Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Year of the Sunfish

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.


EVK4 said...

Two points: 1) it will actually be the Year of the Rat. 2) The sunfish will never be taken seriously with that rainbow sail.

tillerman said...

Good point Edward. Let's suggest to the Sunfish class that they introduce an all-white sail and make it slightly better than the rainbow sails, and then all the serious racers will use it and everyone will take the Sunfish seriously.

You, sir, are a marketing genius.

EVK4 said...

Check out this thread on Sailing Anarchy. Several sailmakers seriously suggest that white spinnakers are faster. Not sure how that translates to odd lateen rig mains.

tillerman said...

Wow. I've also found that on Tacticat yellow boats are much faster than red or blue boats. I think it's because it takes less electrons to draw each pixel so the other electrons get added to your boat speed.

bill said...

One of the things I thought was interesting was the Pan Am games' use of Sunfish -- until I thought about it for two seconds.

In what other class does Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Bermuda, and Dominican Republic each have a better-than-even chance of beating the US or Canada? Why wouldn't they want that advantage?

It's a very egalitarian boat. The flip side is that because of the image, used boats are cheap. Third-world cheap, for a sailboat.
Striped sails (North, no less) help keep them that way.

Litoralis said...

Wow Edward, the Sunfish class should hire you as a consultant...while you are at it how about adding an adjustable gooseneck, sail controls, a new centerboard, and a hiking strap.

tillerman said...

Don't be silly Litoralis. If you did all those things you would turn the Sunfish into a Laser.

Litoralis said...

A Sunfish already has the same sail area as a Laser...unless you don't count the colored bits.

Pat said...

Of course, the Sunfish racing sails and controls aren't all the same as the regular out-of-the-box Sunfish stuff.

Carol Anne said...

Actually, one of the Sunfish that Pat and I bought this past year doesn't have a rainbow sail. It's been used in racing, and the sail actually has a sponsor.

Of course, the "Miller Genuine Draft" sail didn't go over well with the Boy Scouts and church youth groups who were using our Sunfish over the summer.

Pat said...

Yeah, I think the Scout troop was hoping for a Budweiser sail but Carol Anne was hoping to get Red Hook Brewing Co.

tillerman said...

Carol Anne and Pat - I think you've hit on another great idea to propel the Sunfish into the #1 position. Beer sponsorship on the sails!! That will make the boat cool with the college crowd.

I can just imagine coming into a crowded leeward mark and hailing, "No room for Guinness and Sam Adams Winter Ale. I'm giving room to Heineken and Bass. St. Pauli Girl don't come in there!!!"

Post a Comment