February 23, 2023

Back to the (Block) Island

Storm Trysail Club knows that Block Island Race Week is more than a regatta for many of our competitors. As organizers for 58 years, sailors tell us stories about how the week is more than racing and more about connecting with crewmates who have become like family.  Now for our 30th anniversary Race Week, we look forward to hearing more stories from our 181 boats this June 19-23.

No team is a better example of long-time camaraderie than the crew of ImpetuousDr. Paul Zabetakis, or Dr. Z, as many have come to know him, first came to Block Island Race Week in 1987 with his Frers 33. “I was a rank amateur still learning port from starboard!” Zabetakis remarks. “I was fortunate to start sailing with a wonderful group of men and women who quickly became friends – really more like family. Over the years, the core crew started families and moved away BUT we still get together once a year at BIRW.”  Impetuous has also been a fixture when the “off year” regattas not organized by Storm Trysail Club occur.

He recalls the first time he delivered the Frers to Block Island from its home in Larchmont and he learned an important lesson that the currents are serious out there having almost hit GC ”7” on the way into the Great Salt Pond and then trying to get around the 1BI in his first Around-the-Island Race.   “Now we now spend many hours studying and debating currents and tides.”

It took a few years but they eventually made it to the podium in 1995 with a 3rd place and then to the very top of their division with the next Impetuous, a Mumm 30, in 1999. When New York Yacht Club launched the Club Swan 42 in 2006, Zabetakis was one of the first owners to sign onto the one-design. He successfully campaigned the boat at Block Island - winning the Around the Island in 2013 followed by the Division in 2015. That same year, the team went on to represent NYYC at the Rolex Invitational Cup and placed an impressive 2nd place in the competitive international fleet.

Now in 2023, he is not only the last original owner of a NYYC Swan 42 but also the Commodore of the same prestigious yacht club - thus making Impetuous the flagship of the New York Yacht Club. Since the dissolution of the one-design fleet and the emergence of the ORC Rating, the boat has been modified, but the crew and the spirit have remained the same. 

“This year, half of my 10-member crew will be the same friends with whom I started this journey 36 years ago!!!  The other members who make up my ‘Newport’ crew have been sailing with me for over 10 years.”

One of those crew members, Cathy Cotell shared a fond memory from one of the first Race Weeks in 1989:  “One day towards the beginning of the week dawned without a breath of wind.  We motored out to the race course where the entire fleet was drifting.  Never one to pass up an opportunity to practice, however, Paul decided we should all learn how to do dip-pole gybes.  Undeterred by the lack of wind, he motored over to the edge of the course at some distance from other boats. He then had us hoist the spinnaker, whereupon he put the motor in reverse, filling the chute with apparent wind.  We all took turns on the bow becoming experts at gybing.  In the meantime, the Race Committee, having seen us in the distance with a full spinnaker, came over to investigate. Was there enough wind on our side of the course to get a race off?  Sadly...no!”  

“Storm Trysail Club is honored to host all the sailors for the 30th edition of Race Week,” says Race Chair and Storm Trysail Club’s Vice Commodore Andrew Weiss. “When we hear stories like those of the Impetuous crew it motivates us to keep the spirit of the regatta thousands have come to love since 1965.” 

Do you have a Block Island story you would like to share? Please contact us at [email protected]