Around the island in the rain at Block Island Race

26 June 2019

  There are many traditions associated with Block Island Race Week. Sailors know to expect certain things over the course of the five-day event, which is why so many keep coming back. One of the most revered traditions is the Around the Island Race, which is associated with Block Island Race Week as much as drinking Mudslides at the Oar or dancing to live music at Yellow Kittens.

With a building breeze forecast, on-water chairman Dick Neville delivered the regatta’s signature competition earlier than expected. There was some noticeable anxiety among sailors on the docks when Neville announced over the radio that North Sails Day would feature the Around the Island Race. That news prompted a thorough review of the forecast with navigators, tacticians, and strategists now processing that information through the lens of a counterclockwise circumnavigation of Block Island.

Cameron Appleton, the tactician aboard the IRC 52 Fox, was overheard consulting with trimmer Scott Nixon about the sail inventory in terms of what would be needed during the various points of sail likely to be encountered during the Around the Island Race. Similar discussions were no doubt held aboard all 122 boats competing in Block Island Race Week, Presented by Margaritaville. Doing a 20-nautical mile distance race that pretty much completes a circle is a vastly different undertaking than windward-leeward action around the buoys.

Organizers with Storm Trysail Club had initially pegged the distance race for Thursday (June 27), but Neville switched gears after reviewing updated forecasts that showed the wind getting lighter later in the week.“We always want to do the Around the Island Race on the breeziest day of the week and the way the forecast shaped up that was today,” Neville said. “We knew it would be rainy, but fortunately there was very little thunder and lightning while the squalls were manageable.”

Added to the mix today was a front that enveloped Block Island and brought thunderstorms and torrential rains. Gavin Brady, helmsman aboard the TP52 Beau Geste, said the Around the Island Race was very enjoyable despite the seemingly nasty conditions. “We had relatively flat water, which was nice and made for very pleasant sailing. That makes a big difference. We can deal with the high wind speed, but it’s the sea state that is a concern,” Brady said.

Beau Geste beat Fox by just over three minutes in IRC 1 class, which raced in close quarters all the way around the island. A forecast for 16-20 knot winds was spot on and Brady said it was a beat from the start line to the wind farm followed by a reaching leg, a half hour spinnaker run and a beat back to the finish from 1BI.

“We had to go out around the wind farm, which was really interesting. There are no marks to keep you away from the wind farm so a lot of boats were passing fairly close to the blades,” Brady related. (Note: the air space is 90 feet for the Wind Turbines). “It was a good tactical race with a lot of passing lanes. There was a lot for the navigators and tacticians to consider. Some of these around the island races can be a bit of a follow the leader, but that was not the case today.”

Storm Trysail Club held a fourth windward-leeward race prior to sending the entire fleet of 13 classes around the island. Interlodge, the Botin 44 owned by Austin and Gwen Fragomen, won both races in ORC 1 class. Meanwhile, Interlodge IV has now notched three straight bullets and overtaken the Day 1 leader, Jim Grundy's Dunning 42 Baby Bella.

Robin Team and his Teamwork mates headed straight to The Oar for bowls of steaming hot clam chowder upon returning to the dock. Teamwork then went home and “stood under a hot shower for about 30 minutes.” Despite the discomfort of being soaking in water for so long, it was a rewarding day on the water for Teamwork, which placed second in the buoy racing then won the Around the Island Race to maintain the overall lead in ORC 2.

“It was a really tactical race that was very well-run by the Storm Trysail Club. We had a lot of fun out there today,” Team said. “It was equal amounts of upwind, downwind and reaching. Some conditions suited some boats in our class better than others, which made things fun and interesting.”

Tactician Jonathan Bartlett had set a goal of having Teamwork win the Around the Island Race in both the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta and Block Island Race Week, and it was mission accomplished on that count. The J/122 now leads the Ker 11.5 Peacemaker YCC by two points in what is shaping up as a nip-and-tuck fight. “We’re cautiously optimistic. The Ker 11.5 is very fast so it’s going to be a battle to the very end,” Team said. Wednesday is a Lay Day, with no sailboat racing planned but lots of onshore activities.



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