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Block Island Race Week - Fleet starts in raging winds

by Barby MacGowan on 23 Jun 2009
Around the Island Race Fleet from Southeast Light House - Block Island Race Week Rolex / Dan Nerney

Usually it's the sailors who get an eyeful of majestic scenery while racing around the island during the Storm Trysail Club's biennial Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex, but today, spectators ashore oohed and aahed at the magnificent site of 153 boats trying to hold it together in raging winds on the Atlantic Ocean.

The spectacle was best viewed from Southeast Lighthouse, perched on a 150-foot cliff at the southern-most tip of tiny Block Island, which for these five week days is serving as the epicenter of sailing in the Northeast. A mass of colorful spinnakers paralleled the shore - some of them flailing wildly during broaches and a few becoming unwanted anchors when waves rose like jaws to snag them.

The Solent-like conditions (surely a nod from Neptune to Race Week's origins as a take-off on Cowes Week) led to several mishaps, including a man overboard (and safely recovered) on Steve and Heidi Benjamin's (Norwalk, Conn.) Tripp 41 high Noon in IRC 40A class and some hull damage (fixable by tomorrow's racing) when Chuck Townsend's (New York, N.Y./Newport, R.I.) NYYC Swan 42 Blazer apparently tried to duck Gary Jobson's (Annapolis, Md.) Mustang in a port-starboard crossing situation.

Ramrod, the Farr 40 owned by Rodrick Jabin (Annapolis, Md.) caught a four-foot sand shark on its keel, which might have seemed the most unusual happening save for the fact that several other boats experienced the same thing. 'We were going 12-16 knots downwind, then all of a sudden we were doing 11-13; we had to back down to shake him free,' said Ramrod's mast man Matt Weimer (Annapolis, Md.). The diversion didn't cost them much, as the crew, which sailed to seventh last year in the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds and was top American boat, won its one-design class on corrected time.

John Boone (Tiverton, R.I.), jib trimmer aboard Kevin McNeil's (Annapolis) Nightshift, which finished second to Ramrod, loved the 18-25 knot winds that tested his team's boathanding skills as well as their endurance. 'Our class started with the Swan 45s, and we were going about the same speed as them and the J/120s, so it wasn't like we were off sailing by ourselves,' he said. 'It was great racing, really fun, especially on the spinnaker run.'

When Austin Fragomen (Portsmouth, R.I.), skipper of the NYYC Swan 42 Interlodge, was asked about others in his class who may have had trouble keeping upright on the downwind leg, which stretched for more than a third of the 23-mile course, he laughed,' I was too busy trying to not wipe out to notice anyone else!' He described a tacking duel with Phil Lotz's (New Canaan, Conn.) Arethusa near the finish line that allowed eventual winner Tsunami, co-owned by Preben Ostberg and Bud Dailey Jr. (Rockville, Md.) to sneak in and cross the line ahead of them, while Interlodge finished second. According to his tactician Geoff Ewenson (Annapolis, Md.), 'We didn't put them (Tsunami) far enough in the corner and gave them an avenue to escape.'

While some teams have been coming to Block Island Race Week for years, even decades, Fragomen and others, such as Roger Sturgeon (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), with his STP65 Rosebud/Team DYT, are here for their first time.

'High wind? This isn't high wind,' joked Sturgeon, although he admitted he didn't want to blink or he'd miss the beauty Block Island had to offer those rounding it today. 'No, really, it was exciting. There are a lot of good boats, a lot of good sailors here. I finally had to come.'

Rosebud/Team DYT finished the race in one hour and 43 minutes and was not only first-to-finish but also top-performing IRC boat overall, which won her the special prize of a Rolex Submariner watch. This is not Sturgeon's first Rolex, which is a coveted prize at some of the world's most prestigious sailing competitions. He also won a Rolex in 2007 for winning the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

At the end of the day, the fleet retreated to New Harbor, nestled at the most inland edge of the Great Salt Pond, and took shelter in the large protected harbor before indulging in a giant tent party sponsored by Caithness Energy (which also sponsored the race day) and Summit Yachts.

Competing are four IRC classes (33 boats total) taking part in the 2009 US-IRC Gulf Stream Series. Forty PHRF boats are divided into five classes (one of those being 'Navigator' for non-spinnaker), while making up the balance are eight One-Design classes (Beneteau 36.7, NYYC Swan 42, Farr 40, J/122, J/44, Farr 30, J/109, and J/105).


For more information, visit www.blockislandraceweek.com.

Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Week XXIII presented by Rolex
Preliminary results, top three per class
June 22, 2009 (racing continues through Friday, June 26)


Place, Yacht Name, Type, Owner/Skipper, Hometown, Results, Total Points

Beneteau 36.7 (One Design - 6 Boats)
1. Quokka, Beneteau First 36.7, Tom Peelen, So. Dartmouth, MA, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Crossbow, Beneteau First 36.7, Roy Halvorsen, Tenafly, NY, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Tango, Beneteau First 36.7, Chuck Norris, City Island, NY, USA - 3, ; 3

PHRF 1 (PHRF - 10 Boats)
1. XLR8, Evelyn 32, Brad Porter, Westbrook, CT, USA - 1, ; 1
2. L'outrage, Beneteau 34, Bruce Gardner, Annapolis, MD, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Swift, Navy 44, Kenneth Endicott, Annapolis, MD, USA - 3, ; 3

PHRF 2 - J-29 (PHRF - 6 Boats)
1. Hustler, J 29, John & Tony Esposito, Mohegan Lake, NY, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Mighty Puffin, J 29, Steve Thurston, Bristol, RI, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Showdown, J 29, Bijan Rasadi, Groton, CT, USA - 3, ; 3

PHRF 3 (PHRF - 9 Boats)
1. Rumor, J 80, John Storck, Jr, Huntington, NY, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Cymothoe, Sabre 36, David Alldian, Brick, NJ, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Lunatic Fringe, LS-10, Robert & Bill Lehnert, Cutchogue, NY, USA - 3, ; 3

PHRF 4 (PHRF - 8 Boats)
1. Alohomora, J 24, Kyle Fast, Noank, CT, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Loki III, S2-9.1, Richard Correll, Huntington, NY, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Boondoggle, Frers 30, Scott Kirkpatrick, Wellesley, MA, USA - 3, ; 3

Navigator Class (PHRF - 7 Boats)
1. Xenophon, Frers/Nautor Swan 44, Paul Pakos, Sudbury, MA, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Club Car, S2 7.9, Barry bessette, South Chatham, MA, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Starlight, Cambria 46, John de Regt, Rowayton, CT, USA - 3, ; 3

IRC ZERO (IRC - 2 Boats)
1. Rosebud/Team DYT, STP65, Roger Sturgeon, Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Vanquish, STP65, Ralf Steitz, Kings Point, NY, USA - 2, ; 2

IRC 40A (IRC - 11 Boats)
1. Act One, King 40, Bill Titus Stern, Milligan, Roche, Newport, RI, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Cool Breeze, Mills 43, John Cooper, Springfield, MO, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Nasty Medicine, Corby 41, Stephen Sherwin, Hamilton, Bermuda, BER - 3, ; 3

IRC 40B (IRC - 11 Boats)
1. Mullet, Beneteau First 40.7, Kris & Kiki Werner, Rochester, NY, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Jubilee, Archambault A40rc, Cal Huge, Summerville, SC, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Katabatic, IMX 40, Gordon Hall, Marblehead, MA, USA - 3, ; 3

IRC 35 (IRC - 12 Boats)
1. Good Girl, J 100, Robert W. Armstrong, St. Croix, VI, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Lora Ann, Express 37, Richard du Moulin, Larchmont, NY, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Bluto, Evelyn 32-2, Ben Hall / Bill Berges, Tiverton, RI, USA - 3, ; 3

NYYC Swan 42 (One Design - 14 Boats)
1. Tsunami, NYYC Swan 42, Preben Ostberg / Bud Dailey Jr. , Rockville, MD, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Interlodge, NYYC Swan 42, Austin and Gwen Fragomen, Portsmouth, RI, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Arethusa, NYYC Swan 42, Philip Lotz, New Canaan, CT, USA - 3, ; 3

Farr 40 (One Design - 6 Boats)
1. Ramrod, Farr 40, Rodrick Jabin, Annapolis, MD, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Nightshift, Farr 40, Kevin McNeil, Annapolis, MD, USA - 2, ; 2
3. Sundance, Farr 40, Jerry Taylor, Washington, DC, USA - 3, ; 3

J-122 (One Design - 10 Boats)
1. Wings, J 122, Mike Bruno / Tom Boyle / Jim Callahan, Irvington, NY, USA - 1, ; 1
2. Flying Jenny VI,

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