By Chris Crawford & Kate Somers
“In 1965, we had 175 boats come to Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race Week and 30 years later we are still going strong with 177 boats,” noted Race Chair Andrew Weiss of this year’s edition presented by Margaritaville. “It has been a fantastic week of racing, parties, and fun – so here’s to 30 more.”
And what a regatta number 30 was. The week started off strong with three races completed on both Monday and Tuesday, under sunny skies and consistent easterly winds. Wednesday provided perfect conditions for the Regatta Craft Mixers Round the Island Race with one of the fastest laps in history.
Thursday became a well-deserved day. With 25-knot morning winds and grey skies creating a lay day made for napping followed by a laughter-filled Mount Gay Rum Day party to kick off an evening of food and community camaraderie across the island.
Friday started off slow, a one-hour delay onshore as the Race Committee waited for the northerly breeze to die and the southeasterly gradient to fill in. After sending the fleets out, the wind didn’t want to cooperate for the Guardian Jet Blue Fleet and McMichael White Fleet as it never filled. Luckily, the GMT Composites Performance Cruising Green Fleet did get a race off as there was a breeze closer to the shore. Sailors and organizers were relieved we had those first three days of great racing and to wrap-up the 30th Race Week.
More than results
With 18 classes, the podium finishers are too many to name but of noteworthy are the Teamwork syndicate, who dominated with their J/122 in the ORC 3 division, walking away with the ORC Trophy overall, and Impetuous in ORC 2 with their Swan 42.
Paul Zabetakis, owner of Impetuous, says, “it really isn’t about the results for us when it comes to Block Island Race Week.” With a big smile, he reminisced how they first started coming to Race Week in 1987 and how this week is more about getting together with the crew who has become like family.
“We have been taking notes about currents and trends since those early days,” said Zabetakis, also currently the Commodore of the New York Yacht Club. “We pull them out every time, and we read, argue and laugh about mistakes we made years ago, then try to put it all together.”
An excellent host venue
Champlin’s host and General Manager Elizabeth Conner said while overlooking the festivities from atop the hill, “We are proud to be hosting Block Island Race Week at Champlin’s for its 30th anniversary. As a local, it’s a tradition I love being a part of; it’s always great to see all the excitement and visitors this event brings to the island, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase all of the renovations and updates that have been made to our property over the last two years.”
Added Kyle Sousa, TPG Marinas Area Manager, “As one of New England’s largest marinas, we’re thrilled to have world-class sailors here at Champlin’s for Race Week. We’ve recently made a series of enhancements to our marina to give boaters an even more seamless and enjoyable experience while they dock with us.”
Bill Zartler’s J/105 Deja Voodoo had seven bullets and one 3rd, dominating the 24-boat fleet He also walked away with the A. Justin Wasley Memorial Trophy for capturing the largest one-design class, the Isbrandtsen Overall Perpetual Trophy for the best Corinthian team, and the most coveted award, the Everett B. Morris Perpetual Trophy recognizing the overall Boat of the Week. When asked how it did it, the Texan humbly said, “Well, there is always a little bit of luck involved. But really we had just really good boat speed which allowed us to stay out of trouble.”
The team is gearing up for the J/105 North Americans this fall, and Zartler attributes their success to crew communication and roles onboard. “I have Ryan Glaze calling tactics with his head out of the boat, and Gray Rackley focused only on the boat speed through the water. We all talk and keep clear communication open.”
John Greifzu, Jr. and the Growth Spurt crew were crowned the 2023 J/109 North American Champions, as the fleet of 13 used Race Week as their top national event. “We chose Block Island Race Week as our venue for the championships because of the great race organization and the perfect weather for the J/109,” said Class Representative Bill Kneller, skipper of Vento Solare.
The J/44s were also back at Block Island Race Week after a multi-year hiatus, with six on the starting line. Chris Lewis and his Kenai crew walked away with the hardware for that class. Lewis also won the Vintage Yacht Trophy for the oldest boat with the best performance.
There are many other ways to win recognition at Block Island Race Week. Earlier in the week at the Storm Trysail Club members party, Ellyn Osmond was given the Abrams Family Trophy for her dedication to Race Week for as a young sailor then a hard-working volunteer for 21 editions.
Reported earlier in the week was the rescue of the J/29 Dirty Harry after they lost their rudder in the Round the Island Race. The Stark Raving Mad tender quickly jumped into action to help tow them back to the boat basin. Later, Race Committee learned the same crew also towed in Settler earlier in the week AND rescued a lost VHF radio for a smaller Performance Cruising Boat. The crew was recognized for their camaraderie with the Emil “Bus” Mosbacher Sportsmanship Trophy.
The Governors Perpetual Trophy for the best foreign yacht went to Menace, the IC37 from New Zealand, who also dominated the ORC 1 class. When asked what brought them to Block Island Race Week from the Southern Hemisphere, crew member Matt Mitchell said, “For the fun of it. We’ve never been to Block Island so it’s been a fun trip.”
What is old is new again with a rededicated Danforth Trophy— first awarded when Kialoa delayed racing by running aground in the channel. In 2023, this trophy was awarded to the best performance by a yacht with most of the crew living aboard. Beth Berry, aboard Kyrie in the Performance Cruising class, was the first to walk away with this recognition. Berry, from Annapolis, just competed in an all-women’s crew from the Annapolis to Newport Race and is competing in the Marblehead to Halifax Race in July.
“My boat is a point-to-point boat and we first came to Block Island Race Week in 2021 because we love the distance race option for us,” said Berry. “I have a great crew, and we have such a good time. It’s great also to have amazing competition.”
The Gem Trophy honoring the young crew award was awarded to the MudRatz Youth Offshore Team, winners of the 16-boat Performance Cruising 3 Spinnaker Division on their J/105 Mad Blue.
New for 2023, the Storm Trysail Club Women’s Committee dedicated the Elmina Trophy for a top woman skipper or woman-crewed boat. Sponsored by Safe Harbor Marinas, this award was bestowed to Kristen Robinson who finished on the podium with her J/105 Velvet Hammer.
The other trophy that everyone vies for is the Island Sailing Club of Cowes Perpetual Trophy for the overall winner in the Round the Island Race. This year that honor went to John Cooper’s Cool Breeze crew for the fastest corrected time among the ORC boats.
After all the awards were handed out and the sailors walked away from the tent and the Storm Trysail Club Race Organizers took a big sigh of relief as another successful Race Week is behind them. Planning for Block Island Race Week XXXI in 2025 is already underway. Visit stormtrysail.org/regattas/blockislandraceweek/ to learn more. ■