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Sailing: It’s Montes triumphing in wild finish at Sunfish Race

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The sailing race they call a nautical marathon ended with a sprint to the finish.

Even in a race like The World’s Longest Sunfish Race, Around Shelter Island, NY, every second counts. That was made clear Saturday.

Riding the waves to a wild ending, the top three sailors finished within seconds of each other, with Lee Montes of the Wet Pants Sailing Association leading the way for his first victory in the 46th annual event. He was closely followed by John Condon of the Mattituck Yacht Club, who last year won a record fifth title. This time Condon had to settle for his second second-place finish in three years. Bobby Boger, an unaffiliated former Southold Yacht Club sailor who lives in Charlotte, South Carolina, took third.

The official times were not posted with the preliminary results on the host Southold Yacht Club’s website shortly after the race, but Montes figured he beat Condon by less than five seconds, and Condon edged Boger by less than two seconds.

“It was nerve-racking,” Montes, 46, of Smithtown, said on the beach afterward. “I was having a heart attack.”

Thirty-eight vessels competed in the 25-mile race that started in Southold Bay and went clockwise around Shelter Island before returning to Southold. The sailors had to deal with sweltering heat on a 90-plus-degree, humid, sunny day.

The four and half hours Montes spent on the water took its toll. Despite guzzling down four bottles of a sports drink during the race in an attempt to stave off dehydration, he complained of a headache afterward.

“I felt actually kind of sick about halfway through,” he said. “I was thinking about throwing up, but I was too busy racing.”

Condon, 41, said he felt the breeze kick up at his back and his Sunfish skipping and riding on waves on the return to Southold Bay. The final stretch was like a sprint on water.

“You just never know,” Condon said. “That’s how this race is.”

Before Saturday, Boger, 25, had gone 4-for-4 in this race, winning it in 2006 under the Southold Yacht Club’s flag and then in 2010, 2011 and 2012 as a member of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Boger held the lead once he left Greenport, but was second by the time he reached Sag Harbor, and then was nudged out by Condon at the end.

“Now my reign of terror is over, all washed up,” he cracked. “It’s official.”

The last time Boger sailed in this race, he triumphed by beating out Condon by a mere three feet.

Saturday’s race had a competitive fleet. A number of sailors could have won, including unaffiliated Jim Koehler and Brian McGinnis of the Wet Pants Sailing Association, who were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Another Wet Pants representative, Brett Doty, came in sixth. He was followed, in order, by Katie Koehler, Michael Byrnes and Bart Hale.

The top finisher for the host club was Joe Sullivan (11th place). Tom Talbot of the Old Cove Yacht Club finished 32nd. John Colby of the Shelter Island Yacht Club came in 35th.

Montes said he has a “love-hate relationship” with the event. “It’s a brutal race, but I do like it,” he said.

And what he may like even better is winning.

“After I crossed first, it was a relief, actually, because you don’t want to sail four and a half hours and lose it,” he said. “I finished in second, third and fourth before and that’s fine, but winning this thing is a whole different level.”

Then, after reflecting a bit, he said, “This is definitely not going to be forgotten.”

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Photo caption: A vazriety of vessels hit the beach by the Southold Yacht Club on Saturday for the 46th annual sailing of The World’s Longest Sunfish Race, Around Shelter Island, NY. (Credit: Bob Liepa)