Just over a year ago I sold my last Sunfish (after owning one or more for over 15 years) and decided to concentrate on racing my Laser. I have no regrets after a year of fun, travel, and some modest achievement in the Laser. But I wonder if my timing was a bit off...
After all, 2008 is the Year of the Sunfish.
Huh? What does that mean?
Judging by various documents on the Sunfish Class website it seems that the class has been undergoing a rigorous self-examination over the past year and has been giving some serious thought on how to position itself for success in the future. For example check out this presentation on marketing strategy. After honestly admitting the Sunfish's (at best) second place status to the Laser in terms of new boats built, geographic coverage and class membership, the strategy goes on to discuss how to change the perception of the class in the minds of the public and how to trade on the unique nature of the boat to grow the class in the future. Not surprisingly they are planning to exploit some of the benefits of the Sunfish that I also pointed out in my post on Ten Reasons Why Sunfish Are Better Than Lasers.
Wait. What's that about a problem with the perception of the class?
Well, to be honest in some quarters the Sunfish is not taken as seriously as a racing class as the Laser is. One example from my own experience: My sons grew up sailing Optimists, then in their early teenage years they mainly raced Sunfish with a bit of Laser sailing thrown in too. When my elder son was in his junior year at high school we had the good fortune to meet one of the top college sailing coaches at that time, and we pumped him for information on college sailing. Would my son's achievements (mainly in Sunfish) be attractive to college coaches, which colleges might be a good fit for him, would he have a chance of making a college team, etc. etc.? The uber-coach's main advice was, "Forget the Sunfish and concentrate on the Laser. College coaches won't have much respect for what you have achieved in the Sunfish." I have no reason to think much has changed in the past twelve years.
But 2008 is the Year of the Sunfish.
What? What is Tillerman rambling on about? Why is 2008 the Year of the Sunfish?
Well, it seems that the good folk in the Sunfish class have pulled off a couple of coups in their attempts to raise the perception of the class in the minds of the public. In 2008 the Sunfish will be...
1. The boat used for the finals of the US Sailing Singlehanded Championship, also known as the O'Day Trophy.
2. The boat used for the US Championship of Champions, in which the national champions of each class compete against each other.
Kudos to whoever in the Sunfish class managed to twist some arms at US Sailing to make this happen. This can only help to improve the perception of the class (especially in a year when the Olympics will be giving the Laser some free PR.)
So who will win these two events? Will it be some of the regular Sunfish hotshots? There's always an advantage in sailing an event like this in a boat you've known for twenty years. Or will some genius from another class step into a Sunfish and blow everyone else away? Only time will tell. Personally I'm rooting for some of my old friends from the Sunfish class to win both of these prestigious events. That will stick it those snooty Laser snobs.
Whatever the results, 2008 will be the Year of the Sunfish.