Sunfish Worlds 1991 report

By Peg Beadle

The 21st Sunfish World Championship was held in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles from August 4 to August 10,1991. The Curacao Sunfish Sailing Association did an excellent job in organizing the first world’s held in their country. The executive officers were Alex Roose, President; Tony Stocks, Treasurer; and Julia Smeulders, Secretary. Race Committee Chairman was Norbert Bielderman. They were assisted by many able and tireless workers that should be applauded. Kodak was the title sponsor and the sails were made with the Kodak colors. They were beautiful on the sparkling blue waters of Curacao.

The sea depth off the coast of the Princess Beach Hotel, where the Championships were held, is between 600 and 800 meters deep. The Committees had a great challenge to come up with an innovative system to fasten the buoys to a series of drums that were attached several meters under the waters’ surface. Also, one end of the starting line was afloat and held perfectly in place by communication with a surveyor on shore. Kudos to Curacao!

The prevailing trade winds were out of the east at an average of 20 + knots with four to six foot swells off the south coast. These were fantastic conditions for Stephen Smeulders, at 195 pounds, who won for his native country. Stephen, 20, is a college student at Brown University in the U.S.A.

Stephen Smeulders, the 1991 World Champion. Photo: Bob Heckman

Ninety three sailors, friends, and families arrived to participate in the week’s activities and the excitement was building. Four previous World Champions competed: Scott Kyle, Derrick Fries, Bruce Sutphen (all from the U.S.A.) and Donnie Martinborough of the Bahamas.
The countries represented were Curacao, U.S.A., Bahamas, Bermuda, Martinique, Venezuela, Holland (Netherlands), Colombia, Aruba, St. Maarten, Peru, Bonaire, and the Dominican Republic. The flags of the countries were raised in ceremony on Sunday evening and the World Championship was officially begun. What an impressive sight! Mr. Ruben Page, Commissioner of Tourism, addressed the Sunfish sailors and guests with his words of welcome. (BON BINI TO ALL!)

The following are daily recaps from the Cummins diary: by Jennifer, Nancy and George Friday, August 2.
This was a traveling day for most sailors. The airport was filled with excited sailors that were met with many delays, cancellations and flight changes. The overdue arrivals were met at the Curacao airport by some very welcome hosts that were offering rides to the hotel.

Saturday, August 3 – Woke up expecting to find the sun but found lots of rain instead. This did not dampen the spirits of the sailors. The boats were handed out after registration and everyone went to work putting their own personal touches to the riggings. The sun came out and the day was windy enough for a trial sail.

Sunday, August 4 – This is the day of the practice race. The wind is 20 to 30 knots. The course is over water that is 1800 feet deep and the conditions are forever changing. The sun rays are strong; strong currents and shifty winds. Many of the top ranked sailors headed off of the course early; saving their more strenuous work-out for tomorrow.

Monday, August 5 – This was the day of the first official race. The wind started howling at 30 knots and then moved down to 15-20. Learning how to read the shifts was very important on this six mile course. It was no surprise that Scott Kyle easily won the first race with a nice lead and Nancy Haberland led the women with an outstanding 18th.

The second race found the weather to be what we had all heard about – very sunny and tropical. The wind had calmed down slightly. Stephen Smeulders beat out Scott Kyle during the last leg of the race after having a five boat lead most of the course. Scott, unfortunately, had boat problems and Stephen pulled ahead in the last two tacks. There was only one general recall and the rest went smoothly except for some minor collisions. Donnie Martinborough took second.

Tuesday, August 6 – The wind was heavy for the start of the third race. This was really a day for Paul-Jon Patin. Many of the boats have started to break down. Numerous problems with goose necks, cleats, hiking straps and even leaks. The second race started with even heavier air and swells up to ten feet. The damage to a lot of boats was extensive and many sailors could not finish the race. The remaining sailors soon got into the rhythm of riding the swells and catching the wind puffs and enjoyed the day. Patin won both races. Scott Kyle was left to find a new working boat after taking second in the first race of the day and Smeulders took a second in the last race.

Wednesday, August 7 – The fifth race found the weather very unpredictable. There were strong, shifty gusts. Boats were flipping out of the water and many were doing a 720° for unavoidable collisions. Once again, Paul-Jon had an excellent race and took a first with Smeulders taking second place. Patin was now in first place.

The sixth race had a slower start with two general recalls. The wind conditions were once again gusty and hard to predict. Smeulders took a first; Randy Swan was a close second. The committee boats have been doing a good job and kept very busy with protests and minor collisions. The buoys have been a problem on the starting line. They do not want to cooperate by staying in place. This has been causing confusion.

Thursday, August 8 – The sailors have a well-deserved lay day. Many are working to repair boats and readjust their winning strategies. There was a parade of Sunfish to the center of Curacao. A good time was had by the participants. Who would have thought they would want to sail on their day off? They have a true love of the ocean.

Friday, August 9 – Tension was in the air. it was hard to believe this was the final day of racing. Whatever could go wrong certainly did go wrong on this final day. There were six general recalls and it seemed the race would never begin. A record must have been broken for the number of DSQ’s; the first race had 19. It seemed as if there would be no one left to race. Eventually, it did get started with many tired and frustrated sailors. Stephen Smeulders took first place with Hank Saurage, second. Winds were finally lighter at 16-18 knots.

There was some worry that this race would have to be eliminated due to a time factor. There were two general recalls with the third start at 3:45 p.m. Fifteen minutes more and it would have been cancelled. Not as many DSQ’s but six sailors did have to leave the race. The endurance of Agner Rios, of Venezuela, helped him take a first place with Randall Swan, once again, taking second.
There were many tired sailors after this long day. Final results will be posted and the protests do go on!!

Saturday, August 10 – The weather is cooperating and all the sailors are trying to put in a full day of fun. Many have gone snorkeling, scuba diving or have rented cars for sightseeing. The boats have been dismantled and the local residents are picking up their proud new purchases. It is funny to see the Sunfish sailing off to new homes instead of in a race
We were all surprised with such a wonderful final dinner and ceremony. The dinner was delicious and the company was relaxed and enjoyed a good time. Tomorrow, we start our long journey home. We have wonderful memories of yet another regatta and many new learning experiences to take home and share.

In addition to the race winners, special trophies were awarded to:

Youngest sailorJesus Feris (DOM)
Oldest sailor
Top WomanNancy Haberland (USA)
Marco Polo Award
Cuthbertson Trophy award
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