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Pure and Simple Sailing

There were many of sailing’s famous sailors at the annual US Sailboat Show in Annapolis, where I spent a few days in October. Among them were Chay Blyth, Gary Jobson, and Lin and Larry Pardey.

The irrepressible Sir Chay Blyth came to announce his new around-the-world yacht race with crew spots open to anyone for $44,000 a head. Gary Jobson was there to present a play-by-play-type report on the next America’s Cup that is now developing in Auckland, New Zealand. Mr. and Mrs. Cruising Guru, Lin and Larry Pardey signed books and doled out salt-encrusted advise to the faithful who dream of some day taking off on The Big Cruise.

In typical boat-show form, this one was a swirl of boats and displays, and the glitterati of sailing. On Thursday, trade day of the show, I dropped in at an industry luncheon at the historic Middletown Tavern, where I met Gerry and Ron Hedlund of Hedlund Marine in Wilmette, Illinois. They invited me to join them at their table. Before long, we had slipped into "boatspeak"—that fine old vernacular of the sailing industry. We started talking about the Sunfish because the Hedlunds are dealers of the boat. In fact, they were among the original dealers of the fiberglass Sunfish, starting with its inception in 1961. Their dealership has sold literally thousands, more than any dealer in the US.

You could say that since the introduction of the Sunfish, sailing has never been the same—and thank goodness. When it first came out, the basic 13-foot-10-inch beach-launchable Sunfish, with its low-to-the-water hull and simple lanteen rig, made sailing easy: easy to do; easy to afford; easy to enjoy. A lot of people took up sailing because of the Sunfish. There are now more than 300,000 Sunfish the world over.

Sailing is what you bring to it. With the basic Sunfish, for example, you have the simple means of discovering your own pleasures of sailing. That’s important to this unique sport.

Jobson, Blyth, and the Pardeys are highly accomplished sailors who add glitz and spice to our sport. But they are by no means a complete reflection of our sailing. Most of us are just sailors, enjoying in our own chosen way very extraordinary relationships with the water, on our sailboats. These may be Sunfish, little cruisers, raceboats, or whatever we choose to sail. It is all about our sailing. It is the sailing of our lives.

Micca Hutchins is offline  
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