Breathing new life into a vintage regatta

Published on July 2nd, 2019

by Buttons Padin
I have been a member of the Storm Trysail Club since 1980 and have sailed in upwards of 20 Block Island Race Weeks. As I’ve grown-up in sailing—and the STC—I’ve watched and experienced the evolution of BIRW: the size, caliber, and enthusiasm of the people attending.

For the foreseeable past, up until just a few years ago, BIRW was sponsored by a luxury timepiece manufacturer and, for those years, perhaps that high-net-worth target could be found at the regatta. That sponsorship agreement changed and so has the composition of the sailors. We’re there to race, be with old and new friends, and have fun.

Admittedly, I am plugged-in to the STC leadership so when 2019 BIRW Event Chair and STC Vice Commodore Ed Cesare called me on this year’s event, I was eager to hear his proposition. He was calling me because of my marketing and branding background as well as my understanding of the sailing community.

Ed explained that Margaritaville, the Jimmy Buffett club/ restaurant/ resort/ products franchise, was being approached as the lead BIRW sponsor. Ed was asking what I thought about mixing the brand, the sailors, the history of the regatta; would they fit?

I sat back at my desk and smiled like the Cheshire Cat. Today’s regattas have gotten a bit stale for we rank and file sailors. Yes, there’s racing and after-sailing beer and, maybe, rum drinks; but a huge “Yes” to a Margaritaville BIRW would have all that and potentially a lot more.

Buttons Padin and his daughter Allie photobombed by Jimmy Buffett.

A BIRW presented by Margaritaville would breathe a new life into the BIRW regatta brand. There would be music, tropical themes in the tent, and fun and games to be played after sailing.

I said to Ed, “If you can put together an agreement that brings the Margaritaville brand to BIock Island, you’d be giving Race Week a huge shot in the arm.”

I’m not taking credit for what happened, it was largely Andrew Weiss; but I was there to experience the joy at 2019 BIRW that resulted from the blending of the STC and Margaritaville brands.

Logo corn hole and frisbee games, pastel colored Adirondack chairs in the tent, mermaids on stilts, free margarita cocktails (yes, free!!!), lots of swag, and Buffett-esque live music filling the tent every evening. This might as well as have been my first BIRW as it was so refreshingly new. The sailors of all ages enthusiastically bought into brand blending, and we can only hope that Margaritaville will do it again in two years.

Oh, yes, on the final Friday, there was also the hoped-for celebrity sighting. Jimmy Buffett flew into Block Island, helped present a couple of awards (can you imagine having a PHRF third place trophy presented to you by Jimmy???), sang four songs (5 O’clock Somewhere, Son of a Sailor, Pencil Thin Mustache, and Margaritaville) and said his goodbyes.

As a sailor he did note, however, that he’d always longed to somehow connect a sailing event to the Margaritaville state of mind. He admitted to the thousand people cheering in the tent that he had finally found that link.

Thanks Storm Trysail Club, thanks Ed and Andrew, thanks the Margaritaville brand, and thanks Jimmy. You made BIRW new again… see you back on Block in 2021!

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