown crowd and Sunfish Class friends. As he accepted his awards, Martinborough shared his intent to retire from Sunfish racing to try an Olympic class looking to the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain. However, the loudest cheers were cut loose for one-armed, 67-year-old Norman Castle, of Lake Worth, Florida, who was elected recipient of the Cuthbertson Trophy for sportsmanship.

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