June 17, 2019

Block Island Race Week Preview

All the docks of the three marinas of New Harbor were alive with activity on Sunday in anticipation of Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Week, presented by Margaritaville.

At Payne’s Dock, the professional crews with the TP 52 programs Fox and Gladiator were sorting sails, tuning rigs and testing equipment.

Dozens of Midshipmen with the Naval Academy varsity offshore sailing team were shuttling back-and-forth between the trailer and their two Farr 40-footers.

There was similar work being done at the New Harbor Boat Basin and Champlin’s Marina as the 122 boats in 13 classes attended to last-minute details in advance of racing, which begins Monday on Block Island Sound.

Many of those boats participated in a practice race put together Sunday by organizers with host Storm Trysail Club. It was a great day for a shakedown with southwesterly winds of 18-20 knots providing robust conditions.

Competitors can look forward to more of the same for most of the week with on-water chairman Dick Neville noting that early forecasts looking quite favorable. “We should have good breeze every day and no fog,” Neville said.

A lay day has been built into the 2019 edition of Block Island Race Week and Neville said Wednesday is the best current candidate based off advance weather models. Storm Trysail Club will choose the day that is predicted to have the lightest wind.

Navy has entered Ranger and Zephyr in PHRF 1, which features 16 boats of various designs. Those two Farr 40s placed first and second in ORC 1A during the recent Annapolis-to-Newport Race, instilling some confidence in both crews.

“It proved we can work together as a team to achieve a goal,” said Hayden Kuzemchak, skipper of Ranger.

After training for months to complete a 475-nautical mile offshore passage, the Navy sailors must now switch gears to doing multiple round-the-buoy races each day. They will be looking to improve upon their results at the 165th New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta when Ranger and Zephyr finished sixth and seventh in IRC 3.

“It takes a different skill set and a different mindset,” Kuzemchak admitted. “It’s a challenge choreographing sails up and sails down because you’re dealing with shorter legs and faster tempo.”

PHRF 1 is a diverse class that features five J/111s and a couple of Melges 32s among nine different designs. The J/105s are tied with PHRF 1 for the largest class of the regatta with its 16 entries coming from five different states.

Good Trade, co-skippered by San Francisco residents Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault, is back to defend after capturing the New England Championship during the 2017 edition of Block Island Race Week.

ORC 1 has attracted 12 entries with Interlodge IV among the pre-regatta favorites after claiming IRC 2 class in convincing fashion at last weekend’s New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta. Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s Botin 44 looks like a slightly smaller version of a TP52 and is crewed primarily by pros.

“We have an interesting array of designs in this class so a lot will depend on the type of wind conditions we get during the week,” Fragomen said. “There are some outstanding boats that are usually well-sailed so we should have some great competition.”

Another top contender in ORC 1 is Temptation-Oakcliff, a Ker 50 skippered by Arthur Santry that was victorious in IRC 2 two years ago here in Block Island. Collegiate competitors from Oakcliff Sailing Center will be racing the Ker 50 this week.

The Cat Came Back, a Swan 42 skippered by Lincoln Mossop, is also part of ORC 1 after winning ORC Club at Block Island Race Week XXVII.

Teamwork, the highly successful J/122 owned by North Carolina resident Robin Team, is the boat to watch in ORC 2. Teamwork topped IRC 3 in Block Island Race Week 2017 and is coming off an impressive victory in IRC 4 at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta.

ORC 2 includes four J/121 designs along with another J/122. While both boats are 40-footers, the J/121 boasts a water ballast system and is about a thousand pounds lighter than a J/122, Team said.

“We’re looking forward to racing against those J/121s and seeing how we match up,” Team said. “We’re also excited about mixing it up with Orion, our sister ship that we’ve had great battles with before.”

There are three TP52s competing in IRC 1 with Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste having grabbed bragging rights last weekend by beating both Fox and Gladiator at the NYYC Annual. Renowned New Zealand professional Gavin Brady runs the Beau Geste program and had the team clicking on all cylinders last weekend as the boat that was launched in 2018 won all five races.

“Beau Geste is very fast and has a great crew,” said Victor Wild, San Diego-based owner of Fox, which was runner-up at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta. “We learned a little humility last weekend because we’re accustomed to winning. Beau Geste got the better of us that time, but we’re hoping to turn that around in this regatta.”

Racing Area B consists of the three one-design classes with the aforementioned J/105 being joined by J/109 and J/88.

There is an eight-boat J/109 class competing in Block Island Race Week with Rush always a top contender. Skipper Bill Sweetser is a Block Island regular and was runner-up two years ago when the class contested its North American Championship here. Sweetser, an Annapolis resident, is coming off a class victory at the NYYC Annual.

All five boats in J/88 class are quite familiar with each other, having competed many times up and down the East Coast. Mike Bruno and his team aboard Wings beat Justin Scagnelli and the Albondigas crew by two points at Sperry Charleston Race Week.

“These boats are very equal and fortunes go up and down,” said Iris Vogel, owner of Deviation. “Anyone can win any given regatta. You can never discount anyone in this class.”

PHRF 2 is a sport-boat class with nine different designs accounting for the 12 entries. There are three Farr 30s and two Melges 24s. Connecticut skipper Brad Porter is back to defend his title after leading his Carrera 280 named XLR8 to a runaway win in 2017.

Four Performance Cruising classes will be doing pursuit racing during Block Island Race Week, presented by Margaritaville. Performance Cruising 4 consists of five multihulls with Block Island resident Thomas Lee hoping to skipper his Gunboat 55 Jammy to a repeat victory.

“We certainly have our work cut out for us going against the two Gunboats. If it’s heavy air, they’re gone,” said Josh Colwell, skipper of the Corsair F-31R OrgaZmatron. “When the wind is light, we have a fighting chance.”

With good weather expected for all the competitors, stay tuned to blockislandraceweek.com and our social media channels for the latest in photos, videos, and race updates.