Waiting over at Block Island Race Week
Published on June 20th, 2017
Block Island, RI (June 20, 2017) – When the AP flag was taken down to finally mark the start of Block Island Race Week 2017, it was like watching schoolchildren being let out for recess. Sailors who had waited 1 ½ days to go racing rushed down the docks, hopped aboard their boats and couldn’t wait to cast off the lines.
Thick fog that blew in late Saturday and refused to leave forced cancellation of Monday’s racing and delayed today’s attempt to get things going. At long last, the fog lifted around noon and race committee chairman announced that one start would be held for all courses beginning at 2 p.m.
As it turns out, the fog had not cleared on Block Island Sound, which prompted the race committee on all three courses to delay a bit longer. Then the fog dissipated, the sun broke through and principal race officers Ray Redness (Red Fleet), Dave Brennan (White Fleet) and Bruce Bingman (Blue Fleet) immediately went into sequence.
Block Island Race Week XXVII began in big breeze – 19-22 knots from the southwest – and some sailors admitted afterward it was somewhat of a shock to the system to flip the switch into competition mode.
“It’s tough to sit around for a day and a half then go racing,” said Jack McGuire, skipper of the J/29 Dirty Harry. “As soon as the fog lifted, they fired the warning gun. There wasn’t even time to run upwind and downwind before the start.”
There were no complaints about the conditions, which were simply spectacular and produced exhilarating racing for the 146 boats in 16 classes. “Well it was a long wait and it was fantastic to finally get out there. Sunshine and strong wind – it couldn’t have been any nicer,” said Chris Lewis, who steered Kenai to victory in J/44 class.
Kenai had been modified for IRC racing, but Lewis converted the boat back to one-design trim in order to compete in Block Island Race Week. Early returns were favorable for the Houston, Texas entry, which led at every mark rounding today.
“We had nice speed and were fortunate to go the correct way. We tacked onto port while everyone else went right and managed to round the first weather mark with a short lead,” Lewis said. “We had Challenge IV on our breeze, but we managed to hold them off to the leeward gate.”
Lewis said his crew is still adjusting to racing with a symmetrical spinnaker using a pole after having to ditch the bow sprit and asymmetrical kite in order to comply with the one-design rule.
Owner-driver David Rosow and the Loki crew continued their dominance of the J/109 class, capturing Race 1 of the North American Championship by a convincing margin.
“We were super happy to start racing. We were getting a little antsy sitting ashore. We were anxious to go out and do what we came here to do,” Rosow said.
Loki is the defending North American champ and has not lost a J/109 one-design regatta in two years. Rosow, a Southport, Connecticut resident, credited improved planning and preparation for his team’s ability to get a leg up on the competition.
“We started putting this event together in November. When you are organized and have done everything right, it makes a big difference,” he said.
Temptation/Oakcliff, the custom-designed Ker 50 skippered by Arthur Santry, revels in heavy air and that was obvious on Tuesday afternoon. Temptation/Oakcliff sailed away from the eight other boats in IRC 2 and won by five minutes on elapsed time. That advantage over runner-up Cool Breeze, a Mills 43 Custom owned by John Cooper, reduced to just under two minutes after handicaps were calculated.
“This boat is an absolute animal upwind. We were doing nine knots on the beat with our three-plus jib,” Santry said. “It’s just hard to hold this boat back in those conditions.”
William Rudkin is calling tactics while Suzy Leech is serving as navigator aboard the Ker 50, which has six students from the Oakcliff Sailing program as part of the crew. One of those students is Henry Taylor of Wilton Academy, son of legendary musician James Taylor.
“We came in about 20 seconds late for the start and didn’t care,” Santry said. “We just wanted the weather end. After about five minutes, we were out front and had clear air.”
It was another ho-hum day at Block Island Race Week for John Esposito and the Hustler team, which owns the highest winning percentage in regatta history. Hustler led from start to finish and wound up beating long-time J/29 rival Mighty Puffin (Steve Thurston) by 51 seconds.
“I thought the race committee did the right thing by delaying. When the fog lifted, we wound up having a great day for racing,” said Esposito, who was pleased with the performance of his brand new heavy air genoa. “We were a little overpowered on the second leg, but had good boat speed overall.”
Testing Life, the Tartan 46 owned by Brian and Debbie Mulhall of Ocean City, N.J., drew first blood in Performance Cruising Class Spinnaker. That class, along with Performance Cruising Non-Spinnaker and Multihulls, are doing pursuit starts this year.
Testing Life held off the Ker 55 Irie 2 (Brian Cunha) while Christopher Schneider steered the Ericson 39 Rascal to victory in the Non-Spinnaker category. Jammy, a Gunboat 55 owned by Block Island resident Thomas Lee, topped the fleet of five Multihulls.
Four PHRF classes are conducting East Coast Championships as part of Block Island Race Week 2017. Sea Biscuit, a Farr 30 skippered by Kevin McNeil of Annapolis, scored a four-second victory over the J/111 Partnership in PHRF 1.
“It’s a beautiful day on Block Island,”McNeil said as he sipped a mudslide at Mahogany Shoals. “We really sailed well downwind. We gybed early on the first run and passed a whole bunch of boats.”
Partnership led a group of J/111 sloops that finished second through fifth in PHRF 1.Those designs did better sailing upwind in the choppy conditions on Tuesday, McNeil said. “We definitely did our damage on the downwind. Good news is that we can sail better. We had a problem with one maneuver that cost us almost a minute.”
Brad Porter and his team on the Carrera 280 XLR8 secured the win in PHRF 2 by almost two minutes over the Melges 24 Dark Energy (Laura Grondin). It was much closer in PHRF 4, where the C&C 33 Brer Rabbit (David Strang) nipped the J/24 USA 4202 (Brian Gibbs).
After receiving a wakeup call with a third-place finish at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, Dan Cheresh and the Extreme2 team got back on their game by taking the opening race in C&C 30 class. Jazz (Douglas McKiege) and Eclipse (Damian Emery) were the opening day winners in the J/88 and J/105 one-design classes.
Robin Team was all smiles after winning his Block Island Race Week debut. The North Carolina-based J/122, which is making its first foray north, corrected over the Farr 395 Old School (Ganson Evans) by two minutes, nine seconds.
“We had great upwind boat speed and the crew work was absolutely flawless,” said Team, adding that long-time tactician Jonathan Bartlett “was on fire today and kept us going the right way.”
Teamwork got the gun in Race 1, although team admitted that Old School and its sister ship Avalanche (Craig Albrecht) chased his boat all around the course. “It’s only one race into a long regatta so we have quite a ways to go. Those two Farr 395s were right on our heels. It’s going to be a battle.”
Lincoln Mossop is a fixture at Block Island Race Week, having competed for at least 30 years counting both the on and off years. The Jamestown, Rhode Island resident and his crew sailed his Swan 42, The Cat Came Back, to a nearly three-minute win over the Tripp 43 Settler (Thomas Rich) in ORC Club, which is a new class at Block Island Race Week.
“Hallelujah, praise the lord, we won!” Mossop said as he left the docks in front of The Oar. “It was really close racing. A bunch of boats got to the top mark at the same time but we got ‘em on the downwind.”
Skipper Steve Benjamin and the Spookie crew won their inaugural match race with Hooligan in IRC 1, which consists solely of those TP52 race machines. Spookie led by about 30 seconds when the Naval Academy Varsity Offshore Sailing Team had some trouble with a spinnaker douse. Benjamin said Spookie has been slightly reconfigured in order to rate more closely to Hooligan.
“We are really impressed by how well the midshipmen sail that boat. We competed against them at the Annual Regatta and have total respect for their abilities,” Benjamin said.
Racing is planned daily to June 23.
Source: Bill Wagner (words), Stephen Cloutier (photos)