By Malcolm Dickinson
Varied wind and sea conditions on the Great Sound of Bermuda made for a challenging 24th World Championship. The beauty of the location, excellent conditions and courses, and the hospitality of our Bermudian hosts made the event memorable. Competitors arrived from six different countries on Saturday, November 12. New arrivals at the Spanish Point Boat Club were greeted by old friends, regatta T-shirts and hats, 40 new 1995 Sunfish on the lawn (already assembled and rigged) and an expanse of turquoise water to the west: Great Sound.
Sunfish-Laser, Inc. provided only half of the promised 80 new boats, so the Bermuda Yachting Association, organizers of the regatta, had to schedule a three-day elimination series to determine which sailors could compete in a 40 boat finals. The sailing instructions were amended three times to end up specifying a week-end event consisting of two practice races, 12 elimination races, a three-race consolation series, and a three-race championship finals. All 20 races were full Olympic courses, taking between 50 minutes and 2.5 hours to complete.
Each sailor drew a card to determine their division (A, B, C, or D) and then three more cards to determine which boats they would use on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Sunday’s practice races used the same boats and schedule as Monday.
Since the boats were being used round-robin, no modifications were permitted. We had to use the supplied short out-haul lines, short tiller extensions, and stretchy halyards and bridles. Only telltales and compasses could be added. For the finals, we were allowed to add cleats and adjustable out-hauls and change the lines, hiking strap, ratchet block, and tiller extension. Several sailors from Bermuda devised a clever way of attaching clam cleats without drilling. It involved two pieces of stainless steel, each bent at one end to curve around the lip at the edge of the deck. One sailor had tried fixing clam cleats to the tops of his thighs during the elimination series! (Perhaps we’ll see a new line of “cleat-wear” developed for this purpose: combination hiking pants and thigh-top main-sheet cleats?)
SUNDAY was medium air for the practice races. Jean Bergman won the C&D practice race, but her husband Don couldn’t figure out what was causing him to go so slowly. Then Mike Scriver saw something attached to the bottom of his boat: it was a remora, known locally as a “shark sucker,” and it had attached it self to the underbelly of something smooth and white that was swimming through the water-Don’s boat! After the races a “dark and stormy” party was held outside the club to introduce the uninitiated to Bermuda’s favorite mixed drink: dark rum and ginger beer. The organizers took to the stage abng with the commodore and the Minister of Sport to officially open the event. The colors of the six competing nations were raised on the club’s flag poles, where they remained all week, and David Frith’s bagpipe and drum corps entertained, complete with Scottish dancing.
MONDAY three races were held on very long courses set far away from the club. Half-hour postponements occurred beforeeach race, and by the time the third race was over it was nearly sunset, so the second race of C&D fleets was postponed until the folbwing day. Eduardo Cordero and Bruce Mahoney won the day’s races. It was windy and colder than many of us
had expected. Those who had brought shorty wetsuits found that the combination of cool temperature and wind required a windbreaker or dry top to stay warm.
TUESDAY began with the second C&D race, then a boat switch. C fleet returned for two more races against A, then B&D fleets got in one race before sunset. Courses were shorter and winds lighter. We were still one race behind and an earlier starting time was announced for Wednesday morning. Malcolm Smith, the local favorite, now had scores of 2-3-1 -5 to Eduardo Cordero’s 1 -1 -3-1. Eduardo appeared well on his way to becoming the first person ever to win the Sunfish Worlds two years in a row. A cocktail reception was held at the Bacardi Building, headquarters of the famous rum company.
WEDNESDAY was a lighter-air day which required very little hiking out. It began with the second B&D race; then two A&D races; and C&D switched in about 3:00 pm to finish the elimination series. When the smoke had cleared and all 12 races had been scored, 40 sailors had made it into the championship finals. After a buffet d inner at Spanish Point, each sailor came to the registration table to find out how they did, received a bright blue soft briefcase emblazoned with the regatta to go, and drew the number of the boat they would use for their remaining three races. Results were posted, showing Eduardo Cordero still in first with 7.25 points, and Malcolm Smith close behind with 8.5. Paul-Jon Patin was within striking distance with 15.75. The 40 finalists got Thursday off; the remaining 27 sailed three races on Thursday for the consolation series.
THURSDAY was windier than the other days had been. The consolation fleet was out, 20 strong, sailing in beautiful sunshine and steady 15-20 knot winds. Drew Buttner showed his heavy-air strength for a decisive victory with finishes of 2-1-1. Chris Thompson, of the Bahamas, and Bermuda’s own Mickey Berkeley were the other two consistently at the head of the fleet. Thursday evening a cocktail reception was held at the posh Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, a coat and tie affair with the sailors looking their best.
FRIDAY was the big day: the final three races of the championship series. As Tropical Storm Gordon, now renamed Hurricane Gordon, passed Florida and headed straight for Bermuda, the winds picked up even more. The finalists were at the club early, setting up their boats and replacing nearly every line with one of their own. Cleats appeared on hulls and spars, and everything from sail clip to bridle was examined as the wind continued to build. The starting line for the first race was set clear on the other side of the Sound, in a spot where the waves had the maximum possible fetch to build to a punishing height. The wind was extreme, gusting over 30 knots, and the waves were large and difficult to steer through.
The ability of some sailors to sail fast in these conditions became apparent immediately at the start, as some boats pulled away from the rest as if we were standing still. It was driven home to many of us inland-lake sailors just how much of a difference it makes to be used to these conditions.
Some were obviously sailing just another tactical race, while others were hanging on for dear life, “in survival mode.” The reaches were exhilarating, with the boat on a constant plane regardless of waves. After the first three legs, I could hardly believe we had to complete that 1.25-mile upwind stag twice more, and it turned out that many others felt the same way. Fifteen boats did not finish the race. Some were towed in due to breakdowns and others were overwhelmed by the conditions.
More than a dozen sailors had equipment breakdowns on Friday, most occurring in the extreme wind and wave conditions of the first race. The faulty parts were mostly rudder blades, which split down the middle from the center bolt hole. Another failure was the rudder cheek assembly, which is now being made out of a particularly flexible black plastic. The plastic doesn’t corrode in salt water the way the old brittle cast aluminum ones did, but it flexes a bt – and breaks in heavy air! Although many sailors were using their own tiller extensions, those using the SLI part found that the rubber universal pulls out of the tiller extension tube when you pull to bear off around the windward mark. I heard bts of rumors about the stronger rudder, tiller, and joint under development for the Sunfish and, as one whose rudder split on Friday, I know I speak for many of us when I say it can’t happen soon enough!
The second and third races were set closer up underneath the windward shore and featured a shorter windward leg. It was a good thing, as most of the sailors were pretty well worn after the punishing first race. Of the 27 skippers who competed in the afternoon, those who had their boats, muscles, and minds set up properly for the conditions were still sailing competitively, but many of the rest were just hanging on for the finish. Every upwind leg began with a march on starboard until the fleet was close under the lee of the land, at which point they would break off
onto port to head for the mark. Don Bergman had lst his glasses in a downwind death-roll during the first race but finished all three races, nonetheless. How he felt his way around the course without being able to see the marks is a mystery , but he did it, and had respectable finishes in every race-all this from the most senior sailor in the regatta!
The ISCA World Council met on Friday night over dinner at the RBYC and made several changes to the constitution, bylaws, and measurement rules, which will appear in the spring Windward Leg. Outgoing ISCA President Len Ruby ran an efficient meeting and oversaw the election of Jean Bergman as the new ISCA president and Marc Schillebeeckx of Curacao as Vice President.Two resolutions were passed that will make worlds competitors happy. First, specific instructions on what equipment may and may not be changed during the Worlds will now be published in the Notice of Race, so that all competitors will know exactly what equipment to bring. Second, a provision will be written into the sailing instructions for the Worlds allowing competitors to apply for breakdown points when builder-supplied equipment fails. Later on Friday night a karaoke party was held at the Mid-Atlantic Boat & Sports Club on the island’s north shore, featuring a hot buffet and an appearance by the colorful Goombay Dancers.
SATURDAY night’s awards dinner was given buffet-style at the beautiful Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. Chuck Millican thanked his fellow volunteers for making the regatta work so smoothly, as indeed it had. In spite of the boat shortage and the elimination series it necessitated, and the delay of one race from Monday to Wednesday, the entire series had run without a hitch. Chuck was given a standing ovation by the crowd in recognition of his efforts.
Dan Feldman was cited for his act of sportsmanship in retrieving David Frith’s daggerboard after it had floated away during a downwind capsize on Friday. Finally, awards were presented to the top ten sailors: one Venezuelan, one from the Bahamas, three Bermudians, and five from the US. After years of working very hard, Malcolm Smith had won the regatta by a respectable five points. The new world champion was carried down to the waterfront in a small procession led by David Frith’s bagpipes, and dunked in the bay according to tradition. The regatta had come to an end. The following are quotes from Saturday’s Royal Gazette article.
“It’s really a high,” said a beaming Smith, as wife Julie and supporters besieged the new champion. “It feels so good, it’s going to take a while for it to sink in, but I’m just on top of the world.” Following a general recall, Smith got off to a solid start (in race 9) while the usually reliable
Cordero was buried in the fleet. Cordero, a sailing instructor with the Venezuelan Navy, although able to make up remarkable ground, never fully recovered and was left to rue chances bst.
“I’m a little bit (disappointed) as I came here for a win and I was (winning) until the last day,” said Cordero, who had earlier stated his goal of becoming the first to win the regatta in consecutive years. “I’m disappointed with me, but very happy for the class, because it means it is a very difficult class to win twice in a row. I have to say that Malcolm Smith sailed a great series and he deserves to win. He’s a winner and the new world champion; I’m happy for him.”
Almost displacing Cordero from second place was Paul-Jon Patin of the United States, who finished second and first in the last two races (and was winning race 7 by a wide lead when his rudder broke). “I’m very happy about the way I sailed; I never had a race out of the top seven, which was good enough [for me] to win in Houston…two years ago. But Malcolm sailed very well today. Regretfully I broke a rudder this morning, but I’m still happy. The committee did an excellent job and I really enjoyed the competition.”
But the day belonged to Smith, left to celebrate the thrill of a dream come true, one which seemed would never come to fruition after prior failures and near misses. “I was worn out; there was a lot of pressure. It was a little home water advantage. I had a lot of friends here to back me up; they were really pushing me and telling me I could do it, and that helps,” added Smith.
In addition to the race winners, special trophies were awarded to:
|Youngest sailor||Airaiv Aivzaloni (VEN)|
|Top Master||Don Bergman|
|Top Woman||Paula Lewin (BER)|
|Marco Polo Award||Darryl Coe|
|Cuthbertson Trophy award||Pablo Hernandez-Voth (VEN)|