Bermudian Sunfish veterans Malcolm Smith, David Frith and newcomer Mackenzie Cooper travelled to the Sunfish National Midwinter Championship in Fort Walton, Florida with hopes of clinching one of three Pan Am Games berths up for grabs at this event.
As a warm up, Smith and Frith entered the March 13 - 15 Sunfish International Masters regatta, also hosted by The Fort Walton Yacht Club which is located on the western end of Choctawhatchee Bay in the Florida panhandle. Smith was in fine form and handily won the championship with an impressive series consisting of seven 1st place finishes and a 3rd. Frith finished 24th in the 42 boat fleet. Bermuda resident Martin Vezina also entered and finished 5th flying the flag of his native Canada.
On March 17th the nine race National Midwinter Championship regatta commenced with 49 entries including a number of sailors from South America and the Caribbean who were vying for 3 available Pan Am Games spots.
Sailing his first Sunfish regatta, 16 year old Cooper found himself in contention after day one, sandwiched in 9th place between three time former World Champion, Bahamian Donnie Martinborough and current Sunfish World Champion, Jonathan Martinetti from Ecuador. Cooper took advantage of the mostly light winds to improve over the next 2 days, finishing 5th overall with 3 finishes in the top five, getting Bermuda within 6 points and 1 place shy of getting a Pan Am entry. Bermuda ended up 4th out of Pan Am eligible countries.
Former World Champion Smith had a difficult first day carding an On the Course Side (OCS), 29th and an 18th. The last two days saw improvement with Smith in the top 15 each race but it was not enough to get him further up the leaderboard than 13th overall. Frith also had a difficult first day as he had two OCS's in the first two races and he ended the regatta in 44th place. Vezinza also had OCS in race 1 but had a good regatta with 6 top ten finishes until he was disqualified in the final race leaving him 12th overall.
The regatta was won by 17 year old Puerto Rican Fernado Monllor who visited Bermuda as a competitor in the RenRe Jr. Gold Cup in 2008. In second place was USA's Connor Blouin followed by David Hernandez from Guatemala and Columbian Antonio Rojas in 4th.
Cooper and Smith are planning to attend the 2011 Sunfish World Championships in Curacao in June where the 2 final Pan American Games spots will be awarded.