Celebrating 50 years of Block Island Race Week
Published on June 21st, 2015
Block Island, RI (June 21, 2015) – The Storm Trysail Club’s 50th anniversary Block Island Race Week officially kicked off this evening when Commodore Lee Reichert welcomed the some 2,000 sailors on 169 boats who are set to begin competition tomorrow on Block Island Sound.
Representative Blake Filippi of the Rhode Island General Assembly and Jessica Willi of the Block Island Tourism Council were among the dignitaries in attendance at the opening party and recognized the great contributions of the Storm Trysail Club to Block Island. Through the years the Storm Trysail Club has helped raise more than $100,000 for local charities.
“Race Week brings a big windfall for the island,” said Filippi whose father, Paul, used to own Champlin’s Marina, where race week was first hosted. “Our tourist season lasts approximately five months and the event brings visitors who might not otherwise come to the island, and they keep coming back. It’s a wonderful week for the island.”
“Block Island Race Week is a harbinger of summer and we salute the Storm Trysail Club on 50 years of excellence,” said Willi.
Founded in 1965 and held biennially, Block Island Race Week is one of the top regattas in North America and one of the oldest events in the world. The Storm Trysail Club chose Block Island as the venue because founding club members Jakob Isbrandtsen and Everett Morris thought it most closely resembled the Isle of Wight in England, where they had competed in Cowes Week. Race week regularly brings together old friends, many of whom sailed their first race week in teenage years.
“I used to do this race week on my dad’s Pearson 36 with my brother,” said Brad Read, the Executive Director of Sail Newport who’s racing aboard the C&C 30 Nyabinghi this week. “There used to be skeet shooting, a volleyball tournament and a tug-of-war. Just yesterday I was telling the story of (Jim Kilroy’s maxi yacht) Kialoa running aground in the channel. Block Island is just a special place and the racing is so varied that it never gets old.”
For A.J. Evans, tactician on the J/44 Vamp, race week offers an opportunity to bring together club members who are scattered throughout the U.S. The Storm Trysail Club is headquartered in Larchmont, N.Y., and operates through local stations around the country.
“Since members are spread throughout the country, they don’t get a chance to get together that often,” said Evans. “The club has so many volunteers that help with race week that it’s like a family reunion when we all get together on Block Island. Race week is the cornerstone of the club.”
This year’s fleet includes a number of new boats such as Austin Fragomen’s 44-footer Interlodge IV, from Botin Partners Naval Architecture, and Jack Le Fort’s Bermuda 50 Watermark, from the Hinckley Co. Mathew Barker’s classic sloop The Blue Peter is the largest boat in the fleet at 65 feet, while Volckert van Reesema’s 5 Cent is the smallest at 22.75 feet. Other highlights include:
• 14 class winners from the previous race week in 2013
• Entries from 16 states plus the District of Columbia
• Foreign entries from Bermuda, Canada, South Africa and the U.K.
• Crews from the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Coast Guard Academy
“This race week represents 50 years of family fun and good competition, and that’s what brings people back year after year,” said race week chairman Peter Rugg. “There are two key issues that make it great for the sailors: the 120 Storm Trysail volunteers that work tirelessly to make the event run and our generous sponsors.
“We’re using the same old formulas but have added a few tweaks,” Rugg continued. “We’re making a big push with the sustainability program, we’re doing as much administration online as possible, and we’re using an app for all race week communications. We’re taking a classic event and moving it into the 21st century.”
The Block Island Race Week app is available for both iOS and Android operating systems. It is the primary communication vehicle for race week, which is committed to being a paperless regatta as part of the sustainability program.
Report by Storm Trysail Club.