March 29, 2023

The First Block Island Race Week

Photos: Yachting Magazine

Did you know first Block Island Race Week in 1965 was actually considered a bit of a bust racing-wise due to fog and light winds? Only three races were completed over 6 days. Yet, it was still successful enough to come back. Not only two years later, but 29 more times! 175 boats and over 1,200 sailors turned out for that first Race Week and while the racing was not perfect, the social scene ashore made up for it - and still does 58 years later.

It all started in 1964 when Commodore Jakob Isbrandtsen and NY Herald Tribune yachting reporter Everett B. Morris were inspired by Cowes Week in the U.K and urged The Storm Trysail Club to organize something similar stateside. The thought was that Block Island was a great destination that was still close enough for most sailors and a good venue to establish such an event. The dominant theme was to be hard racing with fine competition and time for daily informal camaraderie ashore.

Now in 2023, the Club will host the 30th Block Island Race Week, with 185 boats planning to attend.  To recognize those founders, the first Everett B. Morris Trophy was awarded in 1969 for the Best Performance Overall for the Week (ie Boat of the Week) and, in 1975, the first Isbrandtsen Overall Trophy was awarded (now best Corinthian Team). These prestigious awards are still up for grabs today! 

In 2021, the Club decide to also recognize the dedication and devotion of sailors to their beloved biennial regatta by founding the North Light Society. Membership is for those sailors and volunteers who have participated in at least five Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Weeks, with graduating levels for the ten and fifteen regatta nautical milestones. 

According to British Journalist, Bill Robinson's detailed summary in Yachting Magazine back in 1965: "It was a noble experiment; excellent idea, well organized for a first try, Much hard work by many. Wonderful spirit among the sponsors....Jolly good idea all in all!" 

We think Bill Robinson's synopsis would still ring true! 

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