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On the Bay: October 2, 2009

Many members of our local Sonar Fleet #11 will be at Noroton YC for the Sonar Worlds, which begin today and run until Sunday. Fifty-five boats from seven countries are currently registered for this year’s championships, and expect to compete in three daily races on each of the next four days. Racing for the World Championship trophy will take place in the waters of Long Island Sound about 2 miles South of Darien, CT. The venue is rotated between fleets and held every other year. In August 2011 the Sonar Worlds will be run by the Royal Northern Clyde YC in Scotland.


Noroton Yacht Club is the home of Sonar Fleet 1. The Sonar is a 23’ keel boat designed by Rowayton, CT, resident Bruce Kirby. It is known as an easy to sail, highly competitive, one-design boat appealing to club racing fleets, team and match racing championships, and para-olympic sailors. The International Sonar Class was founded in 1980 based on a principal of tightly controlled class rules ensuring that boats remain competitive over a long lifetime. In 2000 the Sonar class obtained Recognized status from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and in the same year was selected as the Paralympic Keelboat. Its status as Paralympic Keelboat will continue at least through the 2012 London Olympics. Worldwide, over 800 Sonars have been built.

Bruce Kirby wrote a short history of the Sonar in preparation for the Sonar Worlds, and it is repeated here in part: The Sonar was born and raised at the Noroton Yacht Club. The club had both Solings and Tempests in the late ’70s. These boats were very active nationally and internationally and we had some excellent sailors in both classes. But as these boats became ever more competitive and sophisticated - both were Olympic classes for a time - they also became less suitable for dad, mom and the kids.

In the summer of 1978 several existing boats were tested by this group, which at that time was called the One Design Committee. They couldn’t find any one boat that had all the characteristics they were looking for. The committee drew up a questionnaire asking Noroton members for their ideas for the ideal club day racer. The questionnaire was a huge success, with most answers describing a boat between 22 and 24 feet long, a keel boat with self-bailing cockpit, with spinnaker, comfortable for four adults (no hiking required or allowed), good in light air to suit the Long Island Sound summer, but with plenty of stability to do battle with the blustery winds of spring and fall. The questionnaire was then sent to other clubs on the Sound. With the bunch of good ideas, Bruce Kirby was asked to design a boat according to the suggested parameters, which he did during late summer and fall of 1979. After some production and quality control problems, Dirk Kneulman, Ontario Yachts, produced great Sonars – and he should know as he is an active Sonar racer and has won at least one North American Championship. In 1991, Skip Shumway of Rochester, NY bought the Sonar tooling and class trademarks and now the Sonars are built in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, on England’s South Coast. So far the British builder has produced 70 boats. For more information, see

A new book by Nicholas D. Hayes’s, Saving Sailing, The Story of Choices, Families, Time Commitments, and How We Can Create a Better Future, is one that readers may want to check out. On the Scuttlebutt’s (online sailing newsletter) blog, one writer raved about it. Although the book is based on sailing, much of the book is about living life to the fullest. Rather than paraphrase this scribe, his entire blog follows as he offers a good message to all of us. The writer says, “If sailing activity is thriving on your home waters, a book titled Saving Sailing may not be high on your priority for reading material. I must admit it sat on my desk for awhile, and only on a recent vacation did I take the time to see what author Nick Hayes had to say about the sport of sailing. As it turns out, he had a lot to say, and it wasn’t all about sailing.

We all make choices on how we spend our time, and Hayes provides some clarity on how these choices affect our lives. Beyond the time needed to sustain a healthy life, including our time at work and spent gathering food, nesting, and resting, the rest is for our discretionary use. Hayes isn’t buying the argument that there is not enough of this time left anymore. Rather, he demonstrates how generational changes among Americans have affected our decisions on how this time is now getting spent.

Like I said, the book is not just about sailing, and it helped me to evaluate how I spend my time in all areas, particularly in critical areas like family and friends. As for the magic ointment to ‘save sailing,’ the author is not quick to provide it. Hayes admits the objective is complicated, and is not so naive to think he can readily change the time choices for people. But he does close the book with specific ideas, all carefully crafted from the 1000+ interviews conducted between 2003 and 2009.

I will go so far as to say that Saving Sailing is a must read for marine industry professionals, parents eager to share the sport of sailing with their children, and folks who enjoy the sport and are interested in ways to give something back.”

The book will arrive in select bookstores and nautical boutiques over the next few weeks, or available now online. — If you order the book online, readers will have the opportunity to support the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center’s COMPASS Program, which introduces at-risk children and their parents or guardians to the experience of sailing and the lessons that sailing a boat can bring. Center director Peter Rieck explains, “The goal of COMPASS is to introduce sailing in a family setting, while removing any trepidation or concerns that may be associated with open water.”

The Milwaukee Community Sailing Center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) agency that offers educational and recreational sailing programs to the greater Milwaukee community. The center won U.S. Sailing’s 2009 award for “Outstanding Outreach and Inclusion,” and is recognized as a national leader in the development of sailing as a popular, lifelong pastime. Find out more about the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center at or befriend the sailing center on Facebook at: