SUNY/Maritime grad earns World’s Championship berth

Dan Hesse, who grew up sailing on the Great South Bay, is a recent graduate of SUNY/Maritime College and the top sailor on its nationally ranked team. Now he can add another accomplishment to his sailing rà sumà as the winner of the New York Downstate Sunfish Regional Championship that was hosted this past weekend by Southold Yacht Club.

With his victory, Hesse became one of 30 sailors from the United States to qualify for the 41st annual Sunfish World’s Championship, which in 2011 will take place in the island nation of CuraÃßao, located in the Caribbean about 60 miles off the coast of Venezuela.

The Sunfish was selected years ago by LIFE magazine as one of the 50 best products of all time and approximately 1,500 sailors, from preteens to octogenarians, take part in regattas on its national racing circuit. At the more competitive events, it attracts some of the top college and former college sailors in the country.

Second place in the regional championship went to former Tulane sailor and former Sunfish World’s champion Paul-Jon Patin of Sayville Yacht Club. Third place was captured by Venezuelan Victor Diaz Deleon, who races for St. Mary’s College in Maryland.

Fifty competitors had been anticipated, but the weather forecast of thunderstorms and little wind diminished the fleet to 37 sailors, whose enthusiasm to compete was not dampened. While distant thunder was heard and sporadic rain did occur on Saturday, the lack of a consistent breeze proved most challenging to the race committee. Racing, which was scheduled to commence at noon, was postponed until 2:30 p.m. Two races were completed before the wind totally died during the third race and competition was discontinued for the day.

Sunday was a spectacular day, but the breeze remained light and shifty, moving from the east to the northeast to the north and then the northwest. Racing commenced at 10 a.m. and continued until 3:15 p.m., when the wind died entirely and Southold Yacht Club safety boats towed the competitors back to the beach. Still, five races were completed on Sunday, giving the sailors a challenging seven-race series. Five sailors — Hesse, Deleon, Rob Eberle of North Carolina, Mark May of Shattenuc Yacht Club on the Hudson and Ken Mockridge of Moriches Yacht Club — won races and Deleon captured three of the last four. Patin, with a 2-6-4-3-6-6-7 series, never won a race but demonstrated the importance of consistency by placing second overall.