Block Island Race Week presented by Margaritaville is June 21-25
Despite the pandemic, Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race Week presented by Margaritaville is enjoying the build-up of tremendous enthusiasm. As of this writing, nearly 160 boats have signed up for this biennial classic to be held June 21-25, 2021. In an era where participation has been trending down for many events, that’s almost 20% more than came racing in 2019.
“We see this growth as being a ‘validation’ of the appeal of the regatta, and the popularity of some of the performance cruiser/family-friendly enhancements we have adopted over the last few years,” said Event Chair Ray Redniss. “In fact, in 2019, almost half the boats were first-time entrants. A good many are returning, and the word must be getting around as we have a significant number of first-time entrants this year as well.”
“We are also elated to be partnering once again with Margaritaville,” Redniss continued. “Our goals and passions align to create a fun, safe escape for our sailors to kick off their summer. This event was founded on the idea that it should be more than just a competitive regatta. We’ve always had an emphasis on fun, camaraderie and an openness to all kinds of boats and crews. The vibe that Margaritaville adds to Race Week is a natural fit.”
Still, the race organizers are managing expectations that 2021 won’t be exactly like past Race Weeks. The logistics of hosting a large regatta on an island demands months of preparation and – as one of the first major events to be held among so much uncertainty – a variety of necessary measures to keep sailors, volunteers and local families safe and healthy will be implemented. What those policies look like is still being determined.
“We meet each week as a team and are in constant contact with local businesses, a variety of experts, and our vendors,” said Redniss. “We know our sailors come for the fun, camaraderie, and competition, and our goal is still to deliver all that at the highest level, albeit safely.”
One technological “solution” this year will be the use of MarkSetBots, the world’s first remote controlled rounding marks, featuring self-propelling battery-powered motors and GPS technology. This allows Race Committees to place or reposition marks using a smartphone or iPad, thus reducing the cost of running the regatta as fewer RC members are required, thereby saving on housing, meals, and the other attendant costs.
In addition to the multiple races per day on Windward/Leeward courses, the regatta offers Performance Cruising classes, with a one-race-a-day format that goes around Government marks (so-called “Navigator Races”). Pursuit Starts are another feature that many newcomers find attractive. Pursuit Racing assesses every boat’s handicap at the start of the race. Each boat starts individually at pre-determined times and then races boat-for-boat to the finish. This avoids the stress of crowded start lines and is a more family-friendly format for the casual racer. The Club has utilized this format in a number of events and people are increasingly enthusiastic about it. There are also JAM (Jib and Main only), Plus 1, and Doublehanded classes.
Plus 1 is a relatively new format that fills the gap between double-handed racing and full crews. Essentially, you take the first numeral of your hull length, add 1, and that gives you your crew allotment. So if you have a Catalina 34, you add 3+1 and you get 4 crew. A Tartan 4400 would be allowed 5 (4+1) crew, etc. There will be Double-handed classes, Multihull racing, Classic, and ORC and PHRF handicap racing as well.
Several one-design classes have already chosen Race Week for various championships and several more are in discussions at press time. The J/109s will race their East Coast Championships. “The J/109 Class has been a part of Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Week since the boats debuted more than 15 years ago,” said John M. Greifzu, Jr., president of the J/109 Class and owner of Growth Spurt (Darien, CT). “The consistent conditions on the water, and great land-side activities, give us the opportunity to showcase close one-design racing and Class camaraderie. We had 21 boats in 2017 when we hosted the North Americans at Race Week. With 13 109s already registered we are looking forward to a great turnout.”
The highlight of Race Week is The Regatta Craft Mixers Round the Island Race (RTIR), which circumnavigates the beautiful island. Typically there are four days of racing with a layday in the middle of the week (that’s all weather dependent, of course), which gives folks a chance to enjoy the land-based scenery and recreational opportunities that abound on Block. Many crews also live aboard their boats for the duration of the regatta, which makes the entire affair more affordable.
Since the first Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Week in 1965, a strong camaraderie among participants has emerged in the sailing community. This dedication and devotion has inspired the Storm Trysail Club to acknowledge this commitment to their beloved biennial regatta through the founding of the North Light Society.
The North Light Society is for those sailors and volunteers who have participated in at least five Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Weeks, with graduating levels for the ten- and fifteen-regatta nautical milestones. Named for the lighthouse that welcomes sailors to the island, this group aims to distinguish those who have returned to this regatta year after year. If you have participated in at least five Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Weeks (sorry; the even years, which are not run by STC, do not count for this group), please fill out the easy application form at stormtrysail.org/northlightsociety.
Accepted members will have their name on the website and will receive a free pin recognizing their level at the next Block Island Race Week. If not in attendance, one will be mailed after this year’s event. The North Light Society is completely free to join, so please feel free to pass the word along.
The Storm Trysail Club would like to thank their sponsors, without whom Block Island Race Week presented by Margaritaville would not be possible, and with whom the regatta is even more fun! In addition to Title Sponsor Margaritaville, support from Mount Gay Rum, North Sails, Helly Hansen, Gowrie Group, Regatta Craft Mixers, New England Ropes, and Safe Harbor Marinas: New England Boatworks help make this an unforgettable event.
For more information on the regatta, or to register, please visit BlockIslandRaceWeek.com. You can also sign up for the pre-regatta newsletters, and daily bulletins/results once the regatta is underway. Come one, come all. Come for the first time or come back again. It’s always a blast at Block. ■
Ron Weiss serves as Chairman of the Storm Trysail Club Communications and Sponsorship Committee.