Pilar Cundey is a 13 year old Optimist sailor from Bay Head Yacht Club. Her hard work and hours in the boat have started to pay dividends. In the past year she's won races at the Team Trials, qualified for multiple international teams, and become one of the top Opti sailors in the country! What's even more impressive is that a couple summers ago Pilar was sidelined after a really scary accident. But she dug deep and has come back stronger than ever!
Name: Pilar Cundey
School: Pingry School
Yacht Club: Bay Head Yacht Club
1) Pilar, you just returned from the Sunshine States (Florida State Optimist Championship). Tell me about the venue and conditions at that event.
This year Sunshine States was held in Jensen Beach, FL. It was consistently windy with about 20 knots both days of the regatta with gusts up to 25 or 30 which separated the fleet and made it easier for me to race. Where we were sailing there was a land effect so that when I sailed closer to the land I was almost guaranteed flatter water and a right shift that would take me closer to the mark. The heavy winds made hiking and boat speed the most important factors. The sailors that finished in the top 10 were hiking as hard as they could and working their boats as much as they could. Strategy wasn’t as important because there weren’t any big shifts.
2) You had a REALLY nice, conservative scoreline. What are some things that worked for you at the Sunshine States that allowed you to sail so consistently?
Boat speed was definitely the most important thing for me. Having a fast and flat boat allowed me to finish in the top 10 almost every race. The land effect that came from the right also helped me to cross boats that were to the left of me. In heavy wind not everyone can keep their boat flat so that separated the fleet which made it a lot easier to pass boats and not lose any. In a couple of races I did lose a couple of boats on the downwind and reach legs which I shouldn’t have, but I passed them on the second upwind with boat speed.
3) You've sailed Optis now for a few years, and I know you're getting taller. Have you thought about what comes after Opti sailing? What boat are you likely to sail next and why?
I would like to sail 420s after Optis. 420s is a boat I always imagined sailing after Optis. I’m excited to get into a bigger boat that also has a jib, and I’m also looking forward to sailing with a partner. I haven’t decided when that will be ,but right now I’m doing well and having fun so I want to stay in Optis as long as I can.
4) A few years ago you had a really scary accident where you were hit by a car while riding your bike in Bay Head. Everyone felt horribly at the time, and we're all so glad to see that you're ok now. Can you tell me about the accident and what's it's been like since?
I don’t remember exactly what happened but I was in the hospital for a month, and it was horrible. I was unconscious for the first 15 days. A fantastic team of doctors, nurses, family and friends took really good care of me. I had to learn to walk, read, and write again, and I had lots of physical therapy to rebuild my strength. It was really hard for me and my family as well.
My friends and teammates helped a lot too. All of the cards and pictures everyone sent meant the world to me! I loved all of the encouraging messages.
Sailing made me stronger, and I think that helped a lot to recover. After the accident, I wanted to get on the water as soon as I could. I could finally get out on the water and sail every weekend the spring after the accident. I wasn’t as good as before the accident, so I had to practice as much as I could to be where I am now. Since that spring, I have made huge improvements and hope to make more improvements.
5) You have two younger siblings who are starting to race Optis. What's one piece of advice that you can give them that you wish you knew when you were their age?
When I was their age, I was just starting to sail in the fall series at Toms River Yacht Club and got last every race. My advice is to just keep on sailing as much as you can. I have been doing the fall series and spring series for almost 5 years now and have gotten a lot better because of the competitive fleet. If you race as much as you can you will get better. Another piece of advice that I have is to take advantage of your time on the water. I wish that I did this when I was young because sailing is a very time consuming sport, and it is hard to practice a lot. You really need to maximize every hour on the water and try to learn something new every time you sail.