Dreamcatcher, a Swan 48 skippered by Stephen Kylander of Hingham, Mass. was the big winner at this year’s Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race, which started Friday afternoon (May 27) and saw most of its 82 entries finishing Saturday evening and early Sunday morning.
PHRF start for the 71st Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race. Photo by Rick Bannerot.
The 186 nautical mile race for IRC and PHRF boats is a Memorial Day weekend tradition that starts and finishes off Stamford, Conn., and takes a route around Block Island. This year’s 71st edition hosted ten classes, including an IRC and PHRF class each for double-handed crews, as well as a youth challenge competition.
The fully crewed Dreamcatcher won its IRC Class 2 and turned in the best corrected time in the IRC Fleet to win the William Tripp, Jr. Memorial Trophy. The Dreamcatcher team also took home the coveted Harvey Conover Memorial Overall Trophy for the best overall performance in the race; the George Lauder Trophy for best performance by a vintage boat; and the Roddie Williams Team Race Trophy, representing New Bedford Yacht Club (along with Crazy Horse and Kinship).
“The conditions were volatile,” said Kylander, who explained that the wind went from quite light to an upper range of 20-25 knots, “and tough because of the variables, but we focused on where the next wind line was going to come from and made the right decisions. It was a thinking race from that perspective.”
Dreamcatcher got through The Race (an option of two notoriously tricky passages for leaving and entering Long Island Sound) with what Kylander called a slightly favorable current. “We got a little concerned when the wind died, be then we encountered a squall between The Race and Block Island that was luckily more wind than rain.”
Dreamcatcher, winner of overall event and of IRC overall. Photo by Rick Bannerot
This is Kylander’s fifth year sailing Dreamcatcher in the Block Island Race, and he says his 44-year-old boat, although vintage, is as “racy” as the best of them. “We keep the boat in good shape; the crew has been sailing together since college, and we know the boat really well. We know how hard we can push her.”
Still, Kylander admitted his overall victory was a surprise. “We always set out to win our class, but frankly we didn’t have any expectation we would do so well. The other boats were really well sailed, and they executed as well as we did, so I guess there was at least some luck of the draw.”
Jeremi Jablonski (Wilton, Conn.) won PHRF Class 3 and Overall PHRF honors (for the Terrapin Trophy) with his Hanse 43 Avanti by keeping things simple. “Sailing for speed and making sure we didn’t break anything was our goal,” he said, explaining that going out to the Gut (the second of the two passage choices), his team set the preventer and sailed without the spinnaker to stay much higher than most of the fleet. “We were happy with this decision, especially when we ran into the heavy weather and torrential downpour on Block Island Sound. After rounding Block Island, it was our time to fly the spinnaker, and things were going pretty well until we got closer to the Gut. On the Long Island side there was a ‘parking lot’ and we were drifting, waiting for more boats to join the party! Eventually, a breeze developed close to the shore and the race started again. We are super excited about our finish.”
Mark Ellman (New York, N.Y), and his New Jersey crew Will Donnelan, won IRC Class 1 for IRC Double-Handed boats and turned in the best performance overall for the Gerold Abels Trophy, in their Morris 45 Next Boat. They started out with nice wind, then parked for three hours late in the afternoon when they were still in Long Island Sound.
“The whole fleet went by, and we thought ‘oh no, this isn’t going to be good,’” said Ellman, who also described waking up at 3 a.m. when a squall had hit and laid the boat on its side with it’s spinnaker up. “It was a real fire drill, a real mess. At Block Island we were in the last ten boats in the fleet, and I thought again ‘we are going to do terribly.’”
When Next Boat got to the Gut, however, the entire fleet was parked. “We hugged the western shore, short tacked in on the shore in a nice breeze and finished with all the big boats.”
The Block Island Race was first held in 1946. It is a qualifier for the Northern Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the Double Handed Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF), and the Gulf Stream Series (IRC). It is also a qualifier for the Caper, Sagola, and Windigo trophies awarded by the YRA of Long Island Sound and the Tuna Trophy for the best combined IRC scores in the Edlu (40%) and the Block Island Race (60%). The Tuna Trophy for this year was won by Storm Trysail Club’s Vice Commodore Lenny Sitar and Rear Commodore A.J. Evans on Vamp.
Next Boat, winner of PHRF Double-Handed overall. Photo by Rick Bannerot
About the Storm Trysail Club
The Storm Trysail Club, reflecting in its name the sail to which sailors must shorten when facing severe adverse conditions, is one of the world’s most respected sailing clubs, with its membership comprised strictly of skilled blue water and ocean racing sailors. In addition to hosting Block Island Race Week in odd-numbered years and Key West Race Week annually, the club holds various prestigious offshore racing events (among them the annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race and the Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race); annual junior safety-at-sea seminars; and the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta for college sailors using big boats.
For more information on the Storm Trysail Club and its events, including the Block Island Race, visit the official website www.stormtrysail.org.