Saturday was an absolutely spectacular day for sailing. The sky was clear; the sun was shining brightly; humidity was relatively low and the weather forecast was for winds from the northwest at 10 knots.
The 83 sailors who assembled on the beach at Southold Yacht Club to participate in the 41st annual World’s Longest Sunfish Race, Around Shelter Island, NY, the 24th annual Around Shelter Island Catamaran Race and the first Around Shelter Island Laser Race couldn’t get on the water fast enough. Sixty-three boats went to the starting line for the clockwise circumnavigation.
The granddaddy of the three is the Sunfish classic. With a time of 4 hours 22 minutes 45 seconds, Bobby Boger of the United States Merchant Marine Academy crossed the finish line first. Ordinarily, two to four leaders will finish within a minute or two of the winner, but Boger was dominant in finishing ahead of the second-place sailor, Lee Montes of the Wet Pants Sailing Association in Sayville, by an unusually wide margin of 5:30.
A wide starting line perpendicular to the wind provided a terrific photo op as 35 Sunfish crossed the line on a beam reach across Southold Bay. As they passed Conkling Point, Boger had opened a 50-yard lead over Dick Heinl, Jim Koehler, John Condon and Montes, who were battling for second place with the rest of the fleet bunched closely behind. Unlike last year when it took over two hours for the leaders to round Hay Beach Point into Gardner’s Bay, this year it was done in 45 minutes, with Boger continuing to widen his lead and Heinl opening up space in second place. Passing Ram’s Head, it was Boger and Heinl first and second, with Condon, Koehler, Christiaan Honig and Joe Sullivan fighting neck and neck for third place.
After Ram’s Head, the fleet, which had started with an outgoing tide, found the current, which was still going out, no longer a friend, and the battles for positioning took place within yards of the Shelter Island shore.
Boger continued to lead around Mashomack Point and into Shelter Island Sound and the battle for second place began in earnest as Heinl was challenged by Condon, Koehler and Montes plus Lucas Volle and Gerry Hesse, who had emerged from the pack. The sailors fought back and forth past the South Ferry and into Southold Bay as the northwesterly diminished from 10 to five knots, ending any chance for the course record of 3:21 being broken.
Awards were presented to the top 10 finishers and special perpetual plaques maintained at Southold Yacht Club were presented as follows: the WBAZ plaque with the name of the winner, Boger; the Peggy Wagner Memorial plaque with the name of the first woman finisher, Katie Koehler; and the Heinl-Lyman Octogenarian Plaque with the names of the oldest competitor, 87-year-old Keith Lyman; and the first master over 50 years of age to finish, 86-year-old Dick Heinl.
A Connecticut sailor, Stephen Fisk of the Cedar Point Yacht Club, won the Laser race in 3:50:15. He was closely followed by Connor Needham of the Shelter Island Yacht Club (3:51:15) and Geoffrey Loffredo of the Southold Yacht Club (3:55:30).
Pascal and Catherine Blotiau won the Catamaran race in 3:19:17. Ken Richter and Jim Mathews (3:22:30) edged out Paris Louett and Kai Sturman (3:22:50) for second place.