Being the second best Sunfish sailor in last year’s Worlds would have been victory enough for most competitors. But not for Paul-Jon Patin (affectionately known as P.J.). He was determined to win this year — and he won BIG TIME with four bullets out of eight races, with a seventh place throw-out.
As Ash Beatty and Bruce Mahoney can testify, sailing in home waters wasn’t an advantage. The winds were anything but typical on Galveston Bay at the Houston Yacht Club the week of September 21-25,1992. However, PJ.’s early arrival in Houston to practice a week before the real racing started must have helped. That and a year’s worth of practice, practice, and more practice produced one of the nicest and most talented Sunfish World champion sailors around. Seventy-five other competitors from the Bahamas, Bermuda, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Venezuela, and the United States didn’t make RJ.’s victory easy. The weather also proved to be a worthy adversary—from letting-the-tide-carry-you-to-the-ship-channel conditions to God-help-me-l-hope-l-survive-the-lightning-and-50+mph-storm conditions.
Nancy Haberland of Satellite Beach, FL, didn’t let the weather or tough competition stop her from being the top women’s finisher with an eighth place overall. Fifteen year old Bruce Mahoney from Houston was the top junior finisher with an impressive 13th place overall. Don Bergman from Holland, Ml, in the Masters category (arbitrarily determined to be over-50 for this event) was the top finisher. Charlie Clifton of Sarasota, FL, was the top Master in the over-40, finishing 9th. Quite a feat for all these champions considering the challenging weather conditions!
In race #4, we sailed in just about every condition before the race was over — from light to medium to a heavy squall, back to light, then to almost nothing and then—the dreaded storm. With a black sky illuminated only with bolts of lightning that literally made our hair stand on end, most of us found ourselves immersed in bay waters while hanging onto our Sunfish for dear life. Lee Parks said that was the worst storm she had ever experienced on a Sunfish. Gail Heausler remembers thinking how her two children were going to get along in life without a mommy. The race committee was scrambling hard and fast trying to account for every sail number before the afternoon was over so that no one’s children would have to grow up without a Sunfish parent. Several sailors experienced boat breakdowns because of the high winds; other sailors hitched rides back to shore, and some sailors managed to finish the race despite the storm and break-downs. Being swept over high waves while holding onto a grabbable piece of boat (usually metal) with one hand and baggy shorts with the other while feeling the electricity crackle in the air was no one’s idea of fun. There was only one scary moment on shore after the storm when the race committee could account for Leon Raynor’s boat, but not Leon until we found a sailor who had seen Leon on shore after the race. Phew…everyone accounted for.
Although the storm was one aspect of this year’s Worlds that everyone would remember, there was so much more — the great people, the fun activities, and just being a part of the Worlds in addition to the
With two races every day (except for the layday on Thursday) —10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and a lunch break on shore in between — Sunfish sailors had a busy race week. Monday’s two races were in 16-18, gusts to 23 knot winds — a challenge to the folks who preferred lighter air. But that didn’t stop racers like P.J., Malcolm Smith, Donnie Martinborough, Jeff Linton, Zane Yoder, Peter Johnstone, and Bruce Sutphen from placing somewhere in the top five finishes for one or both of the races. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s lighter air from an atypical direction changed some of the top five finishers. Charlie Clifton, Bob Findlay, and Don Brennan all managed a bullet in one of the four races. And Jean Bergman, Alan Scharfe, Tom Donahue, and Eduardo Cordero all managed to grab a top-five spot in one of the four races. Although there were always some familiar faces in the top finishes, no one consistently dominated the top spots even though RJ.’s 1-1-4-6-1-6-(7)-1 recordwas impressive to say the least. Jeff Linton aced one of Friday’s two races (in medium-light air) while Bruce Mahoney and Rod Koch managed to grab a spot in one of that day’s top-five finishes. But the competition didn’t stop on the water.
Shuffleboard and pool (the billiards kind, i.e.) at Bill and Marie’s, a local popular hangout, was the place to meet after the day’s racing. Some of the week’s top-five finishers were as competitive at Bill and Marie’s as they were on the water. Funny how that works. Who WAS the loud one at the pool table? A biker hangout you say? Nah, just a bunch of Sunfish sailors with none other than our new ISCA class president and last year’s ISCA president participating in the fun. Now why didn’t Len believe I was there solely as a journalist for the Windward Lag?
The other popular hangout was a country-western dance hall, The Last Frontier, for those folks who preferred two-stepping to two-wristing. Leon Raynor with his Panama hat and boat shoes was a sight to behold on the dance floor where anyone not wearing boot scootin’ duds was viewed as a “ferriner.” Leon two-stepped with the best of them, however, while Howard Lee never quite got the hang of who had right of way. The contingency from Venezuela had a great time; Lee Parks wanted more dance lessons, and Gail Heausler learned quickly that the circular dance floor was also a circle-and-check-out-the girls fast lane. Whether two-stepping on the dance floor or two-tacking to the finish line, the Sunfish racers enjoyed the efforts of lots of folks who worked hard to make the Worlds happen.
The brand new boats didn’t just appear by magic: We have Peter Johnstone and the folks at Sunfish Laser, Inc. to thank for their generosity and efforts. The Worlds wasn’t organized with the wave of a magic wand. We can thank John Focke, his many committee members, and the folks at the Houston Yacht Club for their months of planning. The race courses weren’t set by mythical characters, they appeared with the efforts of Matt Matthews and his many race committee members. And the Snider’s deserve a big round of applause for opening their home for the Wednesday night Class meeting and dinner. Although all the activities ran smoothly enough to make things look effortless, we all know that’s when more effort has been put into an event. Thank you everyone — including USSCA, North Sails, HYC Women’s Sailing Association, Steve Neumann Graphics, Ray Bailey Architects, Inc., Regatta Sports, Inc., KRIV-TV Fox Channel 26, and the Seiko Watch Company — for making this one of the best Worlds ever.
Racing in the Worlds is an experience most of us will never forget. Jonathan Baker (Austin, TX), the winner of the Seiko watch drawing, will have a permanent memento. Leon Raynor (Bermuda), the winner of the Seitech launching dolly, was thrilled about winning the drawing but confused about how he was going to get it on the airplane.
Now where does a World champion go from here? Literally, P.J. was going to stop at his alma mater, Tulane University, on his drive back to New York. He was also gearing up to compete on other favorite boats like the Flying Scot, Star and J-22. But his favorite? The Sunfish, of course. Why? Because of the friendly folks who make up this fun class. Truer words were never spoken.
In addition to the race winners, special trophies were awarded to:
|Youngest sailor||Maria Fermin (VEN)|
|Top Woman||Nancy Haberland (USA)|
|Marco Polo Award|
|Cuthbertson Trophy award||Larry Cochran (USA)|