What no other sailing class can boast

Published on May 13th, 2021

Rick Keffer has been sailing since the mid-1990s when he started crewing with a friend on a Cal 25 at the Rio Grande Yacht Club on Elephant Butte Lake in New Mexico. During the following years, he bought and sold many different kinds of boats from catamarans to dinghies to keelboats.

His efforts at fleet building has seen efforts with the MC Scow and Star fall short, and now combined with a drought and the COVID situation, sailing on Elephant Butte Lake came pretty much to a halt.

But then came his interest in the Sunfish where he liked its hard chine and big sail which allowed it to perform well, handle lots of different conditions, and was easy to rig and launch from almost anywhere. No boat ramp needed.

However, of equal note was how there were lots of Sunfish everywhere, even in New Mexico. In backyards, maybe, but lots available to refurbish and make ready to sail/race.

Some of his friends told him a Sunfish is only a beginner’s boat. And, in some ways, he thought they were partially right. But he found that although many sailors got their start in a Sunfish, it was a great boat to learn some excellent sailing skills in even challenging conditions.

“Most ‘serious’ sailors get hung up on having the latest and best boat,” explained Keffer. “Competition in Stars, Js, Etchells, and most other boats practically demand spending big dollars. Not so with the Sunfish.

“The ‘fish is all about your sailing skill, not your pocketbook. A new sail is under $400, foils are $300, and a new boat is under $6k. I’ve been beaten by a $500 ‘fish with old sails and wood boards. No other sailing class can boast that.

“I have been sailing the ‘fish for about a year and found the competition to be awesome. I have sailed with the Rush Creek Yacht Club (Rush Creek Yacht Club) where my goal was to not be last (boy is that hard on the ego) and I regularly sail at Tempe Town Lake in Arizona where the competition level keeps going up.

“When the New Mexico governor allows racing at home I want to see if I can revive the local club. Unlike the Scows, I now have club support to promote the Sunfish and we have plenty of boats to use. I really need a local sailing partner, but for now the Arizona Yacht Club folks have welcomed me with open arms. I have met people there I am happy to call friends.

“Ultimately, one goes sailing for enjoyment. The Sunfish is fun and its people are friendly and helpful. We talk to each other, not fight about the rules. We reach out to help everyone get better and provide support as needed. We are competitive but not so serious that we lose the point of having fun. I’m proud to consider myself a Sunfish sailor.”

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