Though racing doesn’t start until tomorrow, the 25th Anniversary of the Storm Trysail Club’s famous Block Island Race Week is already looking to be an occasion of epic proportions. With outrageously gorgeous weather in the forecast for the next few days and plenty of races as well as social events planned, 182 teams are sure to keep the fun throttle at one of America’s most popular race weeks pegged at full speed. (Block IslandS, R.I. (May 14, 2013))
'Everybody is excited,' said Lee Reichart, chair of the event and Vice Commodore of the Storm Trysail Club. 'Our goal was to top the number of entries at our first Block Island Race Week, which was 175 according to a 1965 master crew list, so it’s a success already. The weather looks good, especially for the first three days, with south westerly winds of 10-15 knots.' Reichart added that four days of around-the-buoys racing are planned, and one day will be devoted to the 18.2 nautical mile Around the Island Race. 'We won’t know when that race will be, as the decision will be made the morning of that day.'
Reichart also explained that the teams have been divided into 19 classes (four IRC, five PHRF, seven one design, two cruising, one doublehand) and four fleets for racing on four different courses. Eight championships are being sailed concurrently with Race Week. They are the North Americans for IRC handicap and J/80 one design; the East Coasts for US Sailing’s PHRF handicap and J/29, J/44, J/105, and J/109 one designs; and the New Englands for Swan 42 one designs.
'The doublehand and cruising classes (the latter of which will sail special navigator-style courses) have more competitors than in the past,' said Reichart. 'Out there on the course they are as cut-throat as anybody, but I think it has to do with this regatta bringing out the notion of ‘let’s go out to Block Island to compete but have a bit of fun, too, while enjoying ourselves with good friends.’ It’s a bit of a throwback. Instant communication is not really a way of life here. We’re out in the ocean, and it gives that feeling of being somewhere very different. It’s part of the attraction.'
One of the cruising (spinnaker) class contenders is Paul Brindack (Old Greenwich Conn.), who came to put his just-bought XP 33 Moxy through its paces. 'Our mind set is to have fun and learn; we don’t necessarily have to win.' Brindack has never competed at Race Week before, mainly because he hasn’t had the right boat. 'It’s kind of like skiing. If you go powder skiing with slalom skis you’re going to be in trouble. In southern Connecticut you don’t get the unadulterated wind like you do here on this island. This boat goes with the venue. It will go 15 knots and faster under spinnaker.'
John Sweeney (Darien, Conn.), sailing on Dennis Collins’ (Norwalk, Conn.) chartered Tripp 41 High Noon in IRC 1 class, hasn’t sailed in this event since 1996, because he was living in St. Thomas, USVI for many years. 'Now I’m doing it because this is the best thing going outside the Caribbean,' said Sweeney, counting among his team’s main competition High Noon’s owners Steve and Heidi Benjamin (Norwalk) aboard the Carkeek 40 Spookie and a second Carkeek 40 Decision, skippered by Stephen Murray (New Orleans, La.).
Francis Nilsen (Sound Beach, N.Y.) on Norman Schulman’s (Glen Cove, N.Y.) Charlie V says this is his first time to do BIock Island, but the owner and crew have been here before. When asked if his team would be a top contender in J/44 class, Nilsen responded, 'We all want to think that, don’t we?'
Before the kick-off party under the giant event tent next to The Oar Restaurant, sailors enjoyed cocktails and hors’ d’oeuvres on Payne’s dock, one of three staging areas (besides The Oar and Champlin’s Marina) for the event. The occasion, courtesy of the Storm Trysail Foundation, was to not only celebrate Block Island Race Week’s Silver Anniversary but also toast and tour Black Watch, the 68-foot Sparkman & Stephens classic yawl, which was launched in 1938 and competed in the inaugural Block Island Race Week. As a member of the civilian picket patrol that helped the U.S. Navy locate German U-Boats during WWII, she was skippered by Jakob Isbrandtsen, one of three co-founders of Block Island Race Week who is a guest of honor at this year’s event.
by Barby MacGowan
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9:15 AM Mon 24 Jun 2013GMT
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