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An interview with Paul Dierze on the 2022 Sunfish North American Championship

by David Schmidt 13 Jun 2022 08:00 PDT June 15-18, 2022
2017 Sunfish World Championship - Day 1 © Brant Beach SF Regatta Pictures

When it comes to popularity contests, there’s no question: With more than 300,000 boats produced from 1952 through today, the Sunfish is hands-down the world’s most popular One Design. The boat, originally dubbed the Sailfish, was designed in 1945 as a collective effort between Alex Bryan and Cortlandt Heyniger, then redesigned into today’s Sunfish in in the early 50s.

The one-person boat is likely best known for its distinctive lanteen sailplan, unstayed rig, flat bottom, hard chines, and cute-looking class symbol, however plenty of people also know it as a beach- and cartop-friendly boat that first exposed them to sailing.

Others know it as a competitive, cost-effective class that can deliver big grins (especially when the breeze is up) and great racing.

Take, for example, this year’s Sunfish North American Championship, which is being organized and hosted by the Hyannis Yacht Club in Hyannis, Massachusetts, and which will be contested on the waters of Nantucket Sound from June 15-18th. As of this writing, there are 40+ sailors registered from two countries, the USA (35+ boats) and Peru (three boats).

I checked in with Paul Dierze, Sunfish Class Representative, via email, to learn more about this competitive One Design regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the state of the Sunfish class, its current culture and competition levels, and the kinds of sailors that one can expect to encounter at this year’s North Americans?

The Sunfish class is open and welcoming to all Sunfish owners. As a PanAm-games boat we have a very competitive class that also does well in other boats.

US Sailing recognized the strength of the class this year with a finalist for yachtsman of the year in Conner Blouin (2021 NA Champion).

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, are there any notable geographical concentrations to this entry list?

We currently have 80 registrants with entries from Peru, Guatemala, Chile and the U.S., including Puerto Rico.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off of Hyannis in mid-June? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

The conditions sailors can expect will cover the spectrum, but we expect the early afternoon seabreeze to rule.

In the ideal world, how many races do you and the other organizers hope to score? Also, how many races will you run per day?

The goal is 11 races over three days. Four, four, [and] three [races over the course of three days].

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta’s outcome? Can you please explain?

Current will be a factor, but once understood [it] will have less of an impact.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) sailors, what would it be? Do your best and have fun! Do you have any entries that you’re eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

The Peru team will be very competitive along with the other South American sailors. From the U.S., I'd look for Dan Hesse and Mike Ingham to be strong contenders coming off their recent performance in the Thistle NAs.

Other past NA winners expected to do well are Bill Bragiforte and Doug Kaukeinen. Also look out for local sailors Stuart Draheim and Sydney Karnovsky

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta’s environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

Hyannis Yacht Club is committed to reducing the amount of plastics used. Especially with single-use water bottles. [Water-bottle re]filling stations are available at the club, and will likely be available on the water as well.

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