Sunday, September 17, 2006


Yesterday I sold my Sunfish. It feels like the end of an era. Or at least the end of a major chapter in my sailing life.

I learned to sail and race in a Laser in the UK and my two sons started sailing in Optimists
when they were old enough. So when we moved to America in 1989 our plan was to continue sailing these boats. However, the area to which we moved in North Jersey had very little Optimist and Laser activity but it was a hotbed of racing in a weird little boat called the Sunfish. Indeed a Sunfish fleet raced every Sunday morning in the summer on the lake opposite our house.

At first I resisted the obvious draw to sail what the locals sailed. My sons and I raced our Laser and Optimists for a year or two in the lake club's open fleet. But the fleet was small and dwindling, and handicap racing has never been as exciting for me as racing in a large one design fleet. So slowly we were sucked in to the Sunfish world. I bought a second-hand Sunfish, passed it down to one son and bought another. He also inherited my Laser when I bought a new one. Pretty soon the Tillerman family fleet was three Lasers and three Sunfish.

We raced the Sunfish locally and occasionally traveled further afield for Laser regattas. Every Sunday morning we would drift around the lake with the Sunfish fleet. It was usually the highlight of our weekend. It was what I and the kids did together as they were growing up. Pretty soon they were faster than me but that was OK.

I took my sons to the North Jersey Lakes Junior Sunfish Championship and they each won it in turn. I sailed in the senior North Jersey Lakes series against some of the best Sunfish sailors in the region. Once I even won one of those regattas. The high point of our six boat family sailing was the summer of 1995 when all three of us did a Laser clinic in upper New York State one week, and then sailed in the Sunfish North Americans in Delaware the following week.

Around that time I set myself the challenge of qualifying for the Sunfish World Championships. This turned out to be somewhat easier than I expected and I sailed as part of the US team at the Sunfish Worlds three times including memorable championships in the Dominican Republic and Colombia. For reasons I still don't fully understand I woke up after the free rum night at a Sunfish North Americans to find that I had been elected to the board of directors of the US Sunfish Class.

When my sons left for college I turned my attention to encouraging and coaching other young Sunfish sailors. I taught local kids how to race and took them to junior championships. After I retired from real work in 2000 I spent the first three summers teaching sailing in our club's Sunfish program. And I was instrumental in creating a junior championship series sailed at several local clubs. I joined a Wednesday night Sunfish fleet at another nearby club on a reservoir and even won their Sunfish regatta one year.

So I've had a lot of fun and a lot of rewards from the Sunfish over the years. But lately I've been drawn more and more back to the Laser. I've been sailing my Laser on Sundays in the spring and fall at a frostbite fleet in Connecticut. A friend and I started a Laser fleet at that reservoir club I mentioned, so I've been able to sail the Laser every summer weekend locally as well as travel to Laser regattas further away. The more I sail my Laser the less interesting the Sunfish is to me. But I don't want to knock the Sunfish or the people who sail it who are as friendly a crowd as you could ever hope to meet. It's just a personal preference.

Regular readers of this blog may have worked out that I've been heading towards dumping the Sunfish for a while now. When I wrote my third post ever Focus (and by the way the first post to attract any comment) this was in the back of my mind. My growing lack of interest in the Sunfish influenced Tweaks and my frustration with Sunfish racing came out when I wrote about Wednesday Night Racing. It seems like every time I sailed the Laser I enjoyed it so much more that I kept hearing these Voices asking me why I still bothered to sail a Sunfish. But even this year there have been times when the Sunfish has occasionally been a source of pleasure, such as the evening I wrote about in Memories of a Moment.

So finally I pulled the trigger. Placed an ad in our club newsletter, had some interest from a couple of members, and sold the Sunfish yesterday to a young woman who has just learned to sail and wants a boat to race. I explained all the little mods and tweaks I have made to the boat, answered all her newbie questions about the equipment, helped her work out what she needed to be able to tow the boat, and she bought it for the asking price.

Now I can concentrate purely on Laser sailing. Portugal here I come.


Anonymous said...

As a Sunfish/Laser hybrid myself, I was glad to read that your fish found a good home.

Anonymous said...

I will definitely miss sailing Sunfish with you Wednesdays and Sundays. But there will be plenty of time to play during the frostbite season!

Pat said...

T-man, if you get down this way, we can always put you onto a 'fish!

Anonymous said...

The end of an era, but it does show your commitment to Laser racing.

Zen said...

One door closes
another opens...

Anonymous said...

Another way to dispose of a Sunfish

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