Catch-up day at Block Island Race Week

Published on June 21st, 2017

Block Island, RI (June 21, 2017) – Today provided ideal conditions for the Around the Island Race, which has long been the signature of Block Island Race Week. However, event organizers weren’t thrilled with the idea of going into tomorrow with just one buoy race in the bag.

So principal race officer Dick Neville came up with a creative solution. For the first in anyone’s memory, a windward-leeward race was held on the same day as the Around the Island Race.

Principal race officers on all three circles conducted the buoy race in the morning then got everyone reorganized and started the distance race in the afternoon.

“Traditionally, we don’t do that. However, having lost a day and a half of racing this week, we were trying to gain a buoy race without doing away with the Around the Island Race,” Neville said. “We had a pretty good forecast so we decided to give it a try. It was a little risky, but we got it done.”

Neville is planning to conduct three races on all three courses on Thursday and could possibly do so again on Friday. There is no restriction on what time principal race officers Ray Redniss (Red Fleet), Dave Brennan (White Fleet) and Bruce Bingman (Blue Fleet) can start races on Friday.

“We want to have the opportunity to run three if conditions allow,” Neville said.

Competitors had no problem with Wednesday’s plan, even though it made for a rather long day on the water.

“Obviously, the committee needed to do something to increase the number of races. I thought it was a really good idea and it worked out well,” said Carl Olsson, owner of the J/109 Morning Glory.

As usual, there were plenty of great stories from the Around the Island Race, which ranges from 20 to 24 miles depending on the fleet. Themis, a C&C 30 owned by Walt Thirion, managed to get around Block Island without working electronics. Brandon Flack pulled up the Navionics app on his phone and was able to tell Thirion and tactician Geoff Ewenson which way to go.

“We didn’t have the normal information every boat relies on so it was tough,” Ewenson acknowledged. “Fortunately, I’ve done this race a bunch of times and am very familiar with the turf. Brandon really saved the day by navigating using his phone.”

Themis wound up winning the distance race for C&C 30 class despite the handicap. The Annapolis-based boat trailed Extreme2 and Just a Friend early, but made gains downwind.

“We sailed with the jib until we could set the big kite. Some of the other boats set the small spinnaker then switched to the big one. We skipped a maneuver and that paid dividends.”

Extreme2 rounded 1BI in first place then split from Themis and went inshore. Ewenson said Themis sailed away from the island, got stronger breeze and managed to pass Extreme2.

“Today in general is a confidence boost for the team. We sailed the boat really well,” Ewenson said.

Ewenson and Flack both had high praise for the steering performance of Thirion, a Utah resident who is relatively new to competitive sailboat racing. “Walt has really improved as a driver. He has put in a ton of effort over the last 12 months and it has made a big difference.”

Extreme2, skippered by Dan Cheresh of Holland, Michigan, won the windward-leeward race on Wednesday and leads the C&C 30 class by two points over Themis.

Jeffrey Willis led Challenge IV to victory in the distance race and that enabled the Huntington Bay, New York entry to take the lead in the venerable J/44 class. Willis said his boat was doing 11 knots under spinnaker at one point when the wind piped up to 24 knots on the east side of Block Island.

“We got a very good start, stayed left on the first beat and got lifted. That allowed us to round the windmark mark in first and we managed to stay in front the rest of the way,” he said.

Challenge IV was able to hoist the spinnaker earlier than the other six boats and increased the lead as a result. “As soon as we rounded 1BI the fog really came in. We had almost no visibility and had to get the horn up on deck,” Willis said.

Kenai (Chris Lewis, Houston, Texas) won Race 1 on Tuesday while current Storm Trysail Club commodore Leonard Sitar won Wednesday’s buoy race, displaying the balance within the J/44 class.

“Kenai and Maxine are both going fast while Vamp is always tough. It’s a very competitive group,” said Willis, who has captured class honors in six straight editions of Block Island Race Week.

Morning Glory emerged from the day atop the J/109 class, which is contesting its North American Championship. Quantum professional Terry Flynn is calling tactics for Olsson, who credited solid crew work for a second place in the buoy race and fourth place in the distance race.

“It was a fantastic day on the water. We made a few mistakes, but not many. Fortunately, everyone else made more mistakes,” Olsson said.

Olsson has brought five different version of Morning Glory to Block Island Race Week, including a J/105, Tripp 41 and J/34. The New Rochelle, New York resident is still seeking his first class victory here.

Jazz has set a strong pace in J/88 class, winning every race so far. Skipper Douglas McKiege (Mamaroneck, New York) and crew have built a six-point lead over Red Sky (John Pearson, Setauket, NY).

“The boat is going really well. We have a good team and good equipment. Everyone is focused on doing their job and we are hiking really hard,” said McKiege, who has close friend Steve Kirkpatrick trimming the main and calling tactics.

This is the first time McKiege has brought his J/88 to Block Island and he is looking to come away with the East Coast Championship.

Temptation/Oakcliff, skippered by Arthur Santry, has also posted straight bullets. Back-to-back heavy air days have benefitted the Custom Ker 50, which has built an eight-point lead in IRC 2. Andrew Weiss, owner of second-place Christopher Dragon, is hoping the lighter conditions predicted for Thursday will help his Ker 43.

“We need something to turn things around because Temptation is sailing really well,” Weiss said. “We raced against Temptation at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta and got the better of them in light air.”

Settler finds itself in a similar situation within ORC Club as Lincoln Mossop and his crew have sailed The Cat Came Back to a strong score line of 1-1-2. Skip Matos, driving the Swan 42, credits his crew’s teamwork for the wins in the buoy races and second place just behind the Sydney 38 Kurranulla in the Around the Island Race.

Settler, a Tripp 43 owned by Thomas Rich of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, is four points behind The Cat Came Back. “Lincoln and his team are doing a really good job. We owe them a lot of time and we just haven’t been able to extend enough,” Rich said. “We’re not quite sure what to do. We obviously have to find some more speed.”

It was a good day for Good Trade, which took over the lead in J/105 class by winning both races. Owner Bruce Stone steers while wife Nicole Breault calls tactics for the San Francisco team.

“It was a lot of drama, a lot of fun. We had two incredible starts and raced really hard around the course,” Breault said. “Everyone is super happy with the results.”

Breault was still kicking herself for overstanding the first windward mark, but she played the fog well and passed a few boats. Good Trade carried the spinnaker for a long stretch and caught loulou at 1BI. It was a tacking duel to the finish with Good Trade finding better air by going toward the beach.

Skipper Brad Porter and his team on XLR8 are looking like the boat to beat in PHRF 2, which is competing for an East Coast Championship. Winning the Around the Island Race after taking second in the windward-leeward start gives the Carrera 280 a three-point advantage over Dark Energy (Melges 24, Laura Grondin).

“I’m very fortunate to sail with a very talented team that has been together for 20 years. We have an extremely seasoned group of sailors,” said Porter, out of Westbrook, Connecticut. “We’ve had outstanding starts, hit a couple good shifts and gotten great crew work. Everything has been perfect so far.”

Porter also owns an Evelyn 32 and rotates which boat he brings to Block Island Race Week. He captured class honors in four straight editions from 2007 to 2013, twice with the Carrera 280 and twice with the Evelyn 32.

It was a day for the Farr 395 entries in IRC 3 with Old School (Ganson Evans) winning the windward-leeward race and Avalance (Craig Albrecht) taking the distance race. Teamwork, a J/122 owned by Robin Team of Lexington, North Carolina, has shown consistency and continues to lead the class on the strength of a 1-2-2 score line.

Same could be said of Partnership, a J/111 owned by David and Maryellen Tortorello that is atop PHRF 1 thanks to a pair of seconds surrounding a bullet. Partnership won Wednesday’s windward-leeward start before placing second in the Around the Island Race and is three points up on the Farr 30 Sea Biscuit (Kevin McNeil).

Upsetter did just that in winning the Around the Island Race in PHRF 3. Skipper Jason Viseltear steered the J/80 across the line in third, but corrected over a pair of J/29s – Hustler and Cool Breeze.

Testing Life, owned by Brian and Deb Mulhull of Ocean City, New Jersey, has now won both distance races in the Performance Cruising Spinnaker class. Starlight, a Cambria 46 skippered by John de Regt of Rowayton, CT, won Wednesday’s distance race is sits atop Performance Cruising Non-Spinnaker by virtue of tiebreaker over Rascal (Ericson 39, Christopher Schneider).

Jammy, a Gunboat 55 owned by Block Island resident Tommy Lee, has won both races among the Multihull fleet.

Racing is planned daily to June 23.

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Source: Bill Wagner (words), Stephen Cloutier (photos)


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