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Sunfish Class: Single-handed sailor's delight

Willow Bank Yacht Club and Cazenovia Lake will be host the Central New York Sailing Association Annual Regatta the weekend of July 9 and 10. The event will bring participants from 30 sailing clubs across the state to partake in races.

In the preceding weeks, a series of articles about the various fleets that will be seen competing will be featured.

The Sunfish, and its precursor the Sailfish, have been raced at Willow Bank Yacht Club since the early 1950s. A competitive racing fleet of men and women continue to do so, to this day.

This ubiquitous sailboat can be seen world wide, sailing in choppy coastal waters, inland lakes and waterways and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Usually the Sunfish is recognized for its "recreation sail" (as opposed to the white racing sail) of limitless combinations of colorful stripes, with its simple circular sunfish logo. For most young sailors, their first "single handed" sailing debut was probably in a Sunfish.

Any Wednesday afternoon during the summer a colorful scene of ten to twenty Sunfish sails can be seen on Cazenovia Lake. This is the WOW Fleet, the Women Of Willow Bank, who sail for fun and mutual encouragement.

The following is an excerpt from "Sunfish Class History" by Gail M. Turluck

The sunfish has its roots planted firmly in 1947 in Waterbury, Connecticut. Friends Alexander "Al" Bryan and Cortlandt "Cort" Heyniger (the Al and Cort in Alcort) pondered, "How to put a sail on a surfboard?"

The answer involved a rejected design for American Red Cross waterfront rescue surfboards, leading to the Sailfish: a lateen rigged, flat-decked, plywood marvel.

In 1951, Bryan's pregnant wife found its flat deck somewhat uncomfortable. The addition of a cockpit and widening of the hull created the Sunfish. The logo was created by Heyniger, who traced a nickel and added fins, the tail and an eye. Early wood Sailfish and Sunfish were available assembled or as kits.

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