Eight Bells: Steve Black

Published on March 17th, 2014

Steve Black, founder of the Caribbean 1500 rally, died March 17, 2014 following a long personal battle against cancer. He was 71 years of age.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Black moved to Michigan where he ran an educational publishing company. He started sailing recreationally in his mid-30s in regattas hosted by the Grand Haven Sailing Club. Black learned the sport from single-handers and has always preferred this aspect of sailing.

Over the years, Black has made three single-handed transatlantic voyages. In the Legend Cup, he set a multi-hull record time of 15 days aboard his Newick 40′ trimaran. Black’s third single-handed transatlantic voyage was in 1992 in the Europe I, where he sailed his 40′ IOR racer, Caribbean.

Black also undertook volunteer tasks such as founding the Lake Michigan Single-handed Society, where he ran the races and conducted seminars to educate interested sailors. This led to the end of his 15-year publishing career and a three-year stint as executive director of the US Sailing in Newport, Rhode Island.

“I retired from US Sailing in 1988, but I didn’t retire from sailing,” Steve said in a 2010 interview. His next endeavor was to manage the Sailing World NOOD (National Offshore One-Design) Regattas in four regions around the country.

However, his biggest legacy will be the Caribbean 1500 cruising rally, which first set sail in 1990, with a fleet of 50 cruising boats sailing from Newport, Rhode Island and Norfolk, Virginia to Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands.

The impetus for the rally started when Steve saw that cruising sailors outnumbered offshore racing sailors, but there were virtually no organized events for cruisers. The Caribbean 1500 rally offered the chance to sail in company, combined with preparatory seminars taught by sailing experts, an SSB radio safety net at sea, and of course a great deal of fun and socializing. Always leading from the front, Steve sailed with the rally, helping to inspire and trouble-shoot the fleet at sea.

“Steve is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing today,” says Andy Schell, event manager for the ARC Caribbean 1500 and offshore delivery skipper. “He put me on a 1500 boat back in 2006, which was my first offshore passage, and helped me make connections in the ocean sailing world. Steve was a huge inspiration. It’s an honor to be managing the 25th Caribbean 1500 this year and carry his legacy into the future.”

When Steve announced his decision to retire in 2010, he was determined that “the 1500” – which was very much his creation – would continue and develop into the future. It was his firm belief that after 21 years of his leadership, combining the Caribbean 1500 with World Cruising Club’s world-wide portfolio of rallies would see it continue to inspire sailors for many years to come.

The 2014 rally this fall will be the 25th edition of the Caribbean 1500, a fitting memorial to a man who encouraged so many cruisers to discover the delights offshore sailing.

Source: World Cruising Club, All At Sea

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