Sunfish Women’s North Americans

Published on October 6th, 2019

Sailing six races in light conditions on Day One and another six in howling conditions (16 gusting to 27 knots) on Day Two, Gail Murphy-Heausler won the 2019 Sunfish Women’s North American Championship, held October 5-6 in Niantic, CT.

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Report from Sunfish Class:
Hailing from the Davis Island Yacht Club (Tampa, FL), Gail has won the Women’s North American Championship four times (1988, 1991, 2003, 2016). This makes win #5! Gail prayed for heavy air on Day Two, and her prayers were answered! Gail is a heavy air whizz who hoped she could move up a spot or two more in the final finishes from her 3rd place standing on Day One. And, boy, did she move up with three firsts and three seconds on the second day. Can’t go any higher than #1!

Watching the races in the comfort of the Niantic Bay Yacht Club was totally incredible! The UCONN men had this event wired for sound and sight for our viewing pleasure. Will Kresic, the USSCA President, was the commentator who filled in the blanks of where the sailors were from and what events they’ve sailed in before. So very impressive! We may have a new tradition to follow. Start researching which drones do the best job!

Everyone who braved the brrrrrrr temperatures earned some bonus points! But it was still a race to the finish that counted the most. With only a six-point spread from the #1 spot held by Marguerite Koehler (South Bay Water Association in Amityville, NY) was atop the leaderboard after Day One but couldn’t hold off Murphy-Heausler (center in photo below) dominating performance on the final day. Keohler held on, however, to finish second. Marguerite was the Women’s National Champion in 2012 when it was sailed out of the Windy Crest Sailing Club in Sand Springs, OK.

The 3rd place overall finisher, Lyndsay Stockwell, a former UCONN sailor and newly wed to Will Kresic, could be seen on the wide screen with her colorful sail #4704 never far back from the lead. Watching Lyndsay from when she first started racing at the world qualifying level within the Sunfish Class has been an amazing show. She’s heading for a championship without a doubt!

And only one point behind Lyndsay was Nancy Jaywork (Rehoboth Beach, DE) who sailed hard and fast in every race to hold a 4th place overall finish. Her husband, Terry, was the loudest cheerleader in the clubhouse while watching Nancy round marks far ahead of her competitors. And one comment overheard was someone who said, “Nancy is one competitive sailor.” And she gets better and better every race! Another true champion who will capture a #1 spot very soon!

Elizabeth Clinton-Genovese (Marblehead, MA) clinched the 5th place title with some incredible sailing. As we were watching her sail next to a competitor getting closer to the leeward gate, someone who competes with her at a local level said, she bets Liza is already saying, “I’ve got room! I’ve got room!” How well we know our fellow Sunfish sailors!

Worthy of mention was something Will Kresic said at the Saturday night catered dinner. Will’s Mom, MaryJane, participated in this event. A first for her. What impressed her the most was how every competitor made her feel welcome and helped whenever she needed it. She never got to feel like a “newbie!” She was treated as a long-time Sunfish family member! And that’s just “the Sunfish way!”

But the awards didn’t stop at the place finishes. There was a Masters award and a Youth award! And the Top Master winner was Gail Murphy-Heausler! The Top Youth winner was Alliana Snead!

Without the Event Chair, Shannon Nardi, and those who helped make this event happen, there would not have been such a special Women’s North Americans. Despite the cold weather and challenging conditions, Shannon and her team fed, found housing and found boats for an incredible number of out-of-towners/out-of-staters (is there such a word? There is now.). Plus, Shannon also raced and had some excellent finishes! And the Race Committee, under the guidance of Todd Field, got in 12 races in the midst of the weather challenges!

Every Women’s North Americans is special because it honors Linda Tillman, an awesome sailor who was exceptional at everything she did. She left us a beautiful legacy and role model to emulate. We know she sails beside us in every race and gives us the strength to be the best we can be at everything we do.

Our hats off to Bill Brangiforte who made the great sacrifice of spending this weekend with 43 women. Ha! But his Sailing Clinic on Friday was worth the price of air tickets and attendance to be here this weekend. How to rig the boat for heavy air certainly paid off for those who sailed on Day Two. Let’s see …that was 107 inches for standard halyard position and about 87 inches for the Jens position? And the third piece of line approved at this year’s World Council meeting in Bonaire helped create an even easier Jens set-up to rig? What? You mean we can’t just hop on the boat and GO?! Not if we want to win! And the secret tips we got were amazing! But using our knee to plunge the leeward side of the boat in certain maneuvers? That will take some practice for sure. We’ve encouraged Bill to share his Sailing Clinic tips so we can publish them in a future Windward Leg article.

And we encourage you to continue following the Sunfish events and enter a few yourself! You’ll enjoy the adventures and the wonderful people who say the Sunfish is the “Best Boat Forever” (BBF).

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