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Sailing: A good read can spell victory for Condon

Sailor John Condon 080916

Being a good reader is important in sports.


Just ask a quarterback who reads a defense or a batter who can read the seams on a baseball being pitched to him. But if you’re a sailor like John Condon, it’s a matter of reading the current and the wind.

It’s an invaluable quality that Condon has made good use of in competition. It helped the Mattituck man last year become the first five-time winner of The World’s Longest Sunfish Race, Around Shelter Island, NY.

Condon, 41, is no stranger to the water. He is a member of the Mattituck Yacht Club, which he first joined when he was 10. In addition, he learns a lot about the currents by drifting around in a boat while fishing in Peconic Bay in the springtime.

So, part of sailing is knowing where to be, Condon said, and some of it, well, is just plain luck. But concentration and patience are vital, too, especially in the race around Shelter Island, which covers 25 miles and can last up to six hours. That leaves a lot of time for the mind to wander, and daydreaming can cost a sailor a race.

“I always feel a lot of it is keeping your head in it, keeping your concentration and just not giving up because there are times when you can be near the back” and end up in the top 10, Condon said. “I’ve had a lot of races where I led and not won. You can be way ahead and not win a race.”

Condon, however, seems to have winning down. He learned a lot by sailing for Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.

His first win in the race around Shelter Island was in 1997. Four more victories followed in 2002, 2007, 2013 and last year when the virtual absence of wind and a frustrating incoming tide forced half the fleet to retire after two and a half hours when they could not make headway against the current along the north shore of Shelter Island. When the race’s six-hour time limit was reached, Condon was the leader by one mile and declared the winner.

The year before he finished second in the race, a mere 58 seconds behind Brian McGinnes of the Wet Pants Sailing Association in Sayville,

Condon looks forward to the race around Shelter Island, not only because of his past success.

“It’s one of my favorites because it’s a marathon,” he said. “It’s a long race and it’s such a beautiful race to sail, and you get a little bit of everything. It’s dealing with boats.”

“Every year you gain a little experience about the island,” he continued. “Oh, there are rocks there or stay out of that cove. I pretty much know the strategy of where I’m going to go.”

Asked to explain Condon’s success, Celeste Flick, the Southold Yacht Club treasurer and member of the club’s race committee, said: “It’s patience and focus. He’s a good sailor, period.”

For someone who loves the peace and serenity that comes with being on the water, Condon surprisingly sailed only three times this summer before heading to Michigan to compete in the Sunfish U.S. Masters Championship this past weekend. He finished fourth in apprentice masters (ages 40-49) at Gulf Lake Yacht Club in Richland.

Now, what are Condon’s chances of claiming a sixth title in the 46th annual race around Shelter Island on Saturday? That could be a tough read.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I never thought I’d be a five.”

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Photo caption: John Condon of the Mattituck Yacht Club is the only five-time winner of The World’s Longest Sunfish Race, Around Shelter Island, NY. (Credit: courtesy photo)