Wednesday, July 6, 2011

J One-Design Fun @ BIRW!

J/109 one-design sailboat- RUSH sailing Block Island RUSH, WINGS, PARTNERSHIP, CHALLENGE IV, ECLIPSE, RUMOUR Win
(Block Island, RI)- It was an epic event, no matter how you looked at this year's Rolex STC Block Island Race Week. The weather Gods tossed just about everything including the "kitchen sink" at the sailors and the PRO/RC all week long.  It was about a tough a BIRW to run for everyone in recent memory, a bit of a Catch-22, "damned if you do, damned if you don't."  Nevertheless, some excellent race management and great PRO work prevailed across all three races courses- so refreshing to see "upfront and personal" communications with the sailors to keep the ball rolling and ensure their opinions and perspectives were addressed--- after all, such events live and die on keeping the sailors happy!  Everyone came to sail and they weren't disappointed.

The Storm Trysail Club’s (STC) 24th biennial Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex by all indications hasn’t lost one bit of charm or competitive appeal in a history that spans more than four and a half decades.  In fact, the five-day competition, originally patterned after Cowes Week, is one of the last true Race Weeks remaining in America, with a dominant theme of hard racing and fine competition supported by a subtext of daily camaraderie in complete informality. The event hosted 134 boats sailing in IRC (four classes), PHRF (five classes) and One-Design (J/44, J/111, J/109 and J/122).

J/80 one-design sailboat- RUMOUR  sailing Block IslandThe sailing for the event could not have been more challenging to both competitors and the PRO's alike.  For the first two days, light winds caused delays, but nevertheless resulted in some fantastic sailing conditions late afternoon that, "thank Heaven", the PROs saw to running as many races as possible in the 8-14 knot southerly sea-breezes.  As a result, by the end of day two five races had been run for most courses.  Wednesday was never going to be good day with a rather weird setup for storms, fog, no wind, more rain and more thunderstorms.  Give the PRO's credit for trying, but it was a "no go" rather obviously and rather quickly as racing had to be canceled for more than one reason- no wind, then lightning, then fog, then you name it!  The "onshore" forecast for this day was the classic Block Island libation, the "Mudslide" that flowed by the gallon at Payne's Dock, The Oar Restaurant and Bar and Champlin's Marina-- the famous evening watering holes at the Yellow Kittens and Captain Nicks were over-flowing with fun-loving revelers.  "It is what it is," said Kevin Burnham (Coconut Grove, FL), a Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, top J/24 sailor for years and 470 Men’s Olympic Gold Medalist in the Athens Games sailing in IRC 2. 'We’re here for fun, not for sailing in the rain, so they made the right decision."  Thursday dawned with hung-over crews but a great breeze from the northeast at 10-20 kts being fed by a strong Low offshore-- simply classic conditions for the Around Island Race- a beat to 1-BI bell off the northern shoal, running clockwise around with a fast blast spinnaker reach on the east and south sides followed by a beat to the finish on the west side.  Despite somewhat grey skies, Friday made for great racing in a lingering Northeaster to finish off the week with two solid races across all three race courses.

J/109 one-design sailboat- sailing one-design at Block IslandIn the J/109 class, the largest class at Block Island Race Week with 15 boats, it was Bill Sweetser (Annapolis, Md.) on RUSH (photo at right and top) as repeat victor in a tough one-design competition.  Bill was admiring his trophy for winning the J/109 East Coast Championship even before the Awards Presentation. 'We brought it with us because we won it last year,' he said, 'so I guess we deliver it back to the organizers and they turn around and give it back to us. This is the first time anyone has won it twice in a row.'  Sweetser’s RUSH led the 15-boat J/109 class from day two and entered the final day with eight points over Donald Filippelli’s (Amagansett, N.Y.) CAMINOS. 'After the first race we put one more point between us and CAMINOS, and in the second race we knew if we were conservative and stayed close to them we could win.'  Sweetser appreciated the tough competition and said it was great preparation for the J/109 North Americans in Annapolis in October, adding, 'We’d love to see all these boats there.' Sweetser also was presented with a Rolex timepiece for best performance among boats competing in the Blue and White Fleets combined.  After the dust settled in this closely fought class with some new blood spoiling the ranks at the top of the fleet, Sweetser's RUSH team finished with a solid 2-1-1-2-2-5 record for 13 pts.  Don Fillipelli's CAMINOS team had a 7-4-2-1-3-1 record for 18 pts.  Past 109 Champion Rick Lyall on STORM finally found their top gear on the last day, compiling a 5-5-8-4-1-2 record for 25 pts.

J/122 offshore sailboat- sailing Block Island Race WeekThe J/122s competed for their national title while sailing in the IRC 3 class, and it was Mike Bruno/Tom Boyle/Jim Callahan’s (Irvington, N.Y.) WINGS (pictured at right) that moved into the top three after day two to finish second in IRC 3 and snatch the J/122 Championship trophy.  Just behind them was Andrew Skibo's PLUM CRAZY II for second overall and in third was George Marks beautiful GEORGETOWN III.  The J/122s competed in a very strongly sailed IRC class that left no quarter for the J/122s as they focused on each other's positioning going around the race course, often ignoring the handicap gain to ensure the one-design positioning was secured.

J/111 one-design sailboat- sailing downwind at Block Island Race WeekThe four J/111s in PHRF 1 had a great time racing one-design for the first time as a fleet on the East Coast.  Leading after the first two days, David and MaryEllen’s (Fairfield, Conn.) J/111 PARTNERSHIP  (pictured at right) with a 2-2-2-3-3-1 division record for 13 points narrowly lost out on overall division winning, but secured the J/111 one-design win over her three sisterships.  Just 4.5 points back was Doug Curtiss' WICKED 2.0 with a 4-4-1-2-4-2.5 for 17.5 points.  Third was Paul Strauch's ANDIAMO with a 3-3-4-5-2-2.5 for 19.5 points. 

J/105 one-design sailboat- ECLIPSE sailing off Block IslandDamian Emery’s (Shoreham, N.Y.) ECLIPSE (pictured at left) won the J/105 class, with 13 boats competing. His main trimmer and tactician George Ryan (East Northport, N.Y.) said the victory was far from easy. 'We started dead last in the Around the Island Race and had to work to third,' he said, also pointing out that today’s first-race victory was counterbalanced with a seventh.  Damian Emery skippering ECLIPSE schooled the fleet on both speed and tactics.  With four bullets and 3-7, Damian's team led by four points over past Block Island J/105 Champion Bruce Stone with tactician Nicole Breault sailing JOUSTER with a 2-3-3-1-7-2 for 18 points.  Losing on a tie-breaker to Stone's JOUSTER to finish third was Jordan Mindich sailing SHAKEDOWN to one of his best BIRW's ever with a 5-2-2-2-4-3 record for 18 points.

J/44 one-design offshore sailboat- sailing off Block IslandJeffrey Willis’s (Huntington, N.Y.) CHALLENGE IV (pictured at right) finished 4-1 Friday in J/44 class to keep its place at the top of the scoreboard. The team had a total of four victories in its six-race series and led from day one. 'We tend to be better when the wind blows harder,' said Willis, 'but everyone can have their day.' Counting back, Willis revealed he won this event in 2009 as well as 2007. His closest competition here was William Ketcham’s (Greenwich, Conn.) MAXINE.  At then end of the week, Jeff Willis' beautiful CHALLENGE IV won with a 1-3-1-1-4-1 for 11 points and Bill Ketcham's gorgeous 44 MAXINE with a 2-1-2-2-5-3 record 15 points was good enough for second.  Lying third only one point back was Don and Rick Rave's RESOLUTE with a 4-2-3-3-2 record for 16 points. 

J/29 sailboat- sailing Block Island- HUSTLER and MIGHTY PUFFINIn the PHRF 3 fleet, the J/29s ruled the top of the class.  At the top of the leader-board for most of the week was past BIRW Champions John and Tony Esposito sailing the infamous HUSTLER (pictured at right), ultimately winning in a final day duel with with a 1-2-5-3-2-1 record for fourteen points, just one ahead of the strong, but late charge by Steve Thurston's MIGHTY PUFFIN with 5-1-4-2-1-2 record for fifteen points for second place.  After a slow Around Island Race and slow first race on the last day, John Lavin's DIRTY HARRY with a 6-3-3-4-5-3 record for 24 points dropped to fourth.

In PHRF 4 the J/80 RUMOUR (pictured above) sailed by the Storck family from New York proved yet again that consistent sailing would rule the day over their PHRF counterparts and ultimately ended up compiling a very strong 1-2-6-1-1-4 record for 15 points to win their division by an impressive eight point margin.    For more Rolex STC Block Island Race Week sailing information   Sailing Photo Credits- Rolex/ Daniel Forster and Onne Van Der Wal Photography