In 1959, Joe Schmidt of Naugatuck Chemical
approached Alex Bryan and Cortlandt
Heyniger to convince them to use fiberglass
in the construction of their popular
boats: the Sailfish and the Sunfish.
That meeting ushered in one of the greatest
revolutions in production boat building.
Though the Sailfish never caught on
in fiberglass, the Sunfish survived
to become the most popular fiberglass
boat ever designed, with a quarter million
boat sailors and tinkerers, Bryan and
Heyniger created a unique boat including
innovations such as a mast with no stays
and a sail that remained permanently
attached to the two booms. There were
very few parts, and the hull weighted
129 pounds – making the boat simple
to rig, sail and transport. Easily trailered
or car-topped, the boat could sail anywhere
there was four feet of water. The result:
this board boat brought sailing out
of the yacht clubs and to the beaches
of public launch ramps.
worries about moorings and boat yards.
Five minutes from arriving at the
water’s edge, you’re off
and sailing,” Will White wrote
in The Sunfish Book.
all else, the boat sailed well, with
a forgiving nature, making it an excellent
boat to learn in. The lateen sail
naturally de-powered when the wind
came up. If the boat did go over,
it could be righted easily, due to
foam blocks at the hull (and a cockpit
bailer designed years after the first
boat was built).
archetypal board boat also offered
sensational planing performance. This
exciting characteristic launched the
modern era of low-displacement high-performance
single-handers. Built by Sunfish Laser,
Inc. the sunfish continues to introduce
thousands to the sport of sailing