Ideal conditions launch Block Island Race Week
Published on June 22nd, 2015
Block Island, RI (June 22, 2015) – Competitors in the Storm Trysail Club’s 50th anniversary Block Island Race Week were in near unanimous agreement about the first day of racing – the conditions were idyllic.
“It couldn’t have been better. A perfect breeze,” said Rick Rave, co-owner of the J/44 Resolute.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said Geoff Ewenson, tactician on the C&C 30 Themis.
In westerly winds ranging from 8 to 20 knots, the race committees on all three racing circles were able to complete three races in quick order. The first races were underway by 11:05 a.m. and the last finishers were done by 4:00 p.m. Reports on tidal effects were varied with some sailors reporting negligible effects while others were reporting more.
In such ideal conditions three boats were able to pull off perfect days. Andrew and Linda Weiss scored three 1sts aboard Christopher Dragon in IRC 2, as did Iris Vogel’s Deviation in the J/88 Class and Themis in the C&C 30 Class.
“This is my first year racing,” said Walt Thirion, owner of Themis. “I had a cruising boat and saw the C&C 30 racing last year and thought that it looked like fun. I like the one-design aspect because your result comes down to crew work and what you can do on the racecourse.”
“We saw a low windspeed of 11-12 knots and a top of 16,” said Ewenson. “The boat just comes alive in the upper range; it feels a lot like a big boat. We played around with the headstay in the changing wind strength.”
The boat name Christopher Dragon is very familiar in New England racing circles, having been around since 1975 when Stephen Weiss first raced Block Island Race Week. Stephen’s son Andrew and his wife Linda won IRC 3 in 2013 with a J/130. This year they’re racing a Sydney 43 that they launched last year. Andrew Weiss said the key to victory was pre-season preparation and longevity as a crew. It helped them overcome an OCS in Race 3 to post the perfect scoreline.
“We did a lot of work on the bottom before this season and also spent a lot of time tuning the rig,” said Weiss. “Today we were able to keep our lanes clean on the racecourse and had good crew work. The boat lights up when the wind gets over 15 knots. We had tight racing all day.”
Seven other crews won two of the three races, including Gunther Buerman’s 52-footer Hooligan in IRC 1, James Blakemore’s Music (Swan 53) in IRC 4, Dax Ansley and his U.S. Naval Academy crew on Ranger (Farr 40) in PHRF 1, Rick Lyall’s Storm in the J/109 class, William Purdy’s Whirlwind (Beneteau First 36.7) in PHRF 2, John and Tony Esposito’s Hustler (J/29 MHOB) in PHRF 3, and David Alldian’s Cymothoe (Sabre 362) in PHRF 4.
Ansley’s crew from the Naval academy embodies perseverance. The crew was sailing a J/122 in the Annapolis to Newport Race earlier this month when the top of the mast broke. After returning to Annapolis the crew decided to launch the Farr 40 from storage, but it is a very different boat from the J/122. Primarily, the Farr 40 has symmetrical spinnakers as opposed to asymmetrical sails on the J/122.
“We worked for a week to get the boat back together,” said Ansley, who recently completed his third year at the academy. “But changing to the symmetrical spinnakers was a big task. Our bowman, Dylon Thompson-Sevcik, had never done a dip-pole jibe before. But we were able to find good lanes on the racecourse, had clean mark roundings, got in a good groove and sailed fast. It was a great day.”
Lyall’s Storm won the J/109 class at race week in 2013 by posting five consecutive first-place finishes, and today the crew picked up where they left off by posting a 1-3-1.
“After practicing in the rain on Saturday and fog yesterday, we were treated to one of those perfect days of racing on Block Island,” said James Gallacher, headsail trimmer on Storm. “We have a good fleet with a lot of competitive boats. On top of that, it’s always a challenge to sail here. Getting the mix right on wind versus current is critical and starts in a fleet this big are huge. We were fortunate to have some great results today.”
The IRC 4 Class is also highly competitive, with Ed Freitag and Molly Haley’s DownTime (Summitt 40) holding a slim lead. The winner of IRC 2 in 2013, DownTime posted a 2-2-2 today and leads with the low score of 6 points, 1 point ahead of Blakemore’s Music (Swan 53) and 2 points ahead of Mike Bruno’s Wings (J/122). Music posted two 1sts but opened with a 5th in the first race.
“Music is the wild card in the class,” said Quentin Thomas, owner of the X-41 Pendragon that is in fifth place with 14.5 points. “DownTime, Wings and Avalanche (in fourth place) are always up there, but when the wind builds the Swan gets legs. We were all in the mix two weeks ago at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta and will be again this week. It’s as good as it gets.”
In PHRF 4, Alldian’s Cymothoe leads Bill Loweth and David Strang’s Brer Rabbit III (C&C 33) by 2 points. Alldian placed second in the class in 2013, but Loweth and Strang have their sights set on placing their 40-year-old boat in the winner’s circle.
“We bought the boat in 1983 and it’s been in the family since,” said Loweth, who drives at the start while Strang, his brother-in-law, drives on the racecourse. “Every four years we strip the bottom and re-do it, and every other year we buy a new sail. We also have a steady crew of eight and everyone knows what they’re doing. It’s a great family effort.”
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.