At the Storm Trysail Club’s 68th annual Block Island Race, which started on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, George David’s (Hartford, Conn.) 90’ Rambler finished the 186 nautical mile course in 13 hours, 15 minutes and 55 seconds, shaving two hours, 27 minutes and 10 seconds off Rambler 100’s record-breaking time (also turned in by George David) in the 2011 race.
George David’s (Hartford, Conn.) 90’ Reichel/Pugh design Rambler
Tactician Peter Isler called it 'unbelievable' given that Rambler 100 was 10 feet longer and 20% faster than Rambler the 90 footer, which was built in 2002 and has been owned and raced by David since 2006. Those variables quickly became irrelevant, however, when strong, steady winds from the northwest obliged the fleet of 62 boats in nine classes (six IRC, two PHRF and one J/109) to engage in a fast reach to Block Island and back from the start/finish line in Stamford, Conn., where host Stamford Yacht Club is located.
Rambler jibed at Block Island to reverse her course but didn’t make a single tack until the final approach to the finish line, according to Isler, who calculated that Rambler averaged 14 knots of boat speed throughout the race. 'We saw 26 knots at the top end for wind, and the boat hit 20 knots a couple times,' he said. 'We were back in Long Island Sound by midnight.' (Rambler’s class started at 3:30.)
Rambler’s time also was improved by the navigational choice of exiting and entering the Sound through 'the Sluice,' a narrow passage rarely used as an alternative to Plum Gut and The Race, two current-ridden passages notorious for making or breaking a team’s performance in the Block Island Race.
'It was one of those races where you didn’t want to even go down below to catch a cat nap, because you didn’t want to miss anything,' said Isler. 'There was so much anticipation, knowing that something big was happening. Rambler has had a string of good fortune over the last year, being in the right place at the right time; 2013 was certainly the year to enter the Block Island Race!'
Gary Grant (Westport, Conn.), skipper of Alibi, which won the IRC Double Handed Class and the award for best overall performance, couldn’t have agreed more. 'This is the second time we’ve won both our division and overall for this race,' said Grant, whose crew was Steve Fisk (Westport). 'The last time was 2006, when it was the slowest race on record, and we won because we were the most stubborn and didn’t drop out. This was probably the fastest Block Island Race on record, so we’ve proven ourselves now in both fast and slow conditions. We are very honored to have won.'
Though the temperature 'felt like it was freezing,' it hovered around 45, and incessant light rain with occasional showers added to what most called 'miserable' conditions. 'I purchased Alibi when I lived in London and sailed it in the English Channel,' said Grant. 'This race was much like it was there—cold, windy, rainy. But I guess you could say we were well prepared for that kind of race.'
Another IRC class winner, Spookie, Steve and Heidi Benjamin's (Norwalk, Conn.) Carkeek 40, was the best-performing boat in the race under HPR (High Performance Rule) scoring. At 19 hours, 18 minutes and 17 seconds, Spookie’s elapsed time was less than 1.5 hours behind the runner-up 55’ elapsed time finisher Rima and only six hours behind the new course record holder Rambler. This stands as being the fastest time ever for a 40-foot boat in this race, with an average course speed of nearly 10 knots.
'It was a wet, wild ride, and extremely fast,' said Steve Benjamin. 'We were very pleased with Spookie’s ability to handle the 20-30 knot conditions. But we were all pretty cold and exhausted by the end of the race.'
The Block Island Race was first held in 1946 and is a qualifier for the North Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the Double Handed Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF), and the Gulf Stream Series (IRC). The Block Island Race is also a qualifier for the Caper, Sagola, and Windigo trophies awarded by the YRA of Long Island Sound and the ‘Tuna' Trophy for the best combined IRC scores in the Edlu (40%) and the Block Island Race (60%).
George Lauder Trophy - Best performance by a Vintage boat (15 years old +): Dreamlander, Stephen Kylander
Commodore's Grail Trophy - Best corrected time in IRC below 1.08: Dreamlander, Stephen Kylander
Governor’s Race West Trophy - Best elapsed time in the IRC Fleet: Rambler, George David
William Tripp Jr. Memorial Trophy - Best corrected time in the IRC Fleet: Rambler, George David
Terrapin Trophy - Best corrected time – PHRF: Tacktile, Jeffrey Wilson
Governor’s Race East Trophy - Best elapsed time – PHRF: Threebeans, Christopher Rosow
Gerold Abels Trophy - Best Performance Double-Handed: Alibi, Gardner Grant
Roddie Williams Team Race Trophy: Storm Trysail Red, Bombardino, Lora Ann, Vamp
Tuna Trophy - for the best IRC combined scores in the Edlu (40%) and the BI Race (60%): Kincsem, Joerg Esdorn / Duncan Hennes
Commodore's Trophy - To the boat that has won her class and has beaten the second and third place boat by the greatest margin of time: Spookie, HPR, Steve and Heidi Benjamin
Harvey Conover Memorial Overall Trophy - Awarded to the boat that has won her class and, in the judgment of the Flag Officers and Race Committee, had the best overall performance: Alibi, Gardner Grant