Block Island Race Week – A tale of two days – Sail World


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by J/Boats 2 Jul 05: 32 PDT
21-25 June 2021

The Storm Trysail Club team was host to a very enthusiastic group of offshore and one-design keelboat sailors in their iconic five-day race week hosted at Block Island, a little jewel of an island in the Atlantic Ocean just four miles offshore of Rhode Island.

Famous for its beaches, it's gorgeous southeast Island Lighthouse, usually fantastic sailing with pretty, massive sandy bluffs, the Yellow Kittens "dark'n'stormies", The Oar's famous "mudslides" with a topper of Myer's Rum, it's no wonder sailors migrate like lemmings over the cliff to this offshore adult playground.

Not surprisingly, fond memories past is often met with some disappointment living the present. Pandemic stuff notwithstanding, the 2021 edition of Storm Trysail's Block Island Race Week will be most likely remembered for two spectacular days of sailing Wednesday and Thursday, bracketed by three days of utterly disgusting foggy, dreary weather.

Here are the reports from each day following the initial Monday Round Island Race for one-quarter of the fleet...a very dense fog-bound affair for the "cruisers".

Day two - No fog!

The fog lifted overnight, so the Race Committee sent the 158 teams out to their assigned race circles for North Sails Race Day to get some "points on the scoreboard" today.

Even though Tropical Depression Claudette was passing well to the south of Block Island, a few storm clouds began to form on the horizon soon after the races started and the swell from the storm forced the boats to battle 8-10 foot swells on the race courses throughout the day.

Finally commencing their regatta, after yesterday's abandonment due to fog, the White and Blue fleets managed to complete three races in light 5-10 knot breeze and the Green Circle (Performance Cruising and Multihull) completed a 12-mile distance race.

In the ORC Division, Ashley Maltempo's and Bill Wiggins' J/121 Wings top their class for the day. They beat out one of the famous J/Boat offshore teams, Robin Team's Teamwork from North Carolina.

"Last year with Covid, we didn't travel at all," said Robin Team, skipper of the J/122 Teamwork. "We were 15 months without any racing. So we were ready, eager, and raring to go today after yesterday. Three great races in light air, we are heavier boat, but we'll take anything we can get to get across the starting line at this point!" Team and his crew ended up third in the ORC D for the day.

Thunder and lightning could be heard around 1300 to the southwest just as the boats started their second race. But, fortunately aside from some passing rain, they were able to keep racing throughout the day even through influential shifts and big, massive rolling swell from the storm offshore.

Day three - Champagne Sailing

The sunshine was bright, and the breeze was anticipated to be light. Racing was briefly postponed allowing the Race Committees to set a new course as the cool 8-10 knot northwesterly breeze in the morning was shifted to the predominant seabreeze and continued to fill. Short courses were set to allow for the completion of the first race before the predicted drop in velocity across Rhode Island Sound which thankfully never came, allowing for three races to be sailed on Wednesday.

So, with six total races for the ORC and One-Design classes, five for the PHRF classes and three for the Performance Cruising and Multihull divisions, there has already been more racing than the last few editions at this halfway point.

"Using the MarkSetBots has drastically improved Race Management," said On-Water Director, Dick Neville. "This technology allows us to move the marks quickly and efficiently. What would have been a longer postponement because volunteers had to haul and reset marks can now happen in minutes. Thus, allowing us to get more races in. It is all quite impressive."

Among the four J/Boat One-Design divisions, the top finishers for the day were the Coast Guard Academy's Glory in the J/44s, Rodrick Jabin's RAMROD for the J/111s, William Zartler's Deja Voodoo in the J/105s, and Jonathan Rechtschaffer's Emoticon in the J/109s.

Block Island Race Week also serves as the J/109 class's East Coast Championships and as the largest one-design class with 14 boats. The winner will also receive the A. Justin Wasley Memorial Trophy, a Storm Trysail Club perpetual award for the overall winner of the largest one-design class.

"The J/109 Class has been a part of Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Week since the boats debuted more than 15 years ago. The consistent conditions on the water, and great land-side activities, give us the opportunity to showcase close one-design racing and Class camaraderie," says John Greifzu, President of the J/109 class and owner of GROWTH SPURT.

At the end of racing, the podium finishers continue to swap spots and are all still within striking distance with Emoticon on top with 13 points, GOSSIP with 15 points, and BIG BOAT with 20 points.

In PHRF 3, Jack McGuire continued his dominance winning every race so far in his J/29 Dirty Harry. John Stork, Jr. with his family all racing aboard their J/80 RUMOR and Steve Thurston's J/29 MIGHTY PUFFIN are neck and neck with 12 and 13 points respectively.

As each class battles it out amongst each other, another race within the race is happening this week for the best scoring team. The Shelter Island Team Trophy is awarded to the 3-boat team with the best average points. Last edition, it was awarded to a Storm Trysail Club team but this year it looks like those teams will need to keep an eye out because Annapolis Yacht Club and Imperial Poona Yacht Club are close behind. So, it is still up in the air as this year has the greatest number of teams vying for the honor.

Day four - Gorgeous Mount Gay race day!

The sailors were treated on the penultimate day of racing - Mount Gay Race Day - to the highlight of the Block Island Race Week presented by Margaritaville: the Regatta Craft Mixers Round the Island Race. With some of the best racing conditions, not just for the week, but in recent Round-the-Island history, the sunny skies, southeasterly winds, and 10-12 knots were ideal for the 158 boats.

"This is what we look forward to," said Kelly Wilbur onboard the J/111 WICKED before docking out. "Getting some distance in, getting to see every corner of the island, and doing a bunch of sail changes is really fun."

The Performance Cruising fleet and Multihulls fleets were treated to a second round the island race of the week as they were able to start in the fog on Monday while the other fleet races were abandoned.

All of the ORC fleets were sent on a longer 21.5-mile course, that takes the teams outside the Block Island Wind Farm on the eastern side.

Among the One-Designs - who were sent on the 18-mile course inside the wind farm - Peter Wagner's J/111 SKELETON KEY, June and Amanda Kendrick's J/44 Palantir 5, William Zartler's J/105 Deja Voodoo, and Jonathan Rechtschaffer's J/109 Emoticon all finished on the top of their respective divisions.

Wagner has returned for his fourth Race Week after a thirty-year hiatus. The last time he raced, he won the Round the Island Race and was fortunate enough to defend that title today.

"The wind was still filling in while we were doing the first leg of that race, so finding a way to connect the puffs was pretty important, and we were able to do that, and find our way," said Wagner.

With a full moon tide testing the sailors on the water, finding the favorable current was also one of the biggest challenges facing the teams.

Day five - Foggy cancelled finale

Sadly, it was not to be for a sensational finale to the past two days of racing. Like the beginning of the week, the thick fog and light winds greeted sailors on the final morning. After an hour-long postponement, the Race Committee ultimately decided to abandon racing on Margaritaville Race Day due to the low visibility and lack of wind.

"Safety is the most important factor in our decision making," said event chair and long-time PRO, Ray Redniss. "Windward-Leeward courses with multiple fleets is just not feasible for safe sailing."

Cheers and a few groans could be heard around the dock as Dick Neville, On-Water director, made the VHF announcement at 11am because it was now a certain outcome on which teams would be crowned champions of Block Island Race Week.

Before the cancellation, one of the races to watch today was between two service academies in the J/44s. The US Merchant Marine Academy and the Coast Guard Academy were in a standoff tie after the Regatta Craft Mixers Round the Island Race with USMMA ultimately ending up on top due to the rule that "who beats who" in the last race wins.

"It's a very friendly rivalry between us," said one Kings Point Midshipman after learning they had won John Alden Reed Perpetual Trophy for the best performing yacht for a Service Academy. "We want to thank the Coast Guard for some great close racing all week. It kept going back and forth. We have a great team here, many of us just coming off months working at sea, and we came together to just kept fighting the entire time."

Also, in a One-Design class, William Zartler's Deja Voodoo from Lakewood, Texas won the J/105 class - one of the largest in a decade with 13 boats. "As usual, it's great to be at Block Island Race Week because of the challenging conditions. You have to watch the current and the wind shifts. This team was on top of the race course, at all times paying attention, and was ready to change gears quickly."

The winner of the J/109 East Coast Championships was Jonathan Rechtschaffer's Emoticon. The crew not only won the class but also a bit more silver: the A. Justin Wasley Memorial Trophy as the winner of the largest one-design class and the Island Sailing Club of Cowes Perpetual Trophy for the overall winner of the Regatta Craft Mixers Round the Island Race.

"Competition is always very key," said Rechtschaffer. "One of the core reasons I am part of the class is because anyone can finish on top or win any of the races. We also all support each other. My hats off to GOSSIP who started this regatta strong. It's class racing so it's about the consistency and my team helped deliver that."

He attributed early season racing and learning from those mistakes to capitalize on the gains made throughout the week and dedicated the win to his mother who passed away earlier this year.

New for 2021, the Isbrandtsen Overall Perpetual Trophy has been rededicated to the best overall performance for a Corinthian team at Block Island Race Week. John Krediet with his J/97 Participant II was crowned this year's deserving winner.

Lastly, the Everett B. Morris Perpetual Trophy, also known as "Boat of the Week", is the most coveted of the awards. Since 1967 this has been awarded for the best performance for the Block Island Race Week as judged by the Race Committee and the Commodore.

This year that goes to Jack McGuire and his J/29 Dirty Harry.

"We have a great group of sailors. We've got brothers, friends, and all of our families are here so we go back and hang out with all together after racing. All that camaraderie just comes together with a great boat to make for a great team," said McGuire.

McGuire and his crew are all childhood friends from East Greenwich, Rhode Island where McGuire first started sailing with the former owner John Lavin on Dirty Harry. When he passed 8 years ago, McGuire purchased the boat from his widow and has been sailing it ever since. In 2019, they came very close to the Everett Morris.

"It takes time to build a program and this week we were just hitting on all cylinders."

Block Island Race Week presented by Margaritaville concluded with awards and a celebratory final party as toasts were made to another week gone by and here is the extraordinary silverware list of J/Boats owners below.

Winning the J/44 Class was the US Merchant Marine Academy's Vamp YCC, with the US Coast Guard Academy's Glory in second, and third was June and Amanda Kendrick's Palantir 5, the top finishing women-owned, women-skippered boat in the fleet! The Gem Trophy, resented to the best yacht with at least 70 percent of its skipper and crew, male or female, younger than 25 years of age, went to the J/44 Beagle. Plus, the John Alden Reed Perpetual Trophy, for the best performing Service Academy Yacht, was awarded to US Merchant Marine Academy's VAMP.

Bill Zartler's Deja Voodoo eclipsed the J/105 class, winning four of seven races. Past winners, Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault sailed BOAT 63 to second, and Brian Nelson's HONEY BADGER took the bronze. Interestingly, the Vintage Yacht Trophy, for Best Yacht at Block Island Race week 25 years old or older, substantially unaltered, with the best point score for the week- went to Zartler's Deja Voodoo.

Winning the largest class in the regatta, Jon Rechtschaffer's J/109 team on Emoticon won a three-way battle for the top of the leaderboard. Just three points back was Group W on Gossip, while Bill Rogers' Big Boat took third place. The Island Sailing Club of Cowes Perpetual Trophy- for overall winner in the Around the Island Race- won by Rechtschaffer's Emoticon. Plus, they were awarded the A. Justin Wasley Memorial Trophy, as overall winner of the largest one-design class.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the week was how dominating the win was for Rod Jabin's Annapolis team on his J/111 Ramrod. With famous World Champion Chris Larson aboard calling tactics, they blitzed the fleet in the first four races, winning them all. Then, they closed with three 2nds for a 10-pts total! Behind them it was a three-way battle for the podium. In the end, Bill and Jackie Baxter's Fireball took the silver, while Peter Wagner's World Champion crew on Skeleton Key took the bronze.

Winning ORC D class was Ashley Maltempo and Bill Wiggins' J/121 Wings, posting three bullets to start the regatta. Second went to multi-Key West Champion crew on Robin Team's J/122 Teamwork. Fifth went to Don Nicholson's J/121 Apollo.

PHRF 2 Class was swept by J/Teams. Winning was Jack McGuire's J/29 Dirty Harry, followed by another J/29, Steve Thurston's Mighty Puffin. Rounding out the podium was John Storck's J/80 Rumor. Newporter's on the J/80 The Party Tree, skippered by Sam Cushing took sixth. The Everett B. Morris Perpetual Trophy, awarded to the overall yacht with the best performance as judged by the Race Committee and the Commodore, won by McGuire's J/29 Dirty Harry!

In PHRF Performance Cruising 1 Class, Joe Brito's Rhode Island crew on his J/121 Incognito just eked out a win by one point. Don Dwyer's J/122 Blue Yonder took fifth place.

In PHRF Performance Cruising 2 Class, Skip Young's J/133 Dragonfly took the silver medal, while Brian Prinz's J/125 Spectre earned the bronze. Fifth place went to Kenn Fischburg's J/99 Wild Child.

J/Teams had another sweep in PHRF Performance Cruising 3 Class. Winning was John Krediet's J/97 Participant II from New York. Second went to Bob Closter's J/24 Island Spirit, the top finishing Block Island "home boy" in the regatta. The Isbrandtsen Overall Perpetual Trophy- awarded overall yacht with the best performance for a corinthian yacht- won by Krediet's J/97 Participant II.

Finally, designer Rod Johnstone sailed the brand-new J/9 Banjo with a 100% family crew, three generations worth. Apparently, they had a wonderful time and won with straight bullets.

See full results here

More information here

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