Pulling our Sun Cat across the US 41 bridge to launch over at the Port Charlotte Beach Complex for a downwind run to Punta Gorda Isles, I spotted a familiar orange triangle flying in the Laishley Park Marina basin. Catboat hijinks were already under way, and Don was test-flying his nylon jib on Frisky. I did not know at the time that he was showing off for Isy while Charlie took pictures.
Coming into the PGI canal system, we encountered the Morris 29 named Grace sailing out the channel. I have hundreds of pictures of this boat, but always feel compelled to take another. A few days later, I offered to share some of my pictures with the owner, but he politely declined, explaining that he already has thousands of them.
Meanwhile, other participants were rolling into town. Mike showed up with his friend Randy’s boat, which is Sun Cat hull number 8. It was great to see a classic Sun Cat make an appearance at the Nationals, and fun to see Mike’s pictures of the original prototype built by Clark Mills.
Scott also showed up in his camper van with the future National Champion Sun Cat Suitsus in tow.
We set up the Welcoming Party/Skipper’s Meeting under the big party tent and guest house, and as daylight started to fade the rest of the regatta participants began to show up.
Specifically, Charlie and Isy showed up, and revelry ensued…
…and more revelry ensued!
After a while, Mike brought out some material on the history of Sun Cats and an effort by the Pinellas County Historical Society and Clearwater Yacht Club to construct a boatbuilding museum. The museum will feature the original Sun Cat built by Clark Mills along with one of his most famous boats, the Optimist Prams. Mike had pictures of the prototype Sun Cat under sail as well as 1960s drawings by Clark Mills that were done when he adapted the design for the first run of fiberglass production boats. We learned all kinds of interesting facts about the history of Sun Cats, much of which Mike witnessed firsthand.
Here is one of the drawings Mike brought, showing the Sun Cat as it was designed back when hull number 8 was made. Notable differences from the modern Com-Pac version: the original carries 165 square feet of sail, 15 sq ft more than our modern boats, and it has no shoal keel with centerboard. It has bilge boards and a round bottom.
After our lesson on the storied history of the Sun Cat Class, Race Committee Chairman Tom Scott held a brief skippers’ meeting, explaining the likely courses to be used, the starting sequence, etc. As the picture showed, I politely pretended to pay attention. As the first race the next day showed, I was not really paying attention, but let’s not get ahead…
I’m pretty sure some more revelry ensued after the race briefing. I found this picture of Charlie and Mike looking slightly intoxicated, and I have a dim memory of ordering a bunch of chicken wings.