(Block Island, RI)- The 25th Anniversary of the Storm Trysail Club's biennial Block Island Race Week was celebrated this past week, and it seems that after almost five decades a good thing has only gotten better with age. First held in 1965, the five-day competition, originally patterned after Cowes Week, is one of the last true Race Weeks remaining in America. The event proved it still can deliver on its time-tested tradition of good, challenging racing to over 1500 sailors competing on 182 teams while also embracing all types of racing sailors with a “something for everyone” approach.
Of the 182 boat fleet, J/Boats had by far the largest brand presence in the regatta with 80 boats participating (44% of the fleet!). Six J one-design classes participated, including the J/111s, the J/80 North American's and East Coast Championships for the J/109, J/105s, J/44s and J/29s. J/Teams also sailed in the IRC and PHRF handicap divisions.
With eight boats, the fabulous turnout for the J/44s include several past J/44 North American and Block Island champions, including Jim Bishop's GOLD DIGGER, Jeff Willis's CHALLENGE IV, Bill Ketcham's MAXINE and Norm Schulman's CHARLIE V. Sure enough, it came down to the wire for these teams. Jeff Willis (Huntington, N.Y.) sailing CHALLENGE IV (seen here to left) won his class in the last five Race Weeks, but he waited until today to claim victory in the J/44 class and take home the East Coast Championship title. According to Willis, in the high breeze, some of the fleet, including yesterday’s leader GOLD DIGGER, skippered by Jim Bishop (Jamestown, R.I.), had spinnaker trouble. “In a good breeze we excel. We’ve had the same crew for a long time, some of them for 25 years. Everyone knows what to do in those (high wind) situations,” said Willis. Second overall was Bishop's GOLD DIGGER and third was Bill Ketcham's MAXINE, losing the tie-breaker at 20 pts each.
The J/111 class had a closely contested event with five boats. After winning the classic Around Island Race on Tuesday, Paul Strauch's ANDIAMO team never looked back to lead the class after finishing third on the final windy race on Friday. Second was Doug Curtiss's WICKED 2.0 with 18 pts. Class newcomer Mike Piper (Marblehead, MA) sailing EAGLES DARE were quick learners in the class, sailing better and more consistently every race to snag third on a tie-breaker over PARTNERSHIP (David & Maryellen Tortorello).
The fifteen boat J/109 class held their East Coast Championships and one performance stood out above all the others. From the first day, it was clear Rick Lyall's STORM was on a mission to win the event. Here's what Rick had to say after Wednesday's racing, “We had conservative starts today, because we were called across the line early on the first day and had to fight back from 15th to sixth,” said Lyall. “That was a tough way to begin the regatta, and then yesterday in the Around the Island Race, we were close to last, because we were on the wrong side of the course, but we made one of the best comebacks of all time to win. It was one of the best tactical races we’ve ever had, and we were thrilled about that. Today it was all about execution. Tactician Kerry Klingler (Norwalk, Conn.) and the rest of the crew had the boat going in all the right places. It was a good team effort -- the right combination of what you need to win the regatta.” Prophetic words, after posting five 1sts, they walked off as East Coast Champions. Second was Group W's GOSSIP and third was Don Filippelli's CAMINOS. Fourth was Bill Sweetser's RUSH and fifth was SKOOT (Jim Vos).
With fourteen boats, the J/105s had a relatively closely fought series for the top two spots between two veteran J/105 teams-- ECLIPSE (Damian Emery, who's reigning STC Block Island Race Week champion) and LOU LOU (Bruce Stone past North American, Block Island and Big Boat Series champion). In the end, the ECLIPSE team's initial four straight 1sts was too much for the LOU LOU team to overcome. As a result, Damian Emery and crew were awarded the Everett Morris Memorial Trophy for the Best Overall Performance at Block Island Race Week XXV. Behind these two were Jim Macdonald on DISTANT PASSION in third overall with 30 pts, narrowly beating out Jordan Mindich's SHAKEDOWN in fourth with 32 pts and Fred Darlington's TONTO in fifth with 33 pts!
With their North American Championship on the line, the J/80's sixteen boats saw what became two races within a regatta: two boats clearly vying for the overall lead with five other boats vying for the balance of the top five. In the end, Will & Marie Crump and team aboard R80, launched a tremendous comeback to topple the previous leader USA 1162, skippered by John White (Annapolis, Md.). “There were five points between us, and we were excited about the conditions but anxious about the fog,” said Crump, a 1999 J 80 North American champion (as crew) whose crew was comprised of wife Marie, her brother Thomas Klok and new crew member Chris Larson (all from Annapolis). “We’re more experienced in the high breeze, so we knew it was possible to win. We did a little match racing with our competition to get him driven back in the fleet in the first start. For the second start, we didn’t have such a command, but we got out and away early.” But, it didn't start out that way for Crump and family. Said Will, “We didn’t do the practice race, because Marie broke one of her thumbs and we had to make a mad dash to the hospital on Sunday. We were lucky to get to the line and race without major compromise.” Behind the leaders were Gary Panariello on COURAGEOUS finally closing the deal on the last day's two races to take third overall with 41 pts. The Storck family had trouble finding their groove, but ultimately the RUMOR crew took fourth overall with 44 pts. Taking fifth was the Hayes/ Kirchhoff team on MORE GOSTOSA.
The J/29 East Coasts ended up with a nail-biter after what seemingly looked like a walk-away by the Esposito's HUSTLER (multiple Block Island Race Week Rolex winners and champions). After posting five 1sts in six races, the last two races for the HUSTLER team nearly derailed their bid to win another BI Race Week. Nevertheless, at the end of the day their 15 pts was good enough for the win over their arch rival, Steve Thurston's MIGHTY PUFFIN. Third was Jack McGuire's DIRTY HARRY.
Sailing IRC 3, the winners were the family team led by Andrew & Linda Weiss on their J/130 CHRISTOPHER DRAGON VIII. Third was the J/122 ORION sailed by Paul Milo and fifth was the J/122 DOLPHIN sailed by Neil McMillan. In IRC 4 the J/120 REBECCA sailed by Glenn Gault from Houston, Texas finished fifth in class.
In PHRF world, the PHRF 2 class saw the J/35 SERAPHIM (David Saurette) take third overall with stablemate, the J/109 ZUMA (Macrae & Chronert Sykes) take fourth. In PHRF Double-handed class the J/100 FLASHPOINT (Adrian Little) took second overall. Sailing Photos by Allen Clark/ PhotoBoat.com and Stephen Cloutier/ BlockIslandRI.net. For more Block Island Race Week sailing information