May 19, 1985

From the NYTimes


Published: May 19, 1985

The Storm Trysail Club is not your ordinary yacht club. There is no clubhouse, no dock, and no sundeck on which to dry sodden foul-weather gear. It is an honorary club, quartered at the Larchmont Yacht Club, and to join it, a person must be able to prove that he has weathered a storm at sea.

''You have to have friends who will testify that you were a watch officer in a bad storm at sea,'' said Victor Romagna, a club member since 1941. He also notes that the tale carries more weight if the only sail used during the blow carries more weight, too; preferably if it was a storm trysail, a small heavy kind of sail used in such conditions.

Romagna also belongs to the New York Yacht Club, but he is more loyal to the Storm Trysail Club, which has 500 members, a number far greater than the handful of yachtsmen who started the club in 1938. Most of the rules remain the same, however, and traditions are revered. To this day, only men are allowed to join. But gone is the requirement that a man be able to tell a good sea tale to be eligible.

Sponsor of Block Island Race

Beyond the surface of this crusty, Corinthian exterior is an energetic club that breathes life each year into the summer plans of thousands of yachtsmen along the East Coast. The club's Block Island Race, for example, - a 205-mile jaunt that starts near Larchmont, winds its way northeast around Block Island, and back again - is scheduled to begin at 6 P.M. next Friday.

As many as 100 boats are expected to participate, including the 81-foot maxiboat Boomerang, owned by George Coumantaros of New York, and the maxiboat Matador, owned by Bill Koch of Dedham, Mass. The smallest boats are about 30 feet.

The Block Island Race is like a hors d'oeuvre for what has become the Storm Trysail's main entre of the summer sail racing menu - Block Island Race Week. The series is scheduled this year for June 24-29. Its popularity as a major championship series for boats 30 to 60 feet has forced the club to limit the entries to 300 yachts.

''That's all we can possibly fit in the Great Salt Pond,'' said Russell Hoyt, commodore of the Storm Trysail Club. ''Years ago, we started limiting it to 200 boats, then 250, and now 300, and that's the most we can go.''

The pond, situated in the center of Block Island, offers an anchorage for the fleet at night. Three feeder races, sponsored by the American Yacht Club of Rye, N.Y., the Essex Yacht Club of Essex, Conn. and the Ida Lewis Yacht Club of Newport, R.I., bring many of the yachts to Block Island.

Similar to Cowes Week

The original idea for race week, which was begun in 1964 as a spinoff of Cowes Week in Britain, is expected to attract most of the boats that competed in the Admiral's Cup selection trials in Newport, R.I., last week.

The logistics of managing 300 boats at the starting line has prompted the Storm Trysail Club to arrange things differently this year. It plans to separate the boats into two fleets - the red and the white. Each will have its own race committee and its own sequence for starting. Each fleet will be divided into six classes, depending on measurement ratings.

''We've done this mainly to compress the amount of time it takes to finish racing each day,'' said George Isdale, event chairman. ''Instead of having 300 boats milling around the starting line, you'll have 150. It will ease the race committee load.''

The Storm Trysail Club has a reputation for running organized races with plenty of post-regatta frivolity. This year there will be a 10K race for runners, a tug-of-war, barbecues and, for those who didn't get enough seatime during the day, sailing in miniature 12-Meters. ----Benefit Race at Sag Harbor The third annual Sag Harbor Cup, a sailboat race to benefit the Suffolk County Division of Drug Abuse Services, is scheduled June 8 at Sag Harbor's Long Wharf. The regatta is expected to draw about 80 boats for a 14-mile race. Registration is $30, and each boat will receive two free T-shirts.