Thursday, August 18, 2005


There's been a correspondence rumbling on the Sunfish class email list in an attempt to answer a question posed by a self-confessed newbie, "Should I sail a Sunfish or a Laser?"

There have been lots of good answers with useful advice about the different characteristics of each boat and the demand and rewards of sailing each. Perhaps the best advice has been, "Sail what is most popular where you live." Which is basically why I, a life-long Laser sailor, took up Sunfish sailing when I moved to an area that had several clubs with strong Sunfish fleets and an active regional Sunfish racing series, but hardly any competitive Laser sailing.

But a few responses perpetuated the legend that the Sunfish class is in some way more friendly than the Laser class or that Laser sailors "protest too much." Having sailed Lasers for over 25 years and Sunfish for about 15, in every level of competition from local fleet to World Championships, I have to say I don't know how this nautical myth got started. Most of the sailors in both classes are wonderful people and are always willing to welcome and help new sailors in the class. Most of them enjoy the social aspects as much as the competition, hanging out with like minded enthusiasts, telling long stories of sailing exploits and sharing tips and advice.

Yes, there are a few, very few, assholes in both classes. But when I try to think of examples, I am sorry to say it is Sunfish sailors who spring to mind.....

Such as the former Sunfish North American champion who blatantly fouled me at a major regatta. When I politely pointed out to him the error of his ways and asked him to do his circles his answer was, "Fuck Off." Nice.

Or the Sunfish Sailor in our local Wednesday night series who persistently approaches the windward mark on the port tack layline, tacks within the 2 boatlength zone causing a starboard tacker to luff above close-hauled and who then refuses to accept he has broken a rule. He does this at least once every week. Week after week. I suspect his copy of the rulebook is dated 1976.

Or the junior Sunfish sailor who, when my son was winning a local Sunfish junior regatta, decided to jump off his boat, swim across to my son's boat, board it and then deliberately capsize him. As his coach was watching. I wonder if that coach ever told his class that the Sunfish was a "friendly" class. He clearly missed out the lesson on sportsmanship.

Only 3 examples I know. And probably some Laser sailors somewhere have behaved just as badly.

Or perhaps I am just one of those mean old unfriendly Laser sailors who give the class a bad name because I actually believe that a game is more fun if everyone plays by the same rules.

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