2013 Sunfish Worlds report

After almost a year of planning, started by a conversation between ISCA President Paul-Jon Patin and Regatta Chair Connie Miller, plans came together for the 2013 World Championship held at Lewes Yacht Club in Lewes, Delaware, October 5-11.

At this Worlds the Sunfish Class returned to a World’s tradition with colored racing sails that were issued to all competitors. The 2012 World Championship was the first one that Laser Performance did not supply the boats and sails. Our International President, Paul-Jon Patin, felt that with the loss of the special Worlds sails we had lost an important part of our Class’s marketing. Patin tirelessly worked to bring back World’s sails, and having been on a number of conference calls about them, I can assure you it was not an easy task. Ned Jones, the ISCA Vice President, also deserves credit for his work negotiating with Laser Performance. And Jim Koehler, the owner of the Dinghy Shop, a Sunfish dealer on Long Island, New York, is due special thanks. He enabled the sails to happen by agreeing to purchase all of them, which he then resold after the regatta. Without Koehler’s support, we probably would not have had the great red, white and blue sails.

As the sailors arrived to rig their boats and enjoy a couple practice races, it seemed summer might hang on, as temperatures were in the 80’s with light to medium breezes. Ah, but that was not to be.
Under the direction of Principal Race Officer Taryn Teague, who came to the Sunfish Class with strong recommendations and credentials, the Race Committee was filled out with Lewes Yacht Club members.

The Opening Ceremony gala featured in-person welcomes from State and local government officials, the traditional flag raising for each participating country, Class President welcome, and a wonderful meal.

The first day of the Championship, Monday, had Race 1 start in winds of 20-25 off shore, that at the start punched to over 30 in advance of a strong line squall that had sustained winds of 50 mph for 15-20 minutes, according to reliable reports, and the air temperatures dropped. Sailors were grateful the squall hit while on an upwind leg, though it was nearly impossible to see with the stinging large, heavy raindrops making visibility only a few hundred feet. There were some capsizes, but with the sailors’ experience level, most kept sailing and finished the race.
There was a small concern this day that the race course was out rather far (the course was almost in the ocean rather than Delaware Bay), as when the tornado watch was issued it took almost an hour to get all the boats ashore. All will be happy to learn that the sole injured person,
John Miller (Connie’s husband), who cut his hand on the side of a Sunfish he was helping right from a capsize, got some stitches and is fine.

That line squall was in advance of the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen, that came up the East Coast from Florida and ran into a blocking high. Tuesday’s wind was North-northeast 30-35, just close enough to North to provide a small protected area at the north end of the beach in the shadow of the jetty to be able to launch one Sunfish at a time in relative protected conditions. A few sailors launched from the middle of the beach into the high waves. Some were able to successfully break through the waves and get out to the race course, but unfortunately a few boats were tossed back onto the beach and broke equipment. There are some startling videos of boats working to launch and sail that day!

Later races Tuesday afternoon were sailed in lightening breezes that dropped gradually to about 10, while the big choppy seas remained. With four races sailed that day, five were completed by this point.
Peru’s Alexander Zimmermann bent the straps on his rudder/tiller configuration while launching off the beach on Tuesday. Like so many others, he was facing the prospect of missing a race or two to make the repair. Zimmermann’s father, Alex, was competing in the regatta, and senior and junior switched rudder rigs on the water. Alexander proceeded to win the fist two races of the day and ended the day with a lead.

Following racing, Andrey Quintero of Colombia, who had been chatting with Zimmermann about the switch on the water, filed a protest against Zimmermann for illegally changing equipment. Sailors were required by the Sailing Instructions to have their equipment approved before the regatta and changes were only allowed by permission of the Judges. The Jury disallowed the protest because Quintero did not hail “protest” on the water. The Jury later approved Zimmermann’s retroactive request to change equipment (which is allowed if the breakdown happens on the water). Some competitors found this decision questionable because Zimmermann Sr. sailed the entire day with the bent tiller straps, apparently without issue. Had the protest been upheld, Zimmermann’s defense of his title would have been over.

So, Lewes Yacht Club set up two tour buses and Connie Miller arranged with competitor Kristen Berry from J/World for VIP tickets to the U.S. Sailboat Show at Annapolis, Maryland, just one-hour away, and over 60 people went to the show. Upon arrival a competitor saw the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, who has the reputation “you don’t want to be where Cantore is,” broadcasting just a mile-and-a-half south of the Lewes Beach that morning. That’s just how bad the weather conditions were.

One evening featured a competitive pizza party featuring local pizzeria’s offerings. They had 40 pizzas delivered. Four of the South American boys were chosen to judge, as they had no idea of the pizzeria’s reputations. The funny thing was, though they had sheets to rate the pizzas and had no idea of what the other’s choices were, they all chose the same pizza to win. The winning pizza was from Annabella’s Italian Restaurant, Pat’s Pizza was second and Grotto Pizza was third, all from the Lewes, Delaware area. Then, the Hopkins family brought ice cream from their dairy and everyone enjoyed sundaes. It was a fun night.

On Friday the Race Committee contemplated further racing. It was still blowing 30+ and the seas were very rough. Teague really did not want to call the regatta, so Paul-Jon Patin launched from a protected ramp, sailed out through Roosevelt Inlet, but turned back before reaching the end of the cut. When he came back Patin said, “A handful of people could sail, but it is very bad and we probably cannot get enough Race Committee out with the (type of support) boats we have.” With much regret they called the regatta.

Lewes Yacht Club was full on to welcome, support and entertain its guests. Sailors were treated to a daily morning repast that featured hot egg and other dishes, fresh fruit, juice, cereals, and much more as provided and served by a rotation of volunteer club members. The Championship featured nightly social events, as Chair Connie Miller said, “I love parties and have no trouble planning them.”

The celebratory Awards Banquet was an expansive spread that everyone enjoyed as they looked back over challenging sailing and such a strong and unceasing Northeaster. Regatta Chair Miller said, “It was really one of my biggest undertakings of my life and I think all went extremely well, except the da***ed Northeaster.
“Nor’easters usually last three days, getting lighter each day. This one blew until the next week Tuesday!!!”

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

Youngest sailor 
Top Master 
Top WomanAriana Villena Palau (ECU)
Top Youth 
Marco Polo Award 
Sportsmenship AwardConstance Miller (USA)
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