PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIDGET WALTER/NORTH FORK MEMORIES
The World’s Longest Sunfish Race, Around Shelter Island, NY marked its 40th anniversary on Saturday and drew 37 boats.
For the second time in four years, Bobby Boger of Southold won the annual World’s Longest Sunfish Race, Around Shelter Island, NY on Saturday.
It was the 40th anniversary of the nautical marathon, which began in 1971 as a promotional stunt for the host Southold Yacht Club and turned into a challenging event combining the best and worst of both dinghy and big boat sailing.
Thirty-seven boats crossed the starting line off Founders’ Landing Beach in Southold Bay at 11:30 a.m., and Boger, representing the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, crossed the finish line first 4 hours 56 minutes 58 seconds later.
As usual, the race had a little something for everyone. The day was spectacular, with sunny skies, low humidity and temperatures in the 80s. A light southeast breeze caused the race committee to choose a clockwise course and helped the fleet sail toward Greenport on a close reach after the start. Before arriving at Hay Beach Point and the turn into Gardiners Bay, however, the wind died and changed direction three or four times — so frequently that the fleet was being propelled forward more by the outgoing tide than by the wind.
After sailing past Ram’s Head on Shelter Island, the breeze began to clock to the south and increase, causing the fleet to spread out. Drew Staniar of Off Soundings on Cape Cod caught the breeze first and opened up a one-mile lead over the rest of the fleet. As he approached Mashomack Point, he stayed with the current in the middle of the channel while Boger and Lee Parks of Sail Newport, R.I., hugged the shore and benefited from a freshening 15-knot southerly. Both sailors passed Staniar, who subsequently sailed by Parks. At the South Ferry, Boger opened up a 300-yard lead.
Staniar continued to surf the waves and challenge Boger. By the time they passed Paradise Point and entered Southold Bay, the lead had shrunk to 100 feet. That’s when it got interesting, as the wind dropped from 15 to zero knots. Southold Bay was becalmed and the rest of the fleet was still benefiting from a breeze in Little Peconic Bay.
In Staniar’s words: “We were about 50 feet apart when the wind died and I had no choice but to split tacks with him. He found a light breeze and I found another hole. The ballgame was over. Boger sailed magnificently and deserved the win.”
On the way to South Ferry, Lee Montes of the Wet Pants Sailing Association in Sayville passed Parks to capture third place. Parks was fourth, followed by Art Littleton of Cooper River Yacht Club in Cherry Hill, N.J. Rounding out the top 10 award-winners were Peter Wells of Wet Pants, John Condon of Mattituck Yacht Club, Nicholaas Honig of Southold Yacht Club, Gerry Hesse of Wet Pants and, coming in 10th, four-time winner and defending champion, 85-year-old Dick Heinl of the Seawanhaka Place Yacht Squadron in Oyster Bay.
Boger, who won the race in 2007, was presented with a set of green chevrons. His name will be engraved on the WBAZ Perpetual Plaque that is maintained at Southold Yacht Club. As the first female to finish, Lee Parks will have her name inscribed on the Peggy Wagner Memorial Plaque. The Heinl-Lyman Octogenarian Plaque bears the names of the first finishers over 50 years of age and the oldest participants. This year, those honors go to 58-year-old Staniar, who placed second, and 86-year-old Keith Lyman of East Marion, who won the race in 2003 at age 79 and finished 18th this year.
At the competitors’ meeting prior to the start, race co-founder Joe Sullivan recognized Jeanette Holy, who traveled from Marathon, Fla., for the event, and 87-year-old Fred Pati of Wantagh, who retired from competition 10 years ago after participating in the first 30 races. Pati’s consecutive streak was tied this year by Heinl, who has sailed in every race since 1981. Sullivan holds the participation record of 38 races.