Shelter Island mariner sails into history books, wins ‘world’s longest’ Sunfish race

The 52nd annual “World’s Longest Sunfish Race” around Shelter Island kicked off under partly cloudy skies on the shores of Southold Yacht Club late Saturday morning.

Organizers said that 62 of the 67 boats that set out on the harrowing, 26-mile trek around Shelter Island completed the race – with Peter Beardsley of Shelter Island’s Menantic Yacht Club winning the race with a time of 4:41:57, becoming the first Shelter Island sailor to win the race.

“It was one the of the best ‘around Shelter Island’ races,” said Beth Fleisher, race committee chairwoman at the Southold Yacht Club, which hosts the annual competition. “The wind was perfect, presenting a lot of challenges, with many changes in directions and changes in intensity.”

Ms. Fleisher said that the wind was at about six knots when the race started and by the end there were gusts of up to 15 knots.

“Fortunately, the predominant wind was our well-known southerly sea breeze, [which built] in velocity over the course of the day. The current, as always, was the defining factor between winners and the rest. The currents around Shelter Island are notorious.”

She said Mr. Beardsley studied the currents over two weeks prior to the race, both in his Sunfish and by studying charts and tables prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hot on Mr. Beardsley’s stern was Dave Slavinski of Lavallette Yacht Club in Lavallette, New Jersey, who won the Heinl-Lyman First Master award as the first racer over age 50 to complete the course. Mr. Slavinski, who came in second overall, clocked a time of 4:42:57, exactly one minute behind the front runner.

Right behind him was Betsy Davis, also of the Lavallette Yacht Club, who took home the Peggy Wagner award for the first female racer across the finish line, with a time of  4:43:11 — just 14 seconds behind Mr. Slavinski.

Joyce McKenzie and Kathryn Campbell from Southold Yacht Club were the adult doubles winners, and 50th overall, with a time of  5:03:44.

Veteran Southold Yacht Club sailor Joe Sullivan, 86, took home the Heinl-Lyman Award for oldest competitor with a time of 5:11:35. Mr. Sullivan was the one who dreamed up the idea for the race back in 1970.  

Rounding out the top ten sailors were Southold Yacht Club members John Condon and Jeff Anderson in fourth and fifth place respectively. Emily Wegner of Tampa, Fla’s Davis Yacht Club took sixth place. Seventh place went to Frank Seckler of Sayville’s Wet Pants Sailing Association, and the eighth slot went to Jim Koehler of the South Bay Watersports Association. Stephen Fisk, of Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, Conn. took ninth place and Joe Croasdale of Southold Yacht Club finished tenth.

The incredibly tight race among the fastest sailors “made it so damn fun,” Ms. Fleisher said.

“These boats were sailing for over four hours of time, switching places back and forth and forth and back, making decisions all the way,” she said. “The close finish … just shows you how intensely competitive this fleet was.”

The race afterparty included a bounty of grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, cheeseburgers, fruit salad and cookies, served up by chef and SYC member John Anderson. Lenz Winery in Peconic donated a case of its Firefly Rosé, which Ms. Fleisher said was named after SYC club member Peter Carroll’s sailboat, plus “lots of beer.”

Ms. Fleisher said that “this race could not have been done without the 14 safety boats we had out there, crewed by over 30 volunteers.”

Follow this link for more information and click the “Race Results” tab near the top of the page for a list of all finishers.