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Sunfish start. Photo: Kim Sanford
Sunfish start. Photo: Kim Sanford

All Ages Compete at Chandler Sunfish Regatta

There were two facets to the St. Croix Yacht Club hosted 2nd Annual Bill Chandler Sunfish Regatta in February that few if any other sailing competitions in the Caribbean can claim:

  1. the singlehanded sailors ranged in age from 11 to 70-plus years, AND
  2. the only class featured the Sunfish dinghy.

Twelve sailors took to the seas for the two-day regatta, named in honor of the late Bill Chandler. Chandler spent countless volunteer hours teaching kids to sail and favored the Sunfish when he took to the seas himself. Peter Stanton, whom Chandler taught when he was a young sailor, finished first overall with all first place bullets except for one second place finish. This second place was handed to him by Lenn De Palma, Chandler’s nephew.

“Good solid tactics and great boat speed is what got it done,” says Stanton, who has won the Sunfish Worlds as a Junior, represented the US Virgin Islands in the Sunfish at a couple of Pan American Games and Caribbean & Central American Games, and is currently the Sunfish Class representative for the territory. “I looked up to Lenn when he was a teenager and I was a kid learning how to sail. It was great to sail with and against him again.”

Winners and trophies. Photo: Kim Sanford
Winners and trophies. Photo: Kim Sanford

The Grand Master Class, ages 60 and up, was the most competitive class. Only seven-points separated first and third place after 20 races and no throw outs. The overall Grand Champion Tully Keith successfully defended his title in this class. Ned Jacobs was a close second with Charlie Fischer, SCYC’s commodore and oldest sailor, third.

Fischer says, “When you are 75-years-old the opportunity to sail in singlehanded competition, and be competitive, does not present itself very often. The Chandler Sunfish Regatta was perfect because it included all ages and skill levels. So I signed up, figured I could beat some of the kids and maybe get lucky. Two days later, with bloody hands, sore butt and busted dreams, I realized Chandler was right. He’d always said, ‘just blame the idiot at the end of the tiller!’ But, my eighth place overall out of fourteen must mean something, right?”

On the opposite end of the age spectrum, 11-year-old Lake Sanford and 13-year-old Taylor Hasson teamed up to double-hand since they both weigh only 80lb. The duo finished third overall and took the Youth Champion prize.

“The best part of the regatta was when we beat Beecher Higby (winner of the age 40 to 59-year-old Master Class and a great laser sailor) in four races!” says Sanford who took turns on the tiller with Hasson.

Hasson credits their win “to great teamwork and practice.”

Sanford and Hasson usually sail Optimists and Lasers respectively. These two dinghies are prevalent throughout the Caribbean, yet not so the Sunfish. In fact, Sunfish fleets in the islands have been up and down over the last several decades. This rise and fall in popularity has paralleled major events, such as when the Sunfish Worlds were held in Puerto Rico in 1999 and Curacao in 2011 and when sailors are preparing for the Pan Am and CAC Games since the Sunfish is one of the official classes. However, there are Sunfish Class Associations in Puerto Rico, Barbados, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

Stanton explains, “The Sunfish is a relatively simple boat and can be adjusted so that older folks that’s don’t bend as easily can get under the boom and across the boat easier. It’s also good for younger kids because it is not as physically demanding as a Laser. The boat is also a blast to reach around in and isn’t too far off the pace of a Laser.”

For full results, visit: www.stcroixyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Chandler_2014_Results.pdf 

For information on the International Sunfish Class, visit www.sunfishclass.org

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