Callahan wins Sunfish US Nationals

Published on November 15th, 2020

Amanda Callahan (Portsmouth, RI) won the 2020 Sunfish US National Championship, topping the 34-boat fleet at the Midwinters regatta on November 13-15 in Bay St. Louis, MS. Callahan’s scoreline in the 11-race series was all top-4 finishes except the final that threw out (an eighth). She became only the second woman to win the National Championship joining Nancy Haberland (Gambrills, MD) who claimed the title in 1986.

Defending National Champion Conner Blouin (Mt. Pleasant, SC), who sailed brilliantly and won five of the eleven races, finished four points behind Callahan in second. Greg Gust (Rockwall, TX) finishing in third only one point behind Blouin having won two races on the third day. Gust was also the Top Master for the regatta.

The Midwinters were originally scheduled to run the previous weekend Florida, but pandemic concerns across that state led the Clearwater Yacht Club to cancel the event. However, Event Chair Eugene Schmitt, who finished sixth in the Championship, and the team at Bay Waveland Yacht Club pulled together this event in less than a month’s notice despite experiencing a hurricane during their planning period.

Final Results:
1st Overall – Amanda Callahan (28 points)
2nd Overall – Conner Blouin (32 points)
3rd Overall – Greg Gust (33 points)

1st Youth – Michael Burns
2nd Youth – Connor Fanberg
3rd Youth – James Edwards

Top Apprentice Master – Eugene Schmitt
Top Master – Mike Ingham
Top Grand Master – Greg Gust


Report from Amanda Callahan:

The first day was light (5-6 knots); Mike Ingham (Rochester, NY) sailed really well and exceptionally smartly! While Mike is new to the Sunfish class, I wasn’t too surprised that he was moving quickly, as he has won many championships plus he and Doug Kaukeinen have been two-boat training since the spring.

Conner Blouin (Mt. Pleasant, SC) had a couple of uncharacteristically deep finishes in the light stuff but he certainly bounced back the second day. Greg Gust (Rockwell, TX) pinched me off a bunch of times upwind and snuck by me twice. Ricky Welch (Long Beach, MS) put everyone on notice in the first race when he came flying across the fleet on port tack.

I was glad to finish the first day in 2nd after taking a bullet in the last race. That, my only bullet in the regatta, came thanks in part to advice from New England transplant Anne Edwards although I wasn’t able to execute exactly the way she suggested / I wanted to. Eugene Schmitt won the boat and I was in a lane below him. We ended up much further left on the course than I planned, but we still got to the top mark in great shape.

I would have felt good about my score line on Day 2 (3,2,2,4,3), if it weren’t for Conner’s absolutely dominating performance. Four bullets in five races. He was smoking everyone with great upwind speed and superb downwind technique which he graciously articulated for us during the Top 3 debrief.

Three days of sailing saw four different breeze directions. Day 3 featured the flattest water early on and the forecasted persistent right shift. That shift was followed by a wall of wind in the last race that had quite a few boats heading for shore. Because I had sailed consistently to that point (my worst race after eight races was 4th), I knew I had to have two good races on the final day to lock it up.

In the first race, I was able to get right as planned after a mediocre start and ended up behind Greg who legged away with blistering speed and height. Conner had been deep at the top mark when he found himself on the wrong side of the right shift, but he had a huge recovery and eked out an impressive 6th. It was nice to have a few extra points on him.

Clinton and Mallory Edwards on the RC held the second race for a bit as the breeze started going right. The velocity was still mild during race 2, but a pack of us found great breeze and an unexpected left shift on the left side of the course on the first beat. Once again Greg legged away, committing hard to the left side on the second beat. But my third-place finish was enough to win the regatta with a race to spare.

Looking at the deep field going into the event, I would have been happy with a top-10 finish. That so many talented sailors showed up in a pandemic is a huge credit to Eugene Schmitt who spearheaded the event and everyone at Bay Waveland Yacht Club for pulling together a great championship with only a three-week lead time…and a hurricane in the middle of all that.

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