Friday, May 23, 2014

Block Island Race Preview

J/35 Paladin starting Block Island race (Stamford, CT)- Over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the Storm Trysail Club’s annual Block Island Race takes place on the tricky waters of Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound.  An end of spring classic, this annual rite of passage for many sailing yachts in the northeast is a daunting 186nm sprint that starts off Stamford, CT and uses Block Island as a turning mark offshore.

The course is simple but maddeningly exasperating at times depending on how you execute the tactics and strategies based on the weather and currents.  In fact, the central issue for the entire race almost always comes down to how you go through the infamous "Race" at the end of Long Island- Plum Gut south of Plum Island, through the middle, or along the Connecticut shore and Fisher's Island to the north.  This year’s weather forecast indicates easterlies at the start on Friday, backing into the NE to N by Saturday afternoon (see weather forecast here).  A light to moderate breeze beat going east down Long Island Sound may be an issue for many boats but most of the J/Teams should simply love it.

Facing that challenge are seventy-two boats, fifteen of them J/Crews (20% of the fleet), sailing in IRC & PHRF handicap classes and a J/44 one-design fleet.

The largest brand in the IRC 1 Double-handed Division are the J’s with 5 of the 12 boats sailing.
Multiple Block Island Race and Bermuda Race One-Two winner, Jason Richter, will certainly be a factor on his famous J/35 PALADIN.  Two J/120s are participating including Gardner Grant's ALIBI and Hewitt Gaynor's MIRIELLE, both are proven offshore winners- the 120s themselves could lead all the J's home.  New additions to the double-handed group this are Mike Piper’s J/111 EAGLES DARE from Marblehead, MA and Norman Kilarjian’s J/105 TOLO from New York.

In IRC 2 Division Robert Siegel from Stamford, CT will skipper the lone J/109 PAX 3.  Their most significant competition will surely come from Rives Potts’s 48 ft custom sloop CARINA- a Bermuda Race winner.

The two J teams sailing in the IRC 3 Division have eight other classmates to contend with, many with strong Block Island Race credentials.  Regardless, the J/133 MATADOR sailed by Dale and Michael McIvor and the J/122 RED SKY skippered by John Pearson should like the forecasted breezes relative to their competition.

In PHRF Division 1 world, the famous J/105 YOUNG AMERICAN will be sailing with a completely junior crew aboard made up of American YC’s Junior Big Boat Team sailors. Aboard as “adult supervision” will be Peter Becker, AYC’s sailing coach/ director.

Taking on the PHRF 2 Division will be Rick Oricchio’s J/120 ROCKET SCIENCE from Black Rock YC in Fairfield, CT.

J/44 VAMP sailing Block Island raceFinally, the J/44 One-Design Division has an excellent turnout of five boats and included are several that have offshore championship winning pedigree.  Phil Gutin’s BEAGLE, Norm Schulman’s CHARLIE V and Len Sitar’s VAMP are amongst those who’ve done this race many times.  Also veterans of the offshore wars are Joerg Esdorn and Duncan Hennes sailing KINCSEM, quick learners of the game after just getting nipped at the finish last year by Sitar’s VAMP!  Harry Devore’s team on HONAHLEE are no shrinking violets either, after not sailing the race the last few years, they’re hoping to make their mark in this tough group of one-design group sailors.   For more STC Block Island Race sailing information