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Southern Spars

25th Block Island Race Week begins June 23

by Kirsten Ferguson on 15 May 2013
John Storck, Jr. and his J/80 Rumor team at Block Island Race Week in 2011, where they took first place in the PHRF class © Rolex/Daniel Forster http://www.regattanews.com
Had there been a playbook for grand summer sailing competitions, the Storm Trysail Club would surely have penned it. As the club heads into its 25th presentation of Block Island Race Week, no less than seven classes have coordinated major championships to be held in conjunction with the event, and now over 180 teams have registered.

The count, with room to grow before a June 1 deadline for no-penalty entries, fulfills the club’s goal to exceed—for posterity’s sake—the 174 teams that competed in the inaugural 1965 Race Week. And while there are plans for the biennial regatta, scheduled for June 23-28, to celebrate the significance of its silver anniversary in 2013, organizers and competitors, some of whom have seen generations of their families compete here, will revel most in the fact that Block Island Race Week has matured over five decades into one of America’s most rewarding week-long regattas without growing old.

'The buzz around this year’s Block Island Race Week is deafening,' said Event Chair Lee Reichart, adding that in addition to the event’s silver anniversary, the Storm Trysail Club is celebrating its own diamond anniversary (75th) this year. 'The club prides itself on professionally managed ‘clean, fun racing’ at Block Island Race Week. With four days of around-the-buoys racing and one day devoted to the 18.2 nautical mile Around the Island Race, this is really one of the last true race weeks remaining. It’s fantastic that it has survived the times in its original format from 50 years ago. I could write a book about its heritage, starting with the awarding of the Island Sailing Club of Cowes Perpetual Trophy for the winner of the Around the Island Race.'

Reichart explained that the trophy, which sprang from the original intention that the event be fashioned after Cowes Week in England, was given in previous years to the IRC winner of the race. This year, it will be awarded by Robin Aisher, Admiral of Island Sailing Club of Cowes, along with a Rolex timepiece, to the class winning boat with the fastest corrected time. 'Anyone can theoretically buy a Rolex, but you have to have a certain amount of skill and some good fortune thrown in to win one, especially with this particular Around the Island Race.'

One entry connecting directly to Block Island Race Week’s storied past is Black Watch in the Classic division.

The 68’ classic yawl, built for the 1938 Newport-Bermuda Race, was bought in 1954 by Dr. George Brooks of Larchmont, N.Y., who sailed her in the very first Race Week in 1965 and owned her for four more decades after that. More amazing, however, is that the yacht had served in the 'Hooligan Navy' in WWII when the red glow from the fires of torpedoed merchant ships became an all too common sight on the East Coast.

As vessel 'CG 68007,' Black Watch (then named Edlu II), was called upon by the U.S. Coast Guard, along with other civilian sailboats, to patrol for German U boats. She was skippered at the time by none other than Jakob Isbrandtsen, one of the co-founders of Block Island Race Week who will be a guest of honor at this year’s event.

John Storck, Jr. (Huntington, N.Y.) and his J/80 Rumor team represent the generational approach to enjoying Block Island Race Week, which doubles as a vacation getaway for many. He has sailed 24 Race Weeks, starting as crew for his father, John Storck, Sr., and then using the event as a springboard to launch sons John, Erik and Ian and daughter Kaity on to successful college sailing careers.

Son John is the Co-Head Sailing Coach for Dartmouth College having sailed four years at Hobart and William Smith Colleges where he was a 2007 ICSA All American; Erik was four-time All-American and two-time finalist for College Sailor of the Year at Dartmouth College before representing the USA in the London 2012 Olympic Regatta in the 49er skiff class; younger brother Ian, now on the Dartmouth Sailing Team, also aspires to one day win an Olympic medal; and Kaity was College Sailor of the Year and two time ICSA All-American at Tufts University. Kaity also was a member of the 2011 All American Offshore Team which completed the 2011 Trans-Atlantic Race on Vanquish.

When Scuttlebutt named the Storcks 'Sailing Family of the Year' in 2010, John Storck, Jr., said, 'Colette (my wife) and I are blessed with four offspring who truly love the sport as much or more than we do!' The Storcks raced Jonrob, their 41-year-old Ericson 39, at Block Island Race Week until 2005 when they started racing Rumor. For years, the family stayed on board Tonic, a Hatteras 50 owned by Storm Trysail Club member and friend Charlie Terry, who sailed on Jonrob for many race weeks.

'We think of Block Island as one of our favorite places,' said John Storck. 'It has given us many fond memories, from our daughter’s first steps on Scotch Beach to Jonrob surviving Hurricane Bob. This year will be very special, as we will have Kaity’s fiancée, Baker Potts, and Erik’s fiancée, Aly Whitehead racing with us.'

Storck, who won his PHRF class with Rumor at the last Block Island Race Week, is the contact for the J/80 class, which is holding its 2013 North Americans at the event this year and currently has the largest turnout, with 17 teams entered.

In addition to the J/80 North Americans, Block Island Race Week will serve as the IRC North American Championship; PHRF, J109, J105 and J44 East Coast Championships; and Swan 42 New England Championship.

'There is something for everyone: IRC, HPR, PHRF and one-design racing as well as special Navigator-style courses for Cruising (both spinnaker and non-spinnaker), Classic, Double Hand, and Multihull classes,' said Reichart, emphasizing a 50% entry fee discount for these latter four classes. 'In the end, the silver lining for this regatta has as much to do with a steady course through the decades as it does with delivering what the sailors want.'

Race headquarters will be located at The Oar Restaurant, while evening festivities and award ceremonies will be held next door in the event tent.

The Notice of Race and entry form for the Storm Trysail Club’s 25th Block Island Race Week can be found at Block Island Race Week, and a roster of competitors is constantly updated here.

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