Block Island Race Week 2017

Friday - The Final Showdown at Race Week

BIRW 2017BIRW Event Media: Chris Lewis still looked a bit stunned as he stood on the dock at Payne’s drinking a mudslide while surrounded by his jubilant team.

© Photoboat.com

Lewis and his crew on Kenai had just pulled off a stunning comeback and somewhat surprising upset, doing so in dramatic fashion. The Houston, Texas-based boat won both races on Friday and took advantage of a rare stumble by Challenge IV to capture the venerable J/44 class at Block Island Race Week XXVII.

“It was a very tense day of racing. It was game on and we knew we had to win both races to have a chance,” Lewis said. “We liked the strong breeze and we liked the committee boat end of the line. We got both today and managed to pull out the victory.”

Challenge IV, owned by Jeff Willis of Huntington Bay, New York, entered the final day of racing with a four-point lead on Kenai. It was reduced to three points when Kenai won Race 7 and Challenge IV placed second.

Lewis and tactician Mike McGagh decided to go after Challenge IV in the pre-start of Race 8 and also somewhat on the first windward leg. “We stayed with them before the start and caused them to start at the pin end, which was not favored,” Lewis said. “When we met up on the race course, we engaged them again.”

Challenge IV placed fifth in the final race and wound up equal on points with Kenai at 21 apiece. The Houston boat won the tiebreaker by virtue of having more first place results (4-2).

“We needed to finish fourth or better in the last race and didn’t quite do it,” Willis said. “We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but a lot of that had to do with the pre-race maneuvers.”

Willis was not thrilled by the match race tactics employed by Kenai, but took the high road and congratulated Lewis and crew. Kenia had been a modified J/44, but was converted back to one-design trim for Block Island Race Week 2017 and earned the North American Championship.

“It feels like all the work and preparation we put in paid off,” Lewis said. “It is an honor and a thrill to win Block Island Race Week. We have an awful lot of respect for all these J/44 teams. It’s a great class, a very competitive class and we consider this a tremendous accomplishment.”

It was that type of afternoon on the docks of the three marinas at New Harbor. After five days of hard racing, there were 16 ecstatic winners and an equal number of disappointed runners-up. One of the happier crews was located at the far end of the Champlin’s dock aboard the J/105 Good Trade, owned by the husband-wife team of Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault.

Good Trade sailed impressively all week en route to capturing the J/105 New England Championship, winning five races and placing second in two others in posting a low score of 12 points. That was seven better than runner-up Eclipse (Damiam Emery, Shoreham, NY) and earned Stone and Breault the prestigious Everett B. Morris Memorial Trophy.

First awarded in 1967 and rededicated in 1991, the Morris Memorial Trophy is presented to the Block Island Race Week entry that wins its class and, in the judgment of the race committee and Storm Trysail Club commodore, put forth the Best Overall Performance.

“We were on fire, really in the zone,” Breault said. “We sailed the boat really well and minimize our mistakes.”

Stone steers while Breault calls tactics on Good Trade, which they bought last May from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The couple resides in San Francisco and races a J/105 named Arbitrage on the West Coast.

“We’ve won five of the last seven regattas we’ve entered so I’d say we’ve been on a bit of a roll,” Stone said. “We’re having a really strong season so far and hope to keep it going.”

Marc Acheson (headsail trimmer), Bill Higgins (bow), John Sahagian (pit) and Casey Williams (mid-bow) complete the crew on Good Trade, which opened the regatta with a third then reeled off a steady string of firsts and seconds the rest of the way.

“Our crew work is so solid that I can call for any type of maneuver at any time and not worry one bit,” Breault said.

A look back at a week of racing on this one-of-a-kind island that means so much to so many sailors.

Skipper David Rosow and the Loki crew captured the J/109 North American Championship in similarly convincing fashion. Quantum professional Kerry Klingler trimmed the main while amateur Brian Comfort served as tactician as the Southport, Connecticut entry closed the regatta with three straight bullets.

“Today was do or die and I thought our team really came through in the clutch,” Rosow said. “We tried to keep it simple the last two days. We got in trouble on Tuesday when we made things more complicated than they needed to be.”

Loki successfully defended its North American crown despite having four new crew members and still has not lost a J/109 one-design regatta in two years. “Putting together a new team was complicated, but the chemistry came together well,” Rosow said.

Teamwork, a J/122 owned by Robin Team of Lexington, North Carolina, made its debut at Block Island Race Week in resounding fashion. After briefly falling behind the Farr 395 Old School, Teamwork won the last four races to turn a tight battle into a nine-point victory.

“I came up here with nine of my best friends and we had the time of our lives,” Team said. “Winning is a huge component, of course. The competition was super and we knew we had to be spot on to came out on top at this regatta.”

Teamwork, which earned the IRC 3 North American Championship, now adds Block Island Race Week to its numerous class titles at Key West Race Week and Charleston Race Week.

“Our crew work was fabulous. We seemed to pick up a boat length or two at every mark rounding,” Team said. “This is a mighty sweet win and we are definitely coming back.”

Arthur Santry skippered Temptation/Oakcliff to the North American Championship in IRC 2, posting a second and a first on Friday to close things out. Big breeze for several races benefitted the Ker 50, which finished nine points clear of the Ker 43 Christopher Dragon.

“It was a fantastic regatta for our team. You talk about stiff competition. What a really tough fleet,” said Santry, a resident of Newport, Rhode Island. “We had an advantage by being a bigger boat, but a bit of a disadvantage because the legs very short. I thought the boat was crewed as well as it’s ever been.”

Santry had six students from the Oakcliff Sailing onboard, an ongoing partnership Santry is proud of.

“I’m a big fan of having young kids on the boat. I think it’s very important. They’ll give you all they got,” Santry said. “We had a great group of kids this week and they all did a terrific job.”

This marks the first Block Island Race Week victory for Santry, who last competed at the biennial regatta in 1985 when he was 29 years old and racing his father’s Frers 58.

“Winning Block Island is a really big thing for me. It’s an awesome event and Storm Trysail Club always does an incredible job,” he said.

Skipper Steven Benjamin and his top-notch team on Spookie spent the week match racing against Hooligan, which is campaigned by the Naval Academy Varsity Offshore Sailing Team. Spookie wound up winning all eight races between the two TP52 racing machines, but Benjamin said it was exciting competition.

“I thought the Navy boat did a very good job of starting all week and improved every day. They got the better of us at one point today and we had to tack away,” said Benjamin, who worked with the Midshipmen on their sail trim throughout the week.

Benjamin walked away with one of the most notable perpetual trophies handed out by host Storm Trysail Club. The South Norwalk, Connecticut resident was presented a Rolex timepiece as overall winner of the 2017 Around the Island Race. Spookie showed superb speed while sailing downwind under its large spinnaker and on a tight reach using its Code Zero asymmetrical kite in posting an elapsed time of 1 hour, 56 minutes and 26 seconds in the 20-nautical mile circumnavigation of Block Island.

“This is probably the best crew we’ve ever had on Spookie. I think the chemistry is particularly good,” Benjamin said. “We always enjoy coming to Block Island.It is one of the most well-run regattas in the world.”

ORC Club made its debut as a class at Block Island Race Week and The Cat Came Back, a Swan 42 owned by Jamestown resident Lincoln Mossop led from start to finish. Tactician Michael Campbell have been sailing many years with Mossop, who dedicated his first Block Island Race Week win to his late father.

“I’ve been doing Block Island over 20 years and it feels great to win this regatta,” Mossop said.

Campbell credited clean starts and solid boat-handling from the crew for the success of The Cat Came Back, which won six races and placed second in the other two.

Jazz turned in a similarly dominant performance in J/88 class, winning seven of eight races in posting a low score of eight points. It was also the first Block Island Race Week win for skipper Douglas McKeige of Mamaroneck, New York.

“All I can say is the boat was going really, really well. We just had pace and could lift off the fleet,” McKeige said. “I didn’t expect to do quite this well, but I had a great team here with me this week. They hike hard and are constantly working to get the most out of the boat.”

Partnership, a J/111 campaigned by David and Maryellen Tortorello, won a good battle with Sea Biscuit in PHRF 1. Only two points separated the two boats going into Friday’s action, but a disqualification in Race 7 doomed the Farr 30 skippered by Kevin McNeil of Annapolis, Maryland.

“We have done Block Island Race Week five times and this is the first time we’ve won our class so this is phenomenal,” David Tortorello said. “We had very, very good competition and I think the key was consistency. We put up a lot of top three finishes. Our crew work was fabulous.”

Brad Porter and the crew of XLR8 won two of three races to open the regatta and never looked back in capturing PHRF 2 by 16 points over Whirlwind, the Beneteau 36.7 that was defending champion.

“I’m very fortunate. I have a very talented team and they sailed the boat extremely well,” Porter said. “We were really in the groove this week. Everything just kind of came together in terms of tactics, crew work and boat speed.”

Skipper John Esposito and his team on Hustler continued their remarkable run at this regatta by winning PHRF 3. Hustler, which beat fellow J/29 Cool Breeze by 10 points, has now captured its class in 11 consecutive editions of Block Island Race Week.

“Winning Block Island never gets old. We are very pleased,” said Esposito, a resident of Mohegan Lake, New York. “I came out of retirement to do this regatta and now I’m going back into retirement until 2019.”

Esposito, who seemed somewhat serious about putting his J/29 in storage until the next Block Island Race Week, had high praise for his crew that includes longtime co-skipper Neil Caruso. Robert Weir came all the way from Australia to serve as helmsman for the second straight Block Island while tactician Max Lopez has been on Hustler since he was 11 years old.

“I think the boat is getting quieter. Our level of aggressiveness is still there, but the volume of noise has gone down,” said Lopez, noting that Hustler had a reputation for “a lot of yelling.”

All four PHRF classes competed for East Coast Championships and Arabesque secured the title in PHRF 4 after duking it out all week with USA 4202. Skipper Mike Bruno and his crew on the Chance 31 posted a first and a second on Friday to beat the J/24 owned by Brian Gibbs by two points.

“We had stiff competition again today as expected. We were tied on points going into the last race of the regatta and managed to squeak out the win,” said Bruno, who lives in Avon, Connecticut.

Dan Cheresh sailed Extreme2 to victory in C&C 30 class, which was conducting its North American Championship. Veteran professional Mark Mendelblatt served as tactician on Extreme2, which won five races and did not need to start the last one.

“We wanted to come back strong after our performance at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta,” said Cheresh, who took third last weekend. “I thought we came back focused and with the right attitude. Our improvement was all over the board. We had better straight line speed and Mark did a great job of putting us in the right places.”

Testing Life, a Tartan 46 owned by Brian and Deb Mulhull of Ocean City, New Jersey, topped the Performance Cruising Spinnaker class by counting all bullets. This was the second straight Block Island Race Week victory for Testing Life, which threw out a fifth place finish.

“We sailed the boat very well because we have a great crew and good sails,” Mulhull said. “We’re always happy to win at Block Island and we had a great time once again.”

Rascal, an Ericson 39 skippered by Christopher Schneider, captured Performance Cruising Non-Spinnaker on the strength of two wins. Jammy, a Gunboat 55 owned by Block Island resident Thomas Lee, counted the exact same score line of 1-1-2 in topping the fleet of five Multihulls.

“The Jammy crew learned a lot this week about the Gunboat 55,” said Lee, who keeps his catamaran at a dock in front of his home on Coast Guard Road. “It seems like the fresher breezes that predominated this week really suits Jammy. We are really thrilled with this win.”

This was only the second regatta for Lee since assuming ownership of the Gunboat 55, which competed in Off Soundings two weekends ago.

Overall Award Recap

Perpetual Trophies

GEM trophy memorializes Bill Ziegler who raced his yachts named GEM at many BIRWs with youth sailors, goes to Colb Thim and his crew on NIGHT MOVES – the crew of 4 all are under 21 and put the BIRW program together on their own including delivering the boat to Block Island, renting and provisioning a house for the week. The boys have been bitten by the BIRW “bug” and will return for many more race weeks.

JOHN ALDEN REED PERPETUAL TROPHY awarded to the best performance by a Service Academy Yacht goes to RANGER sailed by midshipmen from the US Naval Academy, Captained by Gunnar Hough.

BUS MOSBACHER SPORTSMANSHIP TROPHY goes to White Fleet Race Committee member Shawn Adams and his crew on AHI who rescued RESOLUTE’s broken rudder and then provided a lesson in seamanship to get RESOLUTE safely back to the dock.

VINTAGE YACHT TROPHY for the best performance by a yacht 25 years or older goes to Christopher Schneider and his crew on the Erickson 39 RASCAL.

SHELTER ISLAND TEAM TROPHY for teams of 3 boats:

- 2ND place team was STORM TRYSAIL RED, Christopher Dragon, Spookie & Vamp

- 1st place team was STORM TRYSAIL SOUTH, Sea Biscuit, Teamwork & Testing Life

Overall Awards

SWAN 42 Sub-Class

2nd place for the week John Hele, DARING

1st place for the week Ken Colburn, APPARITION

J/111 Sub Class

2nd place for the week Douglass Curtiss, Wicked 2.0

1st place for the week David & Maryellen Tortorello, PARTNERSHIP


3rd overall John Greifzu, Jr., GROWTH SPURT

2nd overall Jonathan Rechtschaffer, EMOTICON

1st overall Ted Herlihy, GUT FEELING


3rd overall Tom Reese, FLIGHT SIMULATOR 2 + 1st for Friday

2nd overall Michael Patterson, BELAFONTE + 2nd for Friday

1st overall Thomas Lee, JAMMY + 3rd for Friday


3rd overall Frank Flores, CHECKMATE + 1st for Friday

2nd overall John De Regt, STARLIGHT

1st overall Christopher Schneider, RASCAL + 2nd for Friday


3rd overall and 2nd for Friday: Benjamin Hodgson, GRIMACE

2nd overall Brian Cunha, IRIE 2

1st for Friday and 1st overall Brian & Deb Mulhall, TESTING LIFE

PHRF 4 Class

3rd overall David Strang, BRER RABBIT 3 + 3rd for Friday

2nd overall Brian Gibbs, USA 4202 + 2nd for Friday

1st overall Robert Bruno, ARABESQUE + 1st for Friday

PHRF 3 Class

3rd overall David Allidan, CYMOTHOE

2nd overall John Cooper, COOL BREEZE + 2nd place Friday

1st for Friday, 1st overall and 2nd place in the 2017 PHRF East Coast Championship: John Esposito, HUSTLER

PHRF 2 Class

3rd overall Joel Green, CALIENTE + 2nd place Friday

2nd overall William Purdy, WHIRLWIND + 3rd place Friday

1st for Friday, 1st overall and the 2017 PHRF East Coast Champion: Brad Porter, XLR8

PHRF 1 Class

3rd overall Gunnar Hough, RANGER + 1st place Friday

2nd overall Kevin McNeil, SEA BISCUIT

1st overall and 3rd place in the East Coast Championship: David & Maryellen Tortorello, PARTNERSHIP

J/105 Class

3rd overall and 3rd in the J/105 New England Championship: OJ Young, LOU LOU

2nd for Friday, 2nd overall and 2nd in the 2017 J/105 New England Championship: Damian Emery, ECLIPSE

1st for Friday, 1st overall, winner of the EVERETTE B. MORRIS MEMORIAL TROPHY for the Best Performance for the Week and the 2017 J/105 New England Champion: Bruce Stone & Nicole Breault, GOOD TRADE

J/88 Class

3rd overall and 3rd in the 2017 J/88 East Coast Championship: John Pearson, RED SKY

2nd overall and 2nd in the 2017 J/88 East Coast Championship: Mike Bruno, WINGS + 2nd for Friday

1st for Friday, 1st overall and the 2017 J/88 East Coast Champion: Douglas McKeige, JAZZ + 1st for Friday

J/109 Class

3rd overall and 3rd in the 2017 J/109 North American Championship: Steve Kenny, GOSSIP

2nd overall , 3rd for Friday and 2nd in the 2017 J/109 North American Championship: Bill Sweetser, RUSH.

1st for Friday, 1st overall, winner of the A. JUSTIN WASLEY MEMORIAL TROPHY for winning the largest One Design Class, the ISBRANDTSEN PERPETUAL TROPHY for the Second Best Performance of the Week and the 2017 J/109 North American Champion: David Rosow, LOKI

C&C 30 Class

3rd for Friday, 3rd overall and 3rd in the 2017 C&C30 Noth American Championship: Walt Thiron, THEMIS + 3rd for Friday

2nd overall, 1st for Friday and 2nd in the 2017 C&C30 North American Chamionship: Stefan Stroub, TIBERON + 1st for Friday

1st overall and the 2017 C&C30 North American Champion: Dan Cherish, EXTREME 2

J/44 Class

3rd overall and 3rd in the 2017 J/44 NorthAmerican Championship: William Ketcham, MAXINE

2nd overall, 3rd for Friday and 2nd in the 2017 J/44 North American Champioship: Jeff Willis, CHALLENGE IV

1st for Friday, 1st overall and 2017 J/44 North American Champion: Chris Lewis, KENAI.

ORC Class

3rd overall Laurent Givry JERABOAM

2nd overall Thomas Rich, SETTLER + 2nd for Friday

1st overall Linc Mossop, THE CAT CAMEBACK + 1st for Friday

IRC 3 Class

3rd overall Craig Allbrecht, AVALANCHE

2nd overall Gansen Evans, OLD SCHOOL

1st for Friday, 1st overall and 3nd for the 2017 IRC North American Championship: Robin Team, TEAMWORK

IRC 2 Class

3rd overall John McNamara, LIR

2nd overall Andrew & Linda Weiss, CHRISTOPHER DRAGON + 2nd for Friday

1st for Friday,1st overall, and 2nd in the 2017 IRC North American Championship: Art Santry, TEMPTATION / OAKLIFF

IRC 1 Class

2nd overall Theodore Papenthien, HOOLIGAN + 2nd for today

1st for today, 1st for the week, winner of the US IRC Trophy, the IRC North American Championship and The Island Sailing Club of Cowes Perpetual Trophy along with a Rolex Timepiece for winning the overall 2017 Block Island Race Week Round The Island Race: Steve & Heidi Benjamin, SPOOKIE


Thursday - Penultimate Day at Block Island Race Week

Thursday_j44.jpgThere’s a reason why Challenge IV has captured J/44 class in six straight editions of Block Island Race Week. It’s because skipper Jeffrey Willis and crew know how to put the hammer down when it matters.

© Stephen Cloutier/photogroup.us

Challenge IV enjoyed a terrific day on the water Thursday, posting a superb score line of 2-3-1 to take command of the J/44 class. The Huntington Bay, New York entry will carry a five-point lead into the final day of the racing.

“We know the fourth day of a five-day regatta is important. It’s moving day, especially when you have three races,” Willis said.

Organizers with host Storm Trysail Club delivered on the promise of a three-race day since conditions cooperated. Race committee chairman Dick Neville held the fleet on shore for a one-hour postponement and that proved a wise decision as a healthy sea breeze filled in and provided 11-12 knot southwesterly winds that built throughout the afternoon.

Willis was particularly pleased with the second place result in Race 4 since Challenge IV got caught on the wrong end of a shift and rounded the first weather mark in last place. Tactician David Willis told his father to go toward the island on the run and Challenge IV picked up a favorable shift that enabled it to pass three boats.

“That first race was a huge comeback. That was the turning point of the day, if not the week,” said Willis, who won the final race on Thursday and has a low score of 15 points.

Kenai, owned by Chris Lewis of Houston, Texas, stands in second place with 19 points. Kenai rebounded from a fifth in Race 4 by winning Race 5 and tacking on a third in Race 6.

Challenge IV is very consistent. They know the course and they sail fast, which is a tough combination,” said Lewis, who is making his one-design and Block Island Race Week debut. “We’ve made mistakes in two races. We were over early in one and there was another when we won the start and didn’t cover like we should have.”

Willis said the strategy on Friday will be to stay out of trouble. “If we get a good start with clear air we seem to be able to walk on the rest of the fleet. We tend to make a lot of gains downwind.”

Several classes are coming down to the wire and will be decided during the two races scheduled for Friday. There is a good battle between the J/122 Teamwork and the Farr 395 Old School in IRC 2 with the former holding a four-point lead. Skipper Ganson Evans steered Old School to victory in the first race on Thursday, but Robin Team and Teamwork responded by winning the next two races.

Teamwork is a good boat that is sailing well. It’s all we can do to keep pace,” said Evans, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “Obviously, the different is that they are sailing just a little better than we are. We have to come out with our best tomorrow.”

This is the fourth Block Island Race Week for Old School and Evans appears headed for his best result, which he attributes to “having the best team we’ve ever put on the boat.”

Team was a bit preoccupied by responding to a protest following racing, but did take time to credit Old School, which owes Teamwork roughly 20-30 seconds per race.

“We’re having a good time mixing it up with them. If we can just stay attached, we’re in good shape,” said Team, who has actually beaten Old School boat-for-boat twice in this regatta.

Loki also made a strong move on Thursday, posting a 3-2-1 score line to reclaim the lead in the J/109 North American Championship. Skipper David Rosow and company were smarting from suffering a pair of fifth place finishes on Wednesday.

“Yesterday was a bit of a shocker and we needed to redeem ourselves,” said Rosow, who hails from Southport, Connecticut. “We sorted some things out and sailed much better today. It was moving day and we came through. We had good boat speed and excellent crew work.”

Loki has a low score of 17 points and is five points clear of Gossip, skippered by Steve Kenny of East Hampton, New York. Rush (Bill Sweetser) and Morning Glory (Carl Olsson) both have 25 points.

“It’s still a battle. There are six really good teams and we need to put together another good day,” Rosow said.

Partnership and Sea Biscuit are duking it out in PHRF 1 and the East Coast Championship will come down to the final two races. Partnership, a J/111 owned by David and Maryellen Tortorello, have not finished lower than fourth in the competitive 13-boat fleet and have totaled 14 points. Sea Biscuit, a Farr 30 skippered by Kevin McNeil, is just two points behind.

“They are definitely faster in the light stuff. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. We’re hoping for more breeze because that is in our favor,” McNeil said. “Partnership is a good boat that is going well.”

The Tortorello’s, who reside in Bridgeport, Connecticut, celebrated their 30th anniversary on Tuesday – the second time that has happened during Block Island Race Week. This is the couple’s fifth appearance at this biennial regatta and they are seeking their second victory after topping a J/111 one-design class in 2011.

“We have a very good team that has been sailing the boat for a while now. We all know our positions on the boat very well,” Maryellen Tortorella said.

Only one point separates the top two boats in PHRF 4, which is also contesting an East Coast Championship. Arabesque, a Chance 31 owned by Robert Bruno of Avon, Connecticut, had a great outing on Thursday – winning two races and placing second in the other. That moved Arabesque ahead of USA 4202, a J/24 skippered by Brian Gibbs of Rowley, Massachusetts.

“That J/24 driven by Brian Gibbs is an extremely tough boat. It is fast and sailed well,” Bruno said. “We will have a battle on our hands tomorrow.”

Skipper Arthur Santry and his team on Temptation/Oakcliff had been dominating IRC 2 class until Thursday when Christopher Dragon made a move. Andrew and Linda Weiss sailed their Ker 43 to a first and a second in the last two races and now trail the Ker 40 by seven points.

“It was right in our ideal wind range today. We decided to try to get clear air at the start and not try to outthink ourselves,” Andrew Weiss said. “We’re coming back on Temptation. We’ll see if we can keep it going tomorrow.”

There are a few classes that have featured a dominant boat that only further solidified its lead on Thursday. Owner Lincoln Mossop and his crew on The Cat Came Back have been impressive in ORC Club, winning four races and placing second in the other two. The Swan 42 holds a 10-point lead on Settler, the Tripp 43 owned by Thomas Rich.

It’s a similar story in C&C 30 where skipper Dan Cheresh and the Extreme2 crew have gotten the gun in four of six races and boast a low score of nine points. Veteran professional Mark Mendelblatt is calling tactics on Extreme2, which is nine points up on Themis (Walt Thirion, Kanab, Utah).

“This week has been going well and we’re pretty happy with our performance,” said Cheresh, from Holland, Michigan. “I think the boat is going well through the water and the team is doing a great job getting the sails up and down. Mark is absolutely in command of where we need to go on the race course.”

Extreme2 has been almost unbeatable in C&C 30 class, but received a wakeup call when it finished third at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta.

“We showed up and were not completely focused last weekend. In this class, if you don’t bring you’re A game you pay the price,” Cheresh said. “I feel like we came here on a little bit of a mission.”

Skipper Douglas McKiege and Jazz continued their steady march through the J/88 class with a second in Race 5 marking the only time the American Yacht Club entry has not gotten the gun. Good Trade, owned by the husband-wife team of Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault, took charge of J/105 class by winning two races and taking second in the other on Thursday.

The Carrera 280 XLR8 (Brad Porter, Westbrook, CT) and the J/29 Hustler (John Esposito, Mohegan Lake, NY) have built commanding leads in PHRF 2 and 3, respectively.

Skipper Steve Benjamin and his top-notch crew on Spookie have won every one of their match race showdowns with the Naval Academy team on Hooligan. Skipper Teddy Papenthien said the Midshipmen are learning a lot from their competition with an almost fully professional opponent.

“The competition has been sailing together for years, we’ve been sailing together for months,” Papenthien said. “I think our team is getting better every day we’re on the water.”

Testing Life saw its lead reduced in the Performance Cruising Spinnaker class, which is sailing daily distance races with pursuit starts. The Tartan 46, owned by Brian and Deb Mulhull of Ocean City, New Jersey, suffered a fifth on Thursday and is now just two points ahead of the J/100 Grimace (Benjamin Hodgson, Slocum, RI).

Christopher Schneider and his crew on the Ericson 39 Rascal also hold a two-point lead in Performance Cruising Non-Spinnaker after winning Thursday’s race.

It appears Jammy, the Gunboat 55 owned by Block Island resident Thomas Lee, is going to come out on top in the Multihull division. Second place is still up for grabs between the Corsair 31R Belafonte (P. Michael Patterson) and the Corsair 43 Triple Threat (Timothy Lyons). “I did a nine-month complete refit and it’s almost like sailing a new boat. We’re sorting through some issues as we go this week,” said Lyons, an Annapolis resident. “We still have a shot at second so we’re going to sail as best we can tomorrow and see what happens.” Triple Threat is rated as the slowest boat in the Multihull fleet and thus starts first. Lyons said his trimaran was never passed during Wednesday’s race, but got overtaken rather quickly on Thursday.

“The smaller tris are quicker in light air. Once the wind picked up and we hoisted the spinnaker we made up a lot of ground. Unfortunately, we ran out of time,” said Lyons, who is lobbying for longer courses for the three classes doing distance racing.

Thursday:  Team Work in the North

By Bill Wagner

Team WorkWhat makes an avowed southern sailor come north for the first time his career?

“Mudslides!” said Robin Team, owner of the J/122 Teamwork. “They bribed me with an unlimited supply of mudslides.”

Teamwork in Matching Red going around the Windward Mark on Day 3. © Stephen Cloutier/photogroup.us

Teamwork’s crew has consumed plenty of the famous drink at The Oar, but also came to Block Island Race Week 2017 with the intent of conquering a new challenge.

Teamwork is well known on the southern racing circuit, having posted a steady string of victories at both Key West Race Week and Charleston Race Week. Team has also competed in such point-to-point distance races as Fort Lauderdale-to-Key West, Miami-to-Havana and the Nassau Cup.

However, over almost three decades of campaigning raceboats, Team has never been north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The Lexington, North Carolina resident raced in Annapolis after first buying the J/122, but has basically stayed below his home state ever since.

That changed this year as Team is checking the box on his longtime goal of competing at Block Island Race Week.

“We have always wanted to come up and do the northern circuit. This just seemed like the right year to finally do it,” Team said. “I’ve been hearing great things about Block Island for years and years. It really is a thrill to finally get here.”

Teamwork participated in the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta the weekend prior and put forth a typically strong performance, topping the 12-boat IRC 3 class by a convincing margin. The J/122 is engaged in a good battle with the Farr 395 Old School (Ganson Evans) in IRC 3 here at Block Island Race Week XXVII.

“Block Island is an iconic regatta so it would be a tremendous accomplishment if we could win it,” Team said. “We are hoping to start a new tradition of coming here.”

Team, who owned a J/120 of the same name for 12 years, won its class at Key West Race Week five times and was awarded the Lewmar Cup as PHRF Boat of the Week in 2003. Teamwork has captured the Palmetto Cup as overall champion at Charleston Race Week four times.

Team, president of a real estate development company called Carolina Investment Properties, only does two or three sailing events per year. When Team does settle on going to a particular regatta, he spares no expense and leaves no stone unturned with regard to preparation.

“Robin always gives himself a chance to win by being meticulous in his planning and taking care of every tiny detail,” said Jonathan Bartlett, longtime tactician on Teamwork.

Team is blessed with a fiercely loyal crew that has been consistent and stable for years. It’s a family-based program as Team has his brother Adam (spinnaker trimmer) and two sons Alston (mast) and Coleman (bow) aboard the boat. Bill Fuqua, who works the bow, has been best friends with Team since they met at Camp Sea Gull in Pamlico County, North Carolina. Incidentally, that is also where both men learned how to sail.

Bartlett brought fellow Annapolis residents Kevin Ryman (main trimmer) and Jeff Riedle (headsail trimmer) into the program. Drew Niven (pit) and Matt Welborn (mid-bow) complete a team that has developed tremendous chemistry.

“Robin committed to bringing fun and exciting people into the program then keeping them. What makes Teamwork so successful is this great group of sailors that has been together for so long. It’s really a magical environment,” Bartlett said. “There is a sense of camaraderie and bonds of friendship that has been built over years and years of racing as a unit. To see this grow and develop has been really fun.”

When Robin Team talks about Teamwork being a family, he is not simply referring to his brother, sons and best buddy. He truly considers every crew member part of the family at this point.

Teamwork is known for its matching outfits, both for the boat and the party. For every regatta, Team purchases color-coordinated shirts, shorts, hats and belts emblazoned with Teamwork logo. Coming north meant getting some warmer gear, including some jackets.

“Don’t tell Jonathan this, but I think we spent more on apparel than we did on sails for this trip north,” Team said with a smile.

Bartlett works for North Sails and Team was initially a customer before becoming a close friend. “This is an amateur program that is run in a professional manner,” he said. “It is a very well-organized and choreographed program. By far the most important part is the consistency of people. We have 10 guys involved and they show up for every regatta.”

Teamwork missed Key West Race Week in January for the first time in years due to family and business commitments. Block Island Race Week is more than making up for that omission.

Wednesday 6/21 - Sun, Fog, and Wind- Around the Island We Go

BIRW 2017Event Media report by Bill Wagner: Wednesday provided ideal conditions for the Around the Island Race, which has long been the signature of Block Island Race Week. However, event organizers weren’t thrilled with the idea of going into Thursday with just one buoy race in the bag.

© Stephen Cloutier/photogroup.us

So principal race officer Dick Neville came up with a creative solution. For the first in anyone’s memory, a windward-leeward race was held on the same day as the Around the Island Race.

Principal race officers on all three circles conducted the buoy race in the morning then got everyone reorganized and started the distance race in the afternoon.

“Traditionally, we don’t do that. However, having lost a day and a half of racing this week, we were trying to gain a buoy race without doing away with the Around the Island Race,” Neville said. “We had a pretty good forecast so we decided to give it a try. It was a little risky, but we got it done.”

Neville is planning to conduct three races on all three courses on Thursday and could possibly do so again on Friday. There is no restriction on what time principal race officers Ray Redniss (Red Fleet), Dave Brennan (White Fleet) and Bruce Bingman (Blue Fleet) can start races on Friday.

“We want to have the opportunity to run three if conditions allow,” Neville said.

Competitors had no problem with Wednesday’s plan, even though it made for a rather long day on the water.

“Obviously, the committee needed to do something to increase the number of races. I thought it was a really good idea and it worked out well,” said Carl Olsson, owner of the J/109 Morning Glory.

As usual, there were plenty of great stories from the Around the Island Race, which ranges from 20 to 24 miles depending on the fleet. Themis, a C&C 30 owned by Walt Thirion, managed to get around Block Island without working electronics. Brandon Flack pulled up the Navionics app on his phone and was able to tell Thirion and tactician Geoff Ewenson which way to go.

“We didn’t have the normal information every boat relies on so it was tough,” Ewenson acknowledged. “Fortunately, I’ve done this race a bunch of times and am very familiar with the turf. Brandon really saved the day by navigating using his phone.”

Themis wound up winning the distance race for C&C 30 class despite the handicap. The Annapolis-based boat trailed Extreme2 and Just a Friend early, but made gains downwind.

“We sailed with the jib until we could set the big kite. Some of the other boats set the small spinnaker then switched to the big one. We skipped a maneuver and that paid dividends.”

Extreme2 rounded 1BI in first place then split from Themis and went inshore. Ewenson said Themis sailed away from the island, got stronger breeze and managed to pass Extreme2.

“Today in general is a confidence boost for the team. We sailed the boat really well,” Ewenson said.

Ewenson and Flack both had high praise for the steering performance of Thirion, a Utah resident who is relatively new to competitive sailboat racing. “Walt has really improved as a driver. He has put in a ton of effort over the last 12 months and it has made a big difference.”

Extreme2, skippered by Dan Cheresh of Holland, Michigan, won the windward-leeward race on Wednesday and leads the C&C 30 class by two points over Themis.

Jeffrey Willis led Challenge IV to victory in the distance race and that enabled the Huntington Bay, New York entry to take the lead in the venerable J/44 class. Willis said his boat was doing 11 knots under spinnaker at one point when the wind piped up to 24 knots on the east side of Block Island.

“We got a very good start, stayed left on the first beat and got lifted. That allowed us to round the windward mark mark in first and we managed to stay in front the rest of the way,” he said.

Challenge IV was able to hoist the spinnaker earlier than the other six boats and increased the lead as a result. “As soon as we rounded 1BI the fog really came in. We had almost no visibility and had to get the horn up on deck,” Willis said.

Kenai (Chris Lewis, Houston, Texas) won Race 1 on Tuesday while current Storm Trysail Club commodore Leonard Sitar won Wednesday’s buoy race, displaying the balance within the J/44 class.

Kenai and Maxine are both going fast while Vamp is always tough. It’s a very competitive group,” said Willis, who has captured class honors in six straight editions of Block Island Race Week.

Morning Glory emerged from the day atop the J/109 class, which is contesting its North American Championship. Quantum professional Terry Flynn is calling tactics for Olsson, who credited solid crew work for a second place in the buoy race and fourth place in the distance race.

“It was a fantastic day on the water. We made a few mistakes, but not many. Fortunately, everyone else made more mistakes,” Olsson said.

Olsson has brought five different version of Morning Glory to Block Island Race Week, including a J/105, Tripp 41 and J/34. The New Rochelle, New York resident is still seeking his first class victory here.

Jazz has set a strong pace in J/88 class, winning every race so far. Skipper Douglas McKiege (Mamaroneck, New York) and crew have built a six-point lead over Red Sky (John Pearson, Setauket, NY).

“The boat is going really well. We have a good team and good equipment. Everyone is focused on doing their job and we are hiking really hard,” said McKiege, who has close friend Steve Kirkpatrick trimming the main and calling tactics.

This is the first time McKiege has brought his J/88 to Block Island and he is looking to come away with the East Coast Championship.

Temptation/Oakcliff, skippered by Arthur Santry, has also posted straight bullets. Back-to-back heavy air days have benefitted the Custom Ker 50, which has built an eight-point lead in IRC 2. Andrew Weiss, owner of second-place Christopher Dragon, is hoping the lighter conditions predicted for Thursday will help his Ker 43.

“We need something to turn things around because Temptation is sailing really well,” Weiss said. “We raced against Temptation at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta and got the better of them in light air.”

Settler finds itself in a similar situation within ORC Club as Lincoln Mossop and his crew have sailed The Cat Came Back to a strong score line of 1-1-2. Skip Matos, driving the Swan 42, credits his crew’s teamwork for the wins in the buoy races and second place just behind the Sydney 38 Kurranulla in the Around the Island Race.

Settler, a Tripp 43 owned by Thomas Rich of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, is four points behind The Cat Came Back. “Lincoln and his team are doing a really good job. We owe them a lot of time and we just haven’t been able to extend enough,” Rich said. “We’re not quite sure what to do. We obviously have to find some more speed.”

It was a good day for Good Trade, which took over the lead in J/105 class by winning both races. Owner Bruce Stone steers while wife Nicole Breault calls tactics for the San Francisco team.

“It was a lot of drama, a lot of fun. We had two incredible starts and raced really hard around the course,” Breault said. “Everyone is super happy with the results.”

Breault was still kicking herself for overstanding the first windward mark, but she played the fog well and passed a few boats. Good Trade carried the spinnaker for a long stretch and caught loulou at 1BI. It was a tacking duel to the finish with Good Trade finding better air by going toward the beach.

Skipper Brad Porter and his team on XLR8 are looking like the boat to beat in PHRF 2, which is competing for an East Coast Championship. Winning the Around the Island Race after taking second in the windward-leeward start gives the Carrera 280 a three-point advantage over Dark Energy (Melges 24, Laura Grondin).

“I’m very fortunate to sail with a very talented team that has been together for 20 years. We have an extremely seasoned group of sailors,” said Porter, out of Westbrook, Connecticut. “We’ve had outstanding starts, hit a couple good shifts and gotten great crew work. Everything has been perfect so far.”

Porter also owns an Evelyn 32 and rotates which boat he brings to Block Island Race Week. He captured class honors in four straight editions from 2007 to 2013, twice with the Carrera 280 and twice with the Evelyn 32.

It was a day for the Farr 395 entries in IRC 3 with Old School (Ganson Evans) winning the windward-leeward race and Avalance (Craig Albrecht) taking the distance race. Teamwork, a J/122 owned by Robin Team of Lexington, North Carolina, has shown consistency and continues to lead the class on the strength of a 1-2-2 score line.

Same could be said of Partnership, a J/111 owned by David and Maryellen Tortorello that is atop PHRF 1 thanks to a pair of seconds surrounding a bullet. Partnership won Wednesday’s windward-leeward start before placing second in the Around the Island Race and is three points up on the Farr 30 Sea Biscuit (Kevin McNeil).

Upsetter did just that in winning the Around the Island Race in PHRF 3. Skipper Jason Viseltear steered the J/80 across the line in third, but corrected over a pair of J/29s – Hustler and Cool Breeze.

Testing Life, owned by Brian and Deb Mulhull of Ocean City, New Jersey, has now won both distance races in the Performance Cruising Spinnaker class. Starlight, a Cambria 46 skippered by John de Regt of Rowayton, CT, won Wednesday’s distance race is sits atop Performance Cruising Non-Spinnaker by virtue of tiebreaker over Rascal (Ericson 39, Christopher Schneider).

Jammy, a Gunboat 55 owned by Block Island resident Tommy Lee, has won both races among the Multihull fleet.


Tuesday -Let's Go Racing Already!

BIRW 2017When the AP flag was taken down to finally mark the start of Block Island Race Week 2017, it was like watching schoolchildren being let out for recess. Sailors who had waited 1 ½ days to go racing rushed down the docks, hopped aboard their boats and couldn’t wait to cast off the lines.

Dan Cherish and his team on Extreme2 took the win for the first race. Block Island Race Week is also the C&C30 North American Championships. Cover Photo: Stephen R Cloutier

Thick fog that blew in late Saturday and refused to leave forced cancellation of Monday’s racing and delayed Tuesday’s attempt to get things going. At long last, the fog lifted around noon and race committee chairman announced that one start would be held for all courses beginning at 2 p.m.

As it turns out, the fog had not cleared on Block Island Sound, which prompted the race committee on all three courses to delay a bit longer. Then the fog dissipated, the sun broke through and principal race officers Ray Redness (Red Fleet), Dave Brennan (White Fleet) and Bruce Bingman (Blue Fleet) immediately went into sequence.

Block Island Race Week XXVII began in big breeze – 19-22 knots from the southwest – and some sailors admitted afterward it was somewhat of a shock to the system to flip the switch into competition mode.

“It’s tough to sit around for a day and a half then go racing,” said Jack McGuire, skipper of the J/29 Dirty Harry. “As soon as the fog lifted, they fired the warning gun. There wasn’t even time to run upwind and downwind before the start.”

There were no complaints about the conditions, which were simply spectacular and produced exhilarating racing for the 146 boats in 16 classes. “Well it was a long wait and it was fantastic to finally get out there. Sunshine and strong wind – it couldn’t have been any nicer,” said Chris Lewis, who steered Kenai to victory in J/44 class.

Kenai had been modified for IRC racing, but Lewis converted the boat back to one-design trim in order to compete in Block Island Race Week. Early returns were favorable for the Houston, Texas entry, which led at every mark rounding on Tuesday.

“We had nice speed and were fortunate to go the correct way. We tacked onto port while everyone else went right and managed to round the first weather mark with a short lead,” Lewis said. “We had Challenge IV on our breeze, but we managed to hold them off to the leeward gate.”

Lewis said his crew is still adjusting to racing with a symmetrical spinnaker using a pole after having to ditch the bow sprit and asymmetrical kite in order to comply with the one-design rule.

Owner-driver David Rosow and the Loki crew continued their dominance of the J/109 class, capturing Race 1 of the North American Championship by a convincing margin.

“We were super happy to start racing. We were getting a little antsy sitting ashore. We were anxious to go out and do what we came here to do,” Rosow said.

Loki is the defending North American champ and has not lost a J/109 one-design regatta in two years. Rosow, a Southport, Connecticut resident, credited improved planning and preparation for his team’s ability to get a leg up on the competition.

“We started putting this event together in November. When you are organized and have done everything right, it makes a big difference,” he said.

Temptation/Oakcliff, the custom-designed Ker 50 skippered by Arthur Santry, revels in heavy air and that was obvious on Tuesday afternoon. Temptation/Oakcliff sailed away from the eight other boats in IRC 2 and won by five minutes on elapsed time. That advantage over runner-up Cool Breeze, a Mills 43 Custom owned by John Cooper, reduced to just under two minutes after handicaps were calculated.

“This boat is an absolute animal upwind. We were doing nine knots on the beat with our three-plus jib,” Santry said. “It’s just hard to hold this boat back in those conditions.”

William Rudkin is calling tactics while Suzy Leech is serving as navigator aboard the Ker 50, which has six students from the Oakcliff Sailing program as part of the crew. One of those students is Henry Taylor of Wilton Academy, son of legendary musician James Taylor.

“We came in about 20 seconds late for the start and didn’t care,” Santry said. “We just wanted the weather end. After about five minutes, we were out front and had clear air.”

It was another ho-hum day at Block Island Race Week for John Esposito and the Hustler team, which owns the highest winning percentage in regatta history. Hustler led from start to finish and wound up beating long-time J/29 rival Mighty Puffin (Steve Thurston) by 51 seconds.

“I thought the race committee did the right thing by delaying. When the fog lifted, we wound up having a great day for racing,” said Esposito, who was pleased with the performance of his brand new heavy air genoa. “We were a little overpowered on the second leg, but had good boat speed overall.”

Testing Life, the Tartan 46 owned by Brian and Debbie Mulhall of Ocean City, N.J., drew first blood in Performance Cruising Class Spinnaker. That class, along with Performance Cruising Non-Spinnaker and Multihulls, are doing pursuit starts this year.

Testing Life held off the Ker 55 Irie 2 (Brian Cunha) while Christopher Schneider steered the Ericson 39 Rascal to victory in the Non-Spinnaker category. Jammy, a Gunboat 55 owned by Block Island resident Thomas Lee, topped the fleet of five Multihulls.

Four PHRF classes are conducting East Coast Championships as part of Block Island Race Week 2017. Sea Biscuit, a Farr 30 skippered by Kevin McNeil of Annapolis, scored a four-second victory over the J/111 Partnership in PHRF 1.

“It’s a beautiful day on Block Island,”McNeil said as he sipped a mudslide at Mahogany Shoals. “We really sailed well downwind. We gybed early on the first run and passed a whole bunch of boats.”

Partnership led a group of J/111 sloops that finished second through fifth in PHRF 1.Those designs did better sailing upwind in the choppy conditions on Tuesday, McNeil said. “We definitely did our damage on the downwind. Good news is that we can sail better. We had a problem with one maneuver that cost us almost a minute.”

Brad Porter and his team on the Carrera 280 XLR8 secured the win in PHRF 2 by almost two minutes over the Melges 24 Dark Energy (Laura Grondin). It was much closer in PHRF 4, where the C&C 33 Brer Rabbit (David Strang) nipped the J/24 USA 4202 (Brian Gibbs).

After receiving a wakeup call with a third-place finish at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, Dan Cheresh and the Extreme2 team got back on their game by taking the opening race in C&C 30 class. Jazz (Douglas McKiege) and Eclipse (Damian Emery) were the opening day winners in the J/88 and J/105 one-design classes.

Robin Team was all smiles after winning his Block Island Race Week debut. The North Carolina-based J/122, which is making its first foray north, corrected over the Farr 395 Old School (Ganson Evans) by two minutes, nine seconds.

“We had great upwind boat speed and the crew work was absolutely flawless,” said Team, adding that long-time tactician Jonathan Bartlett “was on fire today and kept us going the right way.”

Teamwork got the gun in Race 1, although team admitted that Old School and its sister ship Avalanche (Craig Albrecht) chased his boat all around the course. “It’s only one race into a long regatta so we have quite a ways to go. Those two Farr 395s were right on our heels. It’s going to be a battle.”

Lincoln Mossop is a fixture at Block Island Race Week, having competed for at least 30 years counting both the on and off years. The Jamestown, Rhode Island resident and his crew sailed his Swan 42, The Cat Came Back, to a nearly three-minute win over the Tripp 43 Settler (Thomas Rich) in ORC Club, which is a new class at Block Island Race Week.

“Hallelujah, praise the lord, we won!” Mossop said as he left the docks in front of The Oar. “It was really close racing. A bunch of boats got to the top mark at the same time but we got ‘em on the downwind.”

Skipper Steve Benjamin and the Spookie crew won their inaugural match race with Hooligan in IRC 1, which consists solely of those TP52 race machines. Spookie led by about 30 seconds when the Naval Academy Varsity Offshore Sailing Team had some trouble with a spinnaker douse. Benjamin said Spookie has been slightly reconfigured in order to rate more closely to Hooligan.

“We are really impressed by how well the midshipmen sail that boat. We competed against them at the Annual Regatta and have total respect for their abilities,” Benjamin said.

Monday - Fog and Wind on Water Leads to Fun Ashore

Event Media: As a rule, members of the Storm Trysail Club are a hardy lot.

BIRW monAfter all, the club’s by-laws state that “Candidates for membership must have set a storm trysail under storm conditions offshore or have weathered a storm under greatly reduced canvas or sailed 1,000 nautical miles offshore. They also must be experienced blue water sailors, capable of taking command of a sailing vessel offshore under any and all conditions.”

Lincoln Mossop and the Crew of the Swan 42, The Cat Came Back, enjoys the afternoon some Mudslides at the Oar. Photo: Elisabeth Whitener

However, there is a time when even the most seasoned sailor must be prudent and proceed with caution when considering the safety of the boat and crew. Such was the case on Monday when organizers of Block Island Race Week XXVII cancelled racing due to high winds and severe fog. Race committee chairman Dick Neville made the final call after monitoring the wind velocity and fog layer on Block Island Sound and consulting multiple weather forecasts.

“Conditions on the sound were not safe for sailboat racing. There is less than 100 feet of visibility, which is a very dangerous situation,” Neville explained. “Commander’s Weather and other forecasts agreed that if the fog lifts, the wind would get five knots stronger. That would put the wind in the high 20s with gusts into the 30s.”

Shawn Adams, who operates the weather mark boat for the White Fleet racing circle, traveled out to Block Island Sound first thing in the morning and again at 10:30 in order to provide the race committee with real time information. Adams recorded steady winds of 20 knots with gusts to 28.

“That would have been sail-able. However, there was no visibility, which was the problem,” Neville said. “Based on all reports, when we get the visibility the breeze comes up to a level that is not sail-able. For those reasons, we think it’s best to take the day off and let the sailors enjoy Block Island.”

Which is exactly what the crews of the 146 boats competing in the regatta elected to do. Brandon Flack, kite trimmer for the C&C 30 Themis, threw out the idea of having an Around the Island Race on bicycles. What transpired was “All Roads Lead to the Oar,” a bike race that started at Henry Maxwell’s crew house in Old Harbor, stopped at local watering holes, and finished at the Atlantic Rigging Trailer by the regatta tent.

Teddy Papenthien, skipper of the Naval Academy’s TP52 Hooligan, said he and some other midshipmen were going to go surfing. For the family-based crew of Teamwork, a day of bocci ball at the rental house seemed like a good idea.

Not surprisingly, The Oar filled up rather quickly as soon as the cancellation announcement was made as some sailors decided that drinking mudslides should be the first order of business.

Most of the skippers asked agreed with the decision, citing the experience of Neville and others on the race committee.

“I would defer to the discretion of the race committee and say it must be a good call,” said Jim Carkhuff, owner of the Donovan GP 26 Hall Pass. “The Storm Trysail Club does not make these decisions idly. These folks know what they’re doing.”

Gear breakdowns and sail blowouts are almost inevitable in 25-30 knot winds. No skipper that went through the expense of fielding an entry in Block Island Race Week 2017 wants to see that happen at the start of a five-day regatta.

“I think everyone out here would agree that it would not be good to break up the boat on Monday,” Carkhuff said.

Further down the dock at Champlin’s Marina, the crew of the J/105 Good Trade sat in the cockpit and tried to figure out how to spend the unexpected off day. Husband and wife co-owners Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault regularly sail in 25-30 knot winds on San Francisco Bay.

“We would have liked to have gone out racing, but we understand the race committee must think about the good of the entire fleet,” Stone said.

Neville noted that in the early editions of Block Island Race Week, the Storm Trysail Club rarely cancelled racing.

“In the old days we went around the island in the fog and some boats didn’t bother to round every mark,” Neville said with a smile. “How can you protest someone when you can’t see whether or not they sailed the proper course?”

The long-time race committee chairman for Block Island Race Week said consideration was given to racing in heavy air under a unique stipulation.

“One of our committee suggested that we should have a race using only storm trysails on days like this. I thought that was a pretty good idea,” Neville joked.

In all seriousness, it would be irresponsible of organizers to conduct racing in heavy air when competitors cannot see each other. Multiple skippers reported near-misses during Sunday’s practice race, which was held in fog that was not as thick as Monday’s.

“We could not have raced on Sunday because of the same concerns. We need a minimum of 1,200 feet visibility to have a safe race and prevent collisions,” Neville said. “That is the number that allows the race committee to start boats properly, allows boats to find the weather mark and allows adequate time for boats to avoid each other.”

Neville announced a two-hour postponement at 9 a.m. and the longhorn making that official came at 9:30. After getting the update from the racecourse at 10:30, Neville then announced the cancellation at 11 with the horn following a half hour later.

“As recently as a few years ago, we would do rolling postponements. Every half hour, there would be an announcement,” Neville said. “We got feedback from the sailors that they hate rolling postponements because you can’t do anything. That is why we made the first postponement two hours. That gives sailors an opportunity to get a cup of coffee or breakfast.”

In considering the prospect of a lost race day, Neville and the race committee looked carefully at the forecast for the rest of the week. It is very promising, both in terms of wind and weather.

Neville said the signature Around the Island Race will still be held if the wind cooperates. He noted there have been some editions of Block Island Race Week that did not include the distance race due to lack of breeze.

“We looked down the road to the next four days and believe we can do plenty of racing,” Neville said. “There is a front coming in that should pass through by Tuesday morning. When that clears and the thunderstorms move away, it’s going to be sunny with good breeze and that should hold for the rest of the week.”


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