IRC East Coast and J/122 National Titles on the Line As the June 1 entry deadline* for the Storm Trysail Club’s 24th biennial Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex approaches, entries are running ahead of the numbers at this time in 2009. As this issue went to press time, 112 boats had registered.
The regatta, which will be sailed June 20 - 24 in the waters off Block Island, RI, promises an influx of new talent, since it serves as both the 2011 IRC East Coast Championship (held for the previous six years in Annapolis, MD) and the J/122 National Championship. The event also will feature the debut of a new J/111 one-design class, and previous PHRF restrictions have been eliminated to open up the event to more sailors.
“Block Island Race Week is one of the last true traditional race weeks in the country, with five days of racing in both handicap and one-design classes,” said On-the-Water Co-Chairman Dick Neville, who anticipates running two or three racing circles with around-the-buoys IRC, PHRF and one-design courses and separate navigator-type courses for cruising classes, which will welcome double-handed and classic yachts. “It’s one of the most significant events on the Eastern seaboard this summer,” Neville added. “There are boats from all over the country that come here for the exceptional competition the event is known for.”
Boats will be competing for individual class trophies daily and Rolex watches as overall prizes for top performances on each of the racing circles. A traditional around-the-island distance race will also be sailed, with a Rolex watch awarded to the skipper of the top IRC boat.
“Block Island Race Week is an ideal five days of racing, especially when you can compete in the around-the-island race in conjunction with buoy racing. You don’t often have a combination like that,” said Event Chair and Storm Trysail Club Vice Commodore Nick Langone. “Block Island Race Week is considered a must-do event on the East Coast. It’s overall good fun with a great group of people. Although I am partial, the Storm Trysail Club has a reputation for quality race management, and the sailors expect that. Not once in my 15 years of being involved have I seen or heard of a competitor leaving disappointed.”
PHRF Handicap Restrictions Waived
In order to encourage owners of boats with low PHRF ratings to participate without having to obtain an IRC certificate, the Regatta Committee has amended the Notice of Race for Block Island Race Week XXIV. Section 4 (Eligibility and Entry; 4.1b) is amended as follows: “Racing will be conducted in PHRF classes for boats with PHRF handicaps up to a maximum of 175, to allow boats with PHRF certificates of less than 90 to enter.” IRC East Coast Championship The IRC East Coast Championship has already drawn over 15 boats, including four IRC 52s, which will ensure some tight class (IRC 1) racing. Expected to bring in a fifth 52- footer is Peter Cunningham of the Cayman Islands. He has been sailing the Farr 60 Venomous (formerly Rima) in the islands with his crew while searching for an IRC-50 footer to own.
Newport, RI’s Tony Rey, a three-time America’s Cup veteran, is in charge of the effort, which is called Powerplay Racing after the names of Cunningham’s previously owned boats. “We have a team, a budget, a logo,” said Rey. “All we need now is a boat.” As for the new Ker 43 Ptarmigan owned by Larry Dickie (Greenwich, CT), Block Island Race Week and the concurrent IRC East Coast Championship will serve as its first major regatta.
“The IRC entry list is already looking competitive and we look forward to participating,” said Project Manager Chad Corning (New Rochelle, NY), adding that Ptarmigan is currently being shipped from New Zealand for the start of the 2011 season. “This is the fifth boat that we’ve had in the last 20 years, and traditionally we compete only in distance races, but we’ve always wanted to do Block Island. With the IRC East Coast Championship being included this year, it worked in our favor.”
The J/105 class, which is known for holding the longest one-design participation record in the history of the regatta, has always had a strong fleet and already six boats, out of an expected 24 or more, have signed up. “There has been J/105 class racing at Block Island since 1996, and we have been there every year,” said Nelson Weiderman (Wickford, RI), the owner of Kima. “It is a family vacation for us, and I’m hoping to have my daughter and two sons join us with their children. The family thing is big for me, and a week-long event is highly unusual, so there will be beach time for all who do not race.”
The J/111 class will be testing the Block Island Race Week waters for the first time. “There won’t be too many boats at Block Island, since it is the first regatta for the class and only around sixty hulls have been sold,” said David Tortorello (Fairfield, CT), who owns Partnership with his wife MaryEllen. “The J/111 is rated pretty well and is said to be much lighter and faster downwind, but upwind will be the question. We’ll have to wait and find out in Block Island.” Regardless, Tortorello is looking forward to the event. “It is more fun than you’ll ever have,” he enthused. “The whole group is one big, happy family, and Block Island is the best venue around.”
Race headquarters will be located at The Oar Restaurant, while evening festivities and award ceremonies will be held in the adjacent “Big Top” event tent. A Rolex timepiece will be raffled off at the end of the event to benefit the Block Island Rescue Squad, Block Island Maritime Institute and the Early Learning Center.
Compliments of Rolex, daily video shows of each day’s racing will be produced by Annapolis, MD-based T2Productions and broadcast online each night at t2p.tv. The videos will also be shown daily under the tent where all of Race Week’s sponsors will have a presence. In addition to title sponsor Rolex, the other sponsors of Block Island Race Week are Sailing World, UKHalsey Sailmakers, Bitter End Yacht Club, Hall Spars, Caithness Energy, Gowrie Group, Gill, Mount Gay Rum, WindCheck and vineyard vines. For more information, contact Nick Langone at 914-318-6356 or visit blockislandraceweek.com. * There will be a late fee of $200 for entries received after June 1. Late entries received on or before June 16 may be accepted at the sole discretion of the Regatta Committee.
Barby MacGowan of Media Pro International contributed to this report.