Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunfish North Americans Golden Anniversary

Sunfish class sailboat- off-the-beach sailing and racing
* Golden  Anniversary for the Sunfish North Americans!  Do you remember the Sunfish as the "camp boat" with the colorful lateen-rigged sails? Despite their unusual appearance, Sunfish have been raced since their inception.  And, most of the Johnstone's learned how to sail and race on Sunfish during their summers of youth sailing off Chicago, IL or Stonington, CT or Watch Hill, RI or even off Club Campestre in Valencia, Venezuela and Puerto Azul north of Caracas!  Sunfish sailing runs deep in the Johnstone family!

It all began in Waterbury, Connecticut when friends Alexander 'Al' Bryan and Cortlandt 'Cort' Heyniger (the Al and Cort in Alcort) put a sail on a surfboard, and by 1951 created the Sunfish as we know it today.  It became the most popular sailboat ever built worldwide with over 300,000 built to date.

For a brief period, Bob Johnstone ran AMF Alcort in Waterbury, CT helping to re-energize Sunfish marketing from 1975 to 1977.  When AMF didn't want to build the J/24, Bob J and brother Rod J decided instead to start J/Boats in 1977!  But there's more.  Later, after AMF sold off their sailboat division to Pearson Yachts, brother Peter bought it out of bankruptcy  and merged it with Laser to create Sunfish-Laser in 1991 with funding from North Marine Group (the parent company of North Sails owned by Terry Kohler) and Gary Jobson, amongst others.  Later in March 1987, Peter and North Marine Group sold it off to Vanguard Sailboats based in Portsmouth, RI.

Sunfish sailboats- sailing regatta in NewportWhen the Sunfish reached Lake Michigan, the Sunfish sailors in Lake Bluff, Illinois wanted organized racing, which led to the founding of Lake Bluff Yacht Club in 1962.  They hosted the first Sunfish North American Championship held in 1963. This summer the Sunfish North Americans and Lake Bluff YC will celebrate their golden anniversaries, and in conjunction with the Waukegan Yacht Club, will mark the occasion by hosting the 50th Sunfish North American Open Championship.  The regatta will be sailed in the fresh waters of Lake Michigan off the beach in Waukegan, Illinois from August 2 to August 4, 2012. The Youth North American Championship will also be sailed in Waukegan from July 30 to August 1, 2012.  Sailing photo credits- Onne Van der Wal  Learn more about the Sunfish Class and North American Championship sailing information