A FINISH ON A HIGH NOTE
Two races provided a solid finish today for the Storm Trysail Club’s (STC) biennial Block Island Race Week XXIV presented by Rolexand determined IRC, PHRF and One-Design winners in 14 classes along with titlists for the 2011 IRC East Coast Championship, the J/122 National Championship and the J/109 East Coast Championship. After a slow start on Monday and Tuesday, when light wind conditions postponed racing until late afternoon, officials cancelled racing altogether on Wednesday but then amped up again on Thursday with a lively running of the event’s traditional Around the Island Race. Light air was the soup of the day again today, but none of the more than 1,000 sailors here seemed to mind—they just wanted one final chance to make some power plays and enjoy their last moments on tiny Block Island at one of the country’s most beloved and classic of sailing competitions.
Jim Swartz’s (Park City, Utah) IRC 52 Vesper won IRC 1 class on the merit of five victories in six races and the 2011 IRC East Coast Championship by having the fastest average corrected speed from among all IRC-rated boats competing. The team’s only performance flaw seemed to come in yesterday’s Around the Island Race when it fouled a boat from another class at the start, did its penalty turn, and slugged to fifth. In the meantime, Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s (Newport, R.I.) JV 52 Interlodge won the race to move into third overall and today made a heroic bid at dethroning Vesper but only managed to move itself to second overall with finish positions of 2-4 while Vesper won both races.
“In our class we had all 52 footers, so the competition was side-by-side a lot,” said America’s Cup veteran Gavin Brady (Annapolis, Md.), who stepped in today to drive when Swartz had to leave the island early. “Today, we won the start of the first race, so that was pretty easy, and we won the race by two to three minutes. The second race was closer, and it was only on the third leg that we took the lead. We all finished within one and a half minutes of each other, so after an hour of sailing, that’s pretty close.”
Brady added that Swartz is especially pleased with becoming the 2011 IRC East Coast Champion. “He has spent a lot of time on this 52 program, and it fits well with us right now...the team...the chemistry...all stars are in line at the moment.”
Peter Cunningham’s (George Town, Grand Cayman, CAY) PowerPlay, fell from second to third after today’s action, equal on points with Interlodge but losing to a tiebreaker. Interlodge was awarded a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner timepiece for its top IRC performance in the Around the Island Race while Vesper received the IRC East Coast Championship Clarion Partners Trophy.
Lawrence Dickie’s (Greenwich, Conn.) Ker 43 Ptarmigan had a perfect four-race score line up until today, when it finished 2-2; however, the performance was still good for a victory in IRC 2 with a whopping 15-point margin over John Cooper’s (Springfield, MO) Mills 43 Cool Breeze. Dickie was awarded a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner timepiece for turning in the best performance in Red Fleet, and his team manager and crew member Chad Corning (Larchmont, N.Y.) called the team’s results, “the best we could ask for.”
The J/122s competed for their national title while sailing in the IRC 3 class, and while it was Mike Bruno/Tom Boyle/Jim Callahan’s (Irvington, N.Y.) Wings that moved into the top three after day two to finish second and snatch that trophy, it was Craig Albrecht’s (Sea Cliff N.Y.) Farr 395 Avalanche that topped the class overall, which was no small achievement with 13 boats competing.
Bill Sweetser (Annapolis, Md.) was admiring his trophy for winning the J/109 East Coast Championship even before the Awards Presentation. “We brought it with us because we won it last year,” he said, “so I guess we deliver it back to the organizers and they turn around and give it back to us. This is the first time anyone has won it twice in a row.” Sweetser’s entry Rush led the 15-boat J/109 class from day two and entered this final day with eight points over Donald Filippelli’s (Amagansett, N.Y.) Caminos. “After the first race we put one more point between us and Caminos, and in the second race we knew if we were conservative and stayed close to them we could win.” Sweetser appreciated the tough competition and said it was great preparation for the J/109 North Americans in Annapolis in October, adding, “We’d love to see all these boats there.” Sweetser also was presented with a Rolex timepiece for best performance among boats competing in the Blue and White Fleets combined.
Jim RIchardson’s (Boston, Mass./Newport, R.I.) Farr 30 Barking Mad took a tumble today in Farr OD class when Preben Ostberg/Todd Olds/ Bud Dailey’s (Rockville, Md.) Farr 40 Tsunami finished 2-1 to its 1-4 and replaced it at the top of the scoreboard. “We were one point behind Jim going into the day and two points behind him after the first race, so it was exciting,” said Todd Olds. “And especially because Jim is a Farr 40 (multiple world) champion, he sets the standard.” Olds explained that with Tsunami having a longer waterline, his team had an advantage of going faster and sailing in clearer air, but Barking Mad frequently corrected out ahead of them, like he did in race one today. “The ratings are amazingly close, and we knew we had to win the second race to win the regatta. We did that and then learned that Jim had one of his worst finishes.” (Both teams had three victories in six races and no finishes worse than fourth.)
Damian Emery’s (Shoreham, N.Y.) Eclipse won the J/105 class, with 13 boats competing. His main trimmer and tactician George Ryan (East Northport, N.Y.) said the victory was far from easy. “We started dead last in the Around the Island Race and had to work to third,” he said, also pointing out that today’s first-race victory was counterbalanced with a seventh.
Jeffrey Willis’s (Huntington, N.Y.) Challenge IV finished 4-1 today in J/44 class to keep its place at the top of the scoreboard. The team had a total of four victories in its six-race series and led from day one. “We tend to be better when the wind blows harder,” said Willis, “but everyone can have their day.” Counting back, Willis revealed he won this event in 2009 as well as 2007. His closest competition here was William Ketcham’s (Greenwich, Conn.) Maxine.
Ken Colburn (Dover, Mass.), skipper of Apparition, said any one of the top five boats in NYYC Swan 42 class could have won the regatta on this last day. His team managed the overall victory by winning the first race “for some breathing room” and then “digging back hard” in the second race (for a fourth). “We won here in this class two years ago, too, but it was harder this time; the competition was superb, any errors were costly,” he said, adding that teams here are preparing for July’s North Americans and September’s New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, the latter for which Apparition is hoping to win a U.S. berth. “Those are reasons there is strong class representation here, but also it’s a well-run class with a Corinthian spirit that is the right package for a lot of people.”
Another return winner is Brad Porter (Westbrook, Conn.) in PHRF 2, skippering his Carrera 280 XLR8. In fact, this is his third Block Island Race Week in a row that he has won (he won in 2007 with the same boat), but the victory was hard fought. “After Tuesday, Whirlwind was one point ahead of us and we were tied with Freight Train on points for second,” said Porter, explaining that by winning the Around the Island Race his team then moved into first. “We only won two races for the week, so that shows it was tough.”
In Cruising Non-Spinnaker, with one race today, Greg Slamowitz’s (New York, N.Y) Manitou edged past yesteday’s leader, Jim Goldman’s (West Hartford, Conn.) Patience, to win.
Winning handily in IRC 4 was Tom Rich’s (Middletown, R.I.) Peterson 42 Settler, while PHRF 1, 3 and 4 were won respectively by Tom Lee’s (Essex, Conn.) Melges 32 Jammy Beggar; John and Tony Esposito’s (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) J/29 Hustler; and John Storck Jr.’s (Huntington, N.Y.) J/80 Rumor
The Cat Came Back, Right, Plumb Crazy II, Center, Morning Glory, Left
Avalanche, FARR 395 from Sea Port, NY
Nightshift, FARR 40 OD from Annapolis, MD
Interlodge, a JV 52 from Newport, RI
Ptarmigan, a KER 43 from Greenwich, CT
Eclipse, a J105 from Shoreham, NY
Gold Digger, a J44 from Jamestown, RI
Patience, a C&C 36 from West Hartford, CT