Thanks to a persistent nor'easter that pounded the Cape Region coast for nearly a week, more than half of the planned races in the 43rd Sunfish World Championship were cancelled.
That didn't deter the enthusiasm of sailors and organizers or the fun they had at the event.
Race organizers at the Lewes Yacht Club had planned for at least 11 races over five days, but got in only five races Oct. 7 and 8.
Alexander Zimmerman, the 22-year-old defending world title holder from Lima, Peru, must have had a premonition of things to come as he came out of the gate winning the first two races. He ended up in first place over the first two days by 3 points, and that's all he needed.
Zimmerman said at first he was a little intimidated because six former world champs were competing. “I decided I had to do what I normally do,” he said. What he normally does is win; he finished first in the world in 2012 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“The beauty of Sunfish sailing is that it connects older people with younger people,” Zimmerman said.
And it seemed only fitting that fellow sailors awarded Connie Miller of Lewes, chairwoman of the event as well as a participant, the prestigious Dave Thompson Memorial Award for dedication to Sunfish sailing.
The event was not only a struggle for survival by sailors but also for the many volunteers. Riding the gale-force-driven waves in support boats, volunteers fought back seasickness but showed up early each morning ready to get out on the water. The Lewes Fire Department boat patrolled the bay rescuing capsized sailors.
With no racing Oct. 10, sailors, family members and volunteers went by bus to the Annapolis Boat Show.
“This is as good as it gets,” said Paul-Jon Patin of Forest Hills, N.Y., International Sunfish Class president, during the Oct. 11 awards banquet. “I hope people appreciate that. The hospitality here has been as good as any place I've ever been. You couldn't have done anything better.”
Patin said it was LYC that rescued the regatta. “Last year, we had no place to go, and Connie said, 'We'll do it.' LYC rose to the occasion,” he said.
Patin, who finished in second place tied with David Mendelblatt of St. Petersburg, Fla., was the lone sailor to test the waters of the Delaware Bay on Oct. 11, the final day of the regatta. With the previous two days of racing cancelled, the LYC race committee and Taran Teague, principal race officer, had hoped to get in at least one race on the final day.
Patin returned after a short venture out on the water and told the race committee that conditions were too rough, adding there were only five or six sailors in the world who could handle the wind and waves from the stubborn nor'easter that had been churning up the Delaware Bay for four days.
After a brief meeting, the race committee called the regatta around noon Oct. 11.
Other winners included: grandmasters - Greg Gust of Rockwall, Texas; masters - Malcolm Smith of Bermuda; juniors - Alonzo Collantes de Riglos of Peru; and female - Arianna Villena of Ecuador.
Next year's worlds and youth worlds will take place at Camp Seafarer/Seagull in Arapahoe, N.C.
Top local finishers included Steven Evans, 39th; Nick Carter, 52nd; Rob Witsil, 53rd; Nancy Jaywork, 57th; and Connie Miller, 64th.
TOP 10 FINISHERS
1. Alexander Zimmerman, Peru, 19 points; 2. Paul-Jon Patin, Forest Hills, N.Y., 22 points; 3. David Mendelblatt, St. Petersburg, Fla., 22 points; 4. Jean Paul de Trazegnies, Peru, 29 points; 5. Jonathan Martinetti, Ecuador, 53 points; 6. Antonio Rojas Mayol, Colombia, 53 points; 7. Malcolm Smith, Bermuda, 54 points; 8. Alonzo Collantes de Riglos, Peru, 56 points; 9. Hank Saurage, Baton Rouge, La., 56 points; 10. Jacobo Margules Cede, Mexico, 57 points.
TOP FEMALE FINISHERS
1. Arianna Villena, Ecuador, 79 points, 12th overall; 2. Gail Heausler, Tampa, Fla., 131 points, 24th overall; 3. Doris Aschman, Saunderstown, R.I., 47th overall; 4. Gail Turluck, Richland, Mich., 48th overall; 5. Sonya Dean, Raleigh, N.C., 55th overall.