John Condon, representing the Mattituck Yacht Club, became the first five-time winner of The World’s Longest Sunfish Race, Around Shelter Island, NY when he won the 45th annual race on Saturday.
Condon had won the nautical marathon in four of the previous 17 years. His best time of 3 hours 27 minutes in 2007 was only four minutes shy of breaking the course record set by Todd Klingler of the Narrasketuck Yacht Club in Amityville in 1999. There was no record this year as the combination of virtually no wind and an incoming tide created what could be regarded as the most challenging conditions in the history of the event.
Thirty-eight boats crossed the starting line in Southold Bay off the Southold Yacht Club at 1 p.m., intending to sail clockwise around Shelter Island. At the six-hour time limit, when the race was curtailed, Condon was in Gardiner’s Bay approaching the Sag Harbor Lighthouse with an insurmountable one-mile lead.
Half the fleet received retired from the race when they concluded after two and a half hours that they could not make headway against the current along the north shore of Shelter Island by the Pridwin Hotel or Conkling Point. It was beyond Conkling Point where many had disembarked from their 13-foot 10-inch crafts while hoping for an increase in wind, which would have enabled them to proceed. The other half stuck it out and most eventually rounded Hay Beach Point into Gardiner’s Bay and received a did not finish when the race committee identified the 10 leaders when time expired.
Bernadette Levesque of the Massapoag Yacht Club (Mass.) finished second. Nancy Haberland, a six-time winner of the Women’s Sunfish North American Championship from the United States Naval Academy Sailing Squadron, grabbed third. They were followed, in order, by Jack Cashwell, Mike Preston, Jeff Anderson, Bart Hale, Dan Sullivan, Andrew Ewing and Nicholaas Honig. All of them except for Hale, a Southold resident, are members of the Southold Yacht Club.
This is the first year since Mary Beth O’Brien of the host club won the race in 1977 and Peggy Wagner placed third some 30 years ago that not one but two female sailors scored as high as second and third place.
Take-home awards were presented to the top three leaders by the race committee chairman, Charles Boyar, and perpetual plaques on permanent display at the Southold Yacht Club will be engraved as follows: WBAZ-FM Award Winner — John Condon; PEGGY WAGNER Memorial Award — First Woman, Bernadette Levesque; HEINL-LYMAN Award — Oldest competitor and the First Master over 50 years of age; Dick Heinl, age 90, and Nancy Haberland, age 54.
Photo caption: The World’s Longest Sunfish Race Around Shelter Island in 2009 (Credit: flickr, Peter Meitzler)