Moving day at Block Island Race Week

Published on June 22nd, 2017

Block Island, RI (June 22, 2017) – There’s a reason why Challenge IV has captured J/44 class in six straight editions of Block Island Race Week. It’s because skipper Jeffrey Willis and crew know how to put the hammer down when it matters.

Challenge IV enjoyed a terrific day on the water today, posting a superb score line of 2-3-1 to take command of the J/44 class. The Huntington Bay, New York entry will carry a five-point lead into the final day of the racing.

“We know the fourth day of a five-day regatta is important. It’s moving day, especially when you have three races,” Willis said.

Organizers with host Storm Trysail Club delivered on the promise of a three-race day since conditions cooperated. Race committee chairman Dick Neville held the fleet on shore for a one-hour postponement and that proved a wise decision as a healthy sea breeze filled in and provided 11-12 knot southwesterly winds that built throughout the afternoon.

Willis was particularly pleased with the second place result in Race 4 since Challenge IV got caught on the wrong end of a shift and rounded the first weather mark in last place. Tactician David Willis told his father to go toward the island on the run and Challenge IV picked up a favorable shift that enabled it to pass three boats.

“That first race was a huge comeback. That was the turning point of the day, if not the week,” said Willis, who won the final race on Thursday and has a low score of 15 points.

Kenai, owned by Chris Lewis of Houston, Texas, stands in second place with 19 points. Kenai rebounded from a fifth in Race 4 by winning Race 5 and tacking on a third in Race 6.

“Challenge IV is very consistent. They know the course and they sail fast, which is a tough combination,” said Lewis, who is making his one-design and Block Island Race Week debut. “We’ve made mistakes in two races. We were over early in one and there was another when we won the start and didn’t cover like we should have.”

Willis said the strategy on Friday will be to stay out of trouble. “If we get a good start with clear air we seem to be able to walk on the rest of the fleet. We tend to make a lot of gains downwind.”

Several classes are coming down to the wire and will be decided during the two races scheduled for Friday. There is a good battle between the J/122 Teamwork and the Farr 395 Old School in IRC 2 with the former holding a four-point lead. Skipper Ganson Evans steered Old School to victory in the first race on Thursday, but Robin Team and Teamwork responded by winning the next two races.

“Teamwork is a good boat that is sailing well. It’s all we can do to keep pace,” said Evans, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “Obviously, the different is that they are sailing just a little better than we are. We have to come out with our best tomorrow.”

This is the fourth Block Island Race Week for Old School and Evans appears headed for his best result, which he attributes to “having the best team we’ve ever put on the boat.”

Team was a bit preoccupied by responding to a protest following racing, but did take time to credit Old School, which owes Teamwork roughly 20-30 seconds per race.

“We’re having a good time mixing it up with them. If we can just stay attached, we’re in good shape,” said Team, who has actually beaten Old School boat-for-boat twice in this regatta.

Loki also made a strong move on Thursday, posting a 3-2-1 score line to reclaim the lead in the J/109 North American Championship. Skipper David Rosow and company were smarting from suffering a pair of fifth place finishes on Wednesday.

“Yesterday was a bit of a shocker and we needed to redeem ourselves,” said Rosow, who hails from Southport, Connecticut. “We sorted some things out and sailed much better today. It was moving day and we came through. We had good boat speed and excellent crew work.”

Loki has a low score of 17 points and is five points clear of Gossip, skippered by Steve Kenny of East Hampton, New York. Rush (Bill Sweetser) and Morning Glory (Carl Olsson) both have 25 points.

“It’s still a battle. There are six really good teams and we need to put together another good day,” Rosow said.

Partnership and Sea Biscuit are duking it out in PHRF 1 and the East Coast Championship will come down to the final two races. Partnership, a J/111 owned by David and Maryellen Tortorello, have not finished lower than fourth in the competitive 13-boat fleet and have totaled 14 points. Sea Biscuit, a Farr 30 skippered by Kevin McNeil, is just two points behind.

“They are definitely faster in the light stuff. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. We’re hoping for more breeze because that is in our favor,” McNeil said. “Partnership is a good boat that is going well.”

The Tortorello’s, who reside in Bridgeport, Connecticut, celebrated their 30th anniversary on Tuesday – the second time that has happened during Block Island Race Week. This is the couple’s fifth appearance at this biennial regatta and they are seeking their second victory after topping a J/111 one-design class in 2011.

“We have a very good team that has been sailing the boat for a while now. We all know our positions on the boat very well,” Maryellen Tortorella said.

Only one point separates the top two boats in PHRF 4, which is also contesting an East Coast Championship. Arabesque, a Chance 31 owned by Robert Bruno of Avon, Connecticut, had a great outing on Thursday – winning two races and placing second in the other. That moved Arabesque ahead of USA 4202, a J/24 skippered by Brian Gibbs of Rowley, Massachusetts.

“That J/24 driven by Brian Gibbs is an extremely tough boat. It is fast and sailed well,” Bruno said. “We will have a battle on our hands tomorrow.”

Skipper Arthur Santry and his team on Temptation/Oakcliff had been dominating IRC 2 class until Thursday when Christopher Dragon made a move. Andrew and Linda Weiss sailed their Ker 43 to a first and a second in the last two races and now trail the Ker 40 by seven points.

“It was right in our ideal wind range today. We decided to try to get clear air at the start and not try to outthink ourselves,” Andrew Weiss said. “We’re coming back on Temptation. We’ll see if we can keep it going tomorrow.”

There are a few classes that have featured a dominant boat that only further solidified its lead on Thursday. Owner Lincoln Mossop and his crew on The Cat Came Back have been impressive in ORC Club, winning four races and placing second in the other two. The Swan 42 holds a 10-point lead on Settler, the Tripp 43 owned by Thomas Rich.

It’s a similar story in C&C 30 where skipper Dan Cheresh and the Extreme2 crew have gotten the gun in four of six races and boast a low score of nine points. Veteran professional Mark Mendelblatt is calling tactics on Extreme2, which is nine points up on Themis (Walt Thirion, Kanab, Utah).

“This week has been going well and we’re pretty happy with our performance,” said Cheresh, from Holland, Michigan. “I think the boat is going well through the water and the team is doing a great job getting the sails up and down. Mark is absolutely in command of where we need to go on the race course.”

Extreme2 has been almost unbeatable in C&C 30 class, but received a wakeup call when it finished third at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta.

“We showed up and were not completely focused last weekend. In this class, if you don’t bring you’re A game you pay the price,” Cheresh said. “I feel like we came here on a little bit of a mission.”

Skipper Douglas McKiege and Jazz continued their steady march through the J/88 class with a second in Race 5 marking the only time the American Yacht Club entry has not gotten the gun. Good Trade, owned by the husband-wife team of Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault, took charge of J/105 class by winning two races and taking second in the other on Thursday.

The Carrera 280 XLR8 (Brad Porter, Westbrook, CT) and the J/29 Hustler (John Esposito, Mohegan Lake, NY) have built commanding leads in PHRF 2 and 3, respectively.

Skipper Steve Benjamin and his top-notch crew on Spookie have won every one of their match race showdowns with the Naval Academy team on Hooligan. Skipper Teddy Papenthien said the Midshipmen are learning a lot from their competition with an almost fully professional opponent.

“The competition has been sailing together for years, we’ve been sailing together for months,” Papenthien said. “I think our team is getting better every day we’re on the water.”

Testing Life saw its lead reduced in the Performance Cruising Spinnaker class, which is sailing daily distance races with pursuit starts. The Tartan 46, owned by Brian and Deb Mulhull of Ocean City, New Jersey, suffered a fifth on Thursday and is now just two points ahead of the J/100 Grimace (Benjamin Hodgson, Slocum, RI).

Christopher Schneider and his crew on the Ericson 39 Rascal also hold a two-point lead in Performance Cruising Non-Spinnaker after winning Thursday’s race.

It appears Jammy, the Gunboat 55 owned by Block Island resident Thomas Lee, is going to come out on top in the Multihull division. Second place is still up for grabs between the Corsair 31R Belafonte (P. Michael Patterson) and the Corsair 43 Triple Threat (Timothy Lyons).

“I did a nine-month complete refit and it’s almost like sailing a new boat. We’re sorting through some issues as we go this week,” said Lyons, an Annapolis resident. “We still have a shot at second so we’re going to sail as best we can tomorrow and see what happens.”

Triple Threat is rated as the slowest boat in the Multihull fleet and thus starts first. Lyons said his trimaran was never passed during Wednesday’s race, but got overtaken rather quickly on Thursday.

“The smaller tris are quicker in light air. Once the wind picked up and we hoisted the spinnaker we made up a lot of ground. Unfortunately, we ran out of time,” said Lyons, who is lobbying for longer courses for the three classes doing distance racing.

Racing is planned daily to June 23.

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

 

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