Friday, April 07, 2006


One of the local sailors I sailed against as a junior did very well at the Sunfish Midwinter Championship. He was always the young hotshot on our local lake and has apparently learned alot from sailing Lasers with Tillerman in Connecticut.
The Sunfish is a strange little boat but it has a very loyal following among what is now becoming an older group of sailors. Unfortunately there is not much respect to be had when boasting of success in a Sunfish among sailors from other classes. When you tell someone that you raced Sunfish when you were growing up, the image in their mind is more likely to be:

Rather than:

Despite its cheesy reputation, the Sunfish is an interesting and tricky boat to sail. The sailplan is different on port and starboard tacks because the sail is rigged on the port side of the mast, the whole rig is very wobbly and can easily be shaken by aggressive body motions, the hull has hard chines and in some conditions sails well when heeled to leeward so that only one chine is in the water, and the sail controls are rudimentry and not very effective.
Interestingly, when I started sailing a Star there were some parallels between the two boats. The main similarity is that the boom on both boats is very long and low to the deck which makes tacking interesting and allows for a kind of aerodynamic "plate" effect at the bottom of the main. And the other is that the rudder on both boats is relatively small and can stall out easily.


Ant said...

Interesting post... I guess there's two camps in dinghy sailing (racing):

1. you have to either look cool or go bloody fast, ideally both, really ideal is to look cool, whilst going very fast and with lots of water flying around (not spoiling the hair-doo)
2. you want to sail a class that has great sailing (the boat suits you) with close racing (boats and people are matched) and have a good pre/post sailing "vibe"

With the "fast" sailing you do also tend to get a good social, but (not always) the racing may not be tactical or my be won/lost at certain pre-defined points...

With the other camp its ALL about the type of racing, closeness, examples of skill in both handling and tactics and you want a good social...

Thats why i'm in an Enterprise right now... really good racing, the boat suits me and James and the socials excellent...

Not sure whether this has added value or not...sorry stream of consciousness! (

Tim said...

I must say that the Sunfish doesn't 'look' a cool boat, but that is not the important thing and it sounds like a good entry level dinghy.

I think that the accesibility of the class is important, affordability, availability of both boats and clubs that race it.

The sailing experiance is another important factor, if the boat is not fun and if it doesn't have any challanges, then it is unlikely to be succesful.

Like Ant I race an Enterprise, a design that has been going for 50 years. It is not a 'cool' boat by modern standards but it is a great boat to sail with plenty of challanges, very accesible, low cost entry with plenty of clubs that race it (in the UK anyway)and the nature of the boat makes for close competition, what is more it is a friendly class (although it hasn't always been so, apparently at one time it was quite cut-throat).

So long may the Sunfish sail!

johnsee said...

Wow! They just look plain wierd (though I'll admit it makes me really want to give one a go!)

We don't have anything like that down in aus.

Willie Waw said...

Yes, the Sunfish is a unique craft, but about 200,000 have been built over the years.

It is a very competitive racing class -- with a North racing sail and high-quality composite foils -- recent World Championships were sailed in Colombia, Martinique and Aruba and earlier ones in Italy, Netherlands, Bahamas, Bermuda, Venezuela and the US.

It is a good junior trainer (put 2 kids on it in a breeze).

There have been some unique races on Sunfish, such as the 'Round Shelter Island Race , the Sunfish River Race on the Connecticut River, the 'Round Jamestown (RI) and 'Round Cape Ann (MA) races.

It has been used for interesting cruises -- one guy sailed one from Miami to Boston (although he was "delayed" for two weeks in North Carolina after meeting a woman on the beach. The fleet in Aruba used to troll for game fish as they sailed between Aruba and Venezuela.

And it is a fun family off-the-beach boat -- my kids used to enjoy capsizing it more than sailing it when they were about 10-12 -- easy to right. Great fun...


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