Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Block Island Race Week Report

J/88 and J/105 sailing Block Island
(Block Island, RI)- Nearly two hundred boats are sailing the 2019 Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Week. So far, the island weather Gods are up to their usual tricks.  The first day was simply spectacular and most fleets completed four races.  However, a huge frontal system was rolling offshore during Tuesday’s Around the Island Race, making for a thunderous, memorable, wet, windy, cold race.  Wet, indeed, like nearly 2.0” of rain in 2 hours, that is a lot of rain.

Day One- Glorious Sailing
Bill Sweetser sported a broad smile as he stood in the stern of his boat that is berthed at Champlin’s Marina.

Sweetser could not have scripted a better start to Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Week, presented by Margaritaville. Monday’s wind conditions fell into the sweet spot of the Annapolis entry and the crew responded with a superb performance.

Sweetser steered RUSH to victory in all three races on the opening day of the regatta, taking early command of the J/109 class. Tactician Tom Babel made all the right calls while trimmers Brian Tyrrell (headsails), Mike Hobson (mainsail), and Bobby Brooks (offside) were on point.

“Sometimes you sail in conditions you feel very comfortable with and today certainly favored our boat and crew,” Sweetser said of the westerly winds that held relatively steady between 8 to 10 knots. “We just tend to do really well in light to moderate winds within the J/109 fleet. I know I drive better in those conditions.”

WINGS accomplished the same feat in the J/88 class with skipper Mike Bruno leading the Armonk, New York entry to straight bullets. Stuart Johnstone is calling tactics aboard WINGS, which is coming off a class victory at Sperry Charleston Race Week.

In the third one-design class, New York City residents John and Marisa Koten led GRAY MATTER to a solid score line of 3-3-2 to set the pace in J/105, which has attracted 16 entries. Sitting behind them just three points back are two pretty tough citizens; in second was Paul Beaudin’s LOU LOU and third is Bruce Stone & Nicole Breault’s GOOD TRADE.

There was equally tight racing in ORC 2 with TEAMWORK emerging as the leader after the opening day. Skipper Robin Team steered the J/122 to a 19-second victory over the J/121 INCOGNITO (Joe Brito) in Race 1 then finished second in Race 2. Race 3 for ORC 2 was tossed by organizers with Storm Trysail Club because the finish line mark dragged and caused confusion.

Tied atop the PHRF 1 class Ken Comerford’s J/111 MONEYPENNY from Annapolis, MD.  Sitting in fourth was another J/111, Bill & Jackie Baxter’s FIREBALL.

DIRTY HARRY, a J/29 skippered by Jack McGuire, made a strong statement in PHRF 3 by posting a pair of bullets separated by a second. MIGHTY PUFFIN, another J/29 owned by Steve Thurston, is five points behind.

“We were just dialed in all day. We were able to get off the line clean in all three starts and had great boat speed, great crew work,” McGuire said.

Six of seven crew members aboard DIRTY HARRY, including the owner, are products of the East Greenwich (RI) Yacht Club junior program. They were all coached at the time by John Mollicone, who is calling tactics for his former pupils.

Monday’s Pursuit Course was 12.5 nautical miles in length and took the fleet toward the southwest end of the island. After rounding a government mark, it was a pleasant spinnaker run back to the start-finish line just south of the Great Salt Pond. Taking 2nd in PHRF Cruising 1 Spinnaker division was Brian Prinz’s J/125 SPECTRE.  Then, the J/97E PARTICIPANT skippered by John Krediet topped Performance Cruising 2 while Eric Bicknese’s J/105 BIG E.Z. took the bronze position.
J/109 sailing Block Island Race Week
Day 2- Big Tuesday- Around Island
There are many traditions associated with Block Island Race Week. Sailors know to expect certain things over the course of the five-day event, which is why so many keep coming back.

One of the most revered traditions is the 21.5nm Around the Island Race, which is associated with Block Island Race Week as much as drinking Mudslides at the Oar or dancing to live music at Yellow Kittens.

With a building breeze forecast, on-water chairman Dick Neville delivered the regatta’s signature competition earlier than expected. There was some noticeable anxiety among sailors on the docks when Neville announced over the radio that North Sails Day would feature the Around the Island Race.

That news prompted a thorough review of the forecast with navigators, tacticians and strategists now processing that information through the lens of a counterclockwise circumnavigation of Block Island; those discussions were no doubt held aboard all 122 boats competing. Doing a 20-nautical mile distance race that pretty much completes a circle is a vastly different undertaking than windward-leeward action around the buoys.

Organizers with Storm Trysail Club had initially pegged the distance race for Thursday, but Neville switched gears after reviewing updated forecasts that showed the wind getting lighter later in the week.

“We always want to do the Around the Island Race on the breeziest day of the week and the way the forecast shaped up that was today,” Neville said. “We knew it would be rainy, but fortunately there was very little thunder and lightning, while the squalls were manageable.”

Storm Trysail Club held a fourth windward-leeward race prior to sending the entire fleet of 13 classes around the island. Winning both races on Tuesday in the J/88 class was Mike Bruno’s WINGS. Stu Johnstone is calling tactics aboard WINGS, which has won all five races held over two days and has already built an eight-point lead in J/88 class.

“Our boat is incredibly well-prepared and we tend to be good in breezy conditions. We have a very strong, experienced crew so it’s really the whole package,” said Bruno, who is coming off a class victory at Charleston Race Week. “We still have two more days of racing to go, but we’re certainly happy with the way we have started.”

Robin Team and his J/122 TEAMWORK mates headed straight to The Oar for bowls of steaming hot clam chowder upon returning to the dock. Team then went home and “stood under a hot shower for about 30 minutes.”

Despite the discomfort of being soaked in rain water for so long, it was a rewarding day on the water for TEAMWORK, which placed second in the buoy racing then won the Around the Island Race to maintain the overall lead in ORC 2.

“It was a really tactical race that was very well-run by the Storm Trysail Club. We had a lot of fun out there today,” Team said. “It was equal amounts of upwind, downwind and reaching. Some conditions suited some boats in our class better than others, which made things fun and interesting.”

Tactician Jonathan Bartlett had set a goal of having TEAMWORK win the Around the Island Race in both the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta and Block Island Race Week, and it was mission accomplished on that count. The J/122 now leads by two points

GOOD TRADE is the defending champion in J/105 class, but got off to a slow start. GRAY MATTER, owned by John and Marisa Koten, led after Day 1. However, the husband-wife team of helmsman Bruce Stone and tactician Nicole Breault showed their chops on Tuesday with a runner-up result in the buoy race followed by victory in the Around the Island Race.

“We’re very happy we got the wheels going in tough conditions,” Stone said. “This is the toughest J/105 fleet we’ve faced at Block Island. There are a lot of good boats and sailors here.”

GOOD TRADE took the lead on the opening beat and held off the competition the rest of the way, crossing comfortably ahead of LOU LOU (Paul Beaudin) in the Around Island Race.

“One of key things we did in the race was called for a tack to starboard. We went a little farther right than any of the other boats and got into pressure, but stayed far enough left to get island relief from the adverse current,” Breault said. “Bruce really got into the groove driving and our speed was fantastic. We just punched out.”  For more STC Block Island Race Week sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.