By Beth Fleisher and Celeste Flick,
Southold Yacht Club in Southold, NY will host the 50th Annual World’s Longest Sunfish Race Around Shelter Island, NY on Saturday, July 18, 2020. This unique nautical marathon is open to single and doubles Sunfish sailors per the event Notice of Race.
As the crow flies, the nautical distance around Shelter Island, starting and finishing at Southold Yacht Club, is 21.3 miles. Since crows don’t tack, however, it is estimated that the distance for the average race sailed over the years is the equivalent of a nautical marathon (approximately 26 miles).
The World’s Longest Sunfish Race has become one of the most exciting, enduring and popular competitions on the Sunfish Class calendar. Sunfish sailors from across the country have enjoyed spirited competition in sometimes challenging conditions that vary wildly from year to year.
Yearly participation has ranged from 35 to 55 Sunfish sailors aged 16 to 92. The youngest winners were Mary Beth O’Brien (Southold Yacht Club, 1977) and Shane Sullivan (Southold YC, 1988) at age 17. The oldest winner was Dick Heinl (Seawanhaka Place Yacht Squadron, 2011) at age 86. Heinl also holds the record as oldest participant (2017) at 92.
The average winning time is 4 hours and 51 minutes; the 4-hour mark has been broken nine times. The course record is 3:23 set by Todd Klinger (Narrasketuck YC) in 1999. John Condon (Southold YC) and John Eckart (Massapoag YC) have each won the race five times. Both are sailing for a sixth victory in 2020.
Many participants return to Southold to race every year. Joe Sullivan (Southold YC) holds the participation record of 47 races. Joe is one of the founding fathers of the race and, at 83, plans to extend the record in 2020.
Race registration includes the race, t-shirt, one raffle ticket (see below), continental breakfast, drinks, and a lively post-race awards ceremony and party. Awards will be presented to the top 10 Sunfish singles finishers, first doubles, first youth single, and first youth doubles. Perpetual awards (maintained at Southold YC) are presented to the winner of the race, the first female finisher, the oldest participant, and the first master finisher. All finishers will receive a personalized Certificate of Completion.
LaserPerformance (manufacturer of the Sunfish sailboat) is the title sponsor of the 50th annual race and has donated a new Sunfish and two Sunfish racing sails to be raffled off during the post-race awards ceremony. Each registered Sunfish sailor will have one chance to win. No additional raffle tickets will be sold. For more information and to register, please go to southoldyachtclub.com. ■