This past Saturday, July 9, saw the running of the 51st annual “World’s Longest Sunfish Race” (WLSR) hosted by the Southold Yacht Club (SYC).
The race circumnavigates Shelter Island and the full course is about 26 miles. The Menantic Yacht Club (MYC) was well represented, with 13 members starting.
Overall, 56 sailors registered. Tom McMahon and I volunteered as one of the chase boats because Tom’s wife Linda Gibbs was sailing in the race for the first time. From our perspective it was an exciting race.
Linda’s goal was just to finish the race, and that she did — in spectacular fashion. The wind was blowing moderately at the start, which was at the Southold Yacht Club. Beth Fischer, the principal race officer (PRO), sent the fleet north around Shelter Island.
Linda had a decent start, and by the time she reached Hay Beach, she was in 14th place. Tom and I were silently cheering her on, since actually talking to her was against the rules.
About an hour into the race, just before the lead boats reached North Ferry, the wind started to lighten up and sailing became so torturous that at one point the fleet’s professional photographer asked if we had any coins for the wind machine.
Unfortunately, we only had credit cards, and Mother Nature wasn’t accepting that form of payment. However, Linda always managed to find some wind and was slowly catching up to the leaders.
By the time Linda reached Ram Island, the leaders were far ahead, and were sailing towards Gardiners Island. Linda decided to stay closer to Shelter Island, along with a couple of other boats, including MYC regular Peter Beardsley, who had participated in this race several times before.
Their decision paid off, resulting in Linda and Peter jockeying for 5th place position, and sailing neck-and-neck for about an hour after rounding Mashomack Point.
Then, due to the almost windless conditions, the PRO decided to shorten the course and set the finish line before South Ferry. At this point, Peter pulled ahead of Linda, and finished in 8th place.
Linda made an impressive showing, especially considering it was her first time participating in this race, not only reaching her goal of finishing, but doing so in style, placing 10th overall, ahead of MYC greats like Lee Montes, Paul Zinger and Jim Koehler. Twenty-four sailors timed out.
Congrats, Linda, Peter and all the other sailors who participated, including MYC sailors George Zinger, Suzanne Hulme, Ruth Hakanson and Doug Rose. Kudos also to expert sailor Joe Sullivan, an MYC regular from several years ago, who sailed Saturday’s race with the SYC.
At a young 91, Joe was sailing in his 49th WLSR and placed 4th overall. Wow! He plans on retiring from racing after winning his 50th WLSR next year.
It remains to be seen where Joe places next year, but one thing is for sure, the less-experienced sailors, which includes everyone else, can learn a lot from him.