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Menantic Yacht Club to host championship event Saturday

COURTESY PHOTO Melissa Shepstone practicing for this weekend’s Women’s North American Sunfish Championship to be held in Island waters.
Melissa Shepstone practicing for this weekend’s Women’s North American Sunfish Championship to be held in Island waters.

During the Menantic Yacht Club’s annual awards banquet in 2014, Jim Koehler mentioned that the MYC might have the opportunity to host the Women’s North American Sunfish Championship (WNA) races in 2016.

Those two years have passed quickly, and as Jim predicted, on September 17, the MYC will host the championship event. The winner of the regatta qualifies to sail in the 2017 Sunfish World Championship to be held in Brant Beach, New Jersey next summer, where men and women compete together.

The regatta is shaping up to be the largest WNA ever. Currently, there are 43 registrants ranging in age from 12 to 72. They’re travelling to our little Island from many locations, including Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Delaware, upstate New York, New Jersey and Texas, to name a few. Among the 43 contestants are five women who have previously won the WNA. They are Marguerite Koehler, Jim’s daughter, of Amityville, New York; Anne Patin of Forest Hills, New York; Lee Parks of Newport, Rhode Island; Gail Heausler of Tampa, Florida; and the MYC’s very own Melissa Bethge Shepstone of Shelter Island.

The MYC does not have a clubhouse or collect dues. We are a small group of people open to anyone who wants to race Sunfish on any given Sunday afternoon from July through Labor Day weekend. As such, we are dependent upon cooperation and support, not only from all members of the MYC, but also from members of the community. Housing for 43 sailors and their families and friends was no easy feat, but we found accommodations for everyone in private homes. Members are also loaning boats and rigs to sailors travelling from afar.

Many of our members and others are supplying food for the various functions off the water, spectator boats and volunteering for anything else that might come up. In addition, the Shelter Island Yacht Club has generously agreed to loan the MYC its racing marks, since the MYC currently only uses orange balls. The inclusive camaraderie of the MYC combined with the open-heartedness of the Shelter Island community as a whole will no doubt make this a very special regatta, indeed. Thank you, all.

One would think that a person prone to seasickness would not be an accomplished sailor. And then there is Melissa Shepstone, who lets nothing stop her. Melissa won the 1990 WNA held in Lewes, Delaware, and went on to the 1991 Sunfish Worlds in Curacao, at which the conditions were beyond challenging, with winds blowing between 20 and 39 knots combined with six-to-eight-foot waves. Proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Melissa’s father, Commodore Pete Bethge, sailed in the Worlds in Sardinia, Italy, in 1981.

Along with her husband, Steve Shepstone, Melissa won the Worlds Champion races in the Sonar class in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2004. Several weeks ago, Melissa and Steve were part of a three-boat team that won the New York Yacht Club Grandmasters Team Race Championships in Sonars, a race that is for 60-plus year-old-sailors. Melissa and Steve, you inspire all of us.
In addition to Melissa, Linda Gibbs, Melanie Coronetz and Denise Fenchel, all of whom sail with the MYC on a regular basis, are entered in the WNA. Good luck to you all.

For anyone interested in watching the races, the weekend schedule is as follows: Practice racing will be Friday afternoon. Official racing will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday and continue until late afternoon, with a short lunch break. Sunday’s racing will commence at 10 a.m. and terminate at 2:30 p.m. As of now, the racing will take place in West Neck Harbor, but there is a possibility that the races will be held elsewhere if the number of racers increases.

There will be a maximum of 11 races held over the two days, weather permitting. It’s worth noting that the International Sunfish Class Association considers the event to be a regatta, as long as at least one race is held.

There will be two different courses that the Race Committee will use, designated Course 1 and Course 2 (see diagram, preceding page). Boats will be all over the course, but, if you can follow the diagram you will be able to have a picture of what’s going on.
A reception will be held on Friday, September 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. MYC members and those housing sailors are welcome. Please bring heavy appetizers.

Saturday night, a dinner will be held at a local restaurant only for sailors, U.S. Sailing Judges and members of the Race Committee. Sorry, but seating is limited. Tom McMahon and Linda Gibbs will host the awards ceremony on Sunday after racing. Again, MYC members, please bring appetizers.

Good luck to all sailors!