Around the 'block'
More than 1500 sailors embarked on the 18.2 nautical mile Around the Island Race today at the Storm Trysail Club’s 25th Anniversary Block Island Race Week, where 182 teams are competing in 19 classes. And while the cliff-lined coast of 'The Block' - a quaint island of just under 10 square miles inhabited by just over 900 year-round residents - might have been a distraction by virtue of its pristine beauty, sailors kept their eyes on the grand prize: the Island Sailing Club of Cowes Perpetual Trophy along with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner timepiece awarded to a single team determined by organisers to have turned in the top overall performance from among all boats with IRC or PHRF ratings.
The winner of that coveted dual-prize was Dave Curtis’ Taylor 38 Rival, which won today in PHRF 4 Class and added that victory to two previous ones from yesterday to top the class overall. “We knew we were doing well, but the race committee shortened the course for our class (as they did for five of the ten that started today),” said Curtis, world renown for his considerable accomplishments in one-design sailing. “I’m surprised we got it (the trophy), but if I had known beforehand that they were taking the distance sailed and dividing it by corrected time, I might have had an idea.”
Curtis explained that his class started next to last, 45 minutes behind the first class in a building breeze, so it became a “small boat race.” He added that not having to sail the last beat against the current from government mark '1BI' to the finish at New Harbor may have helped. “After the start, we had a light spot at the first mark, but after that, my brother Jon and Jim Crane picked the current and the wind perfectly, and we never missed a thing.” (Curtis also had his wife Joanne and daughter Gretchen sailing with him.)
Taking second and third in the scoring for the overall trophy were Stealth, an Evelyn 26 skippered by Jay Greenfield, which won in PHRF 5, and R80, skippered by Will Crump to victory in the J/80 class.
The fleet started off Charleston Beach on the west side of the island in a light southwesterly that saw many crews hanging out on the low side as they tacked up the shore, looking for current relief on a counterclockwise course. Once around to the south shore, the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron’s Corsair (skippered by Andy Beeler), had a handy lead on the fleet, since its class had started first and its hull’s waterline is the longest in this regatta. They would hold that lead to claim line honors two hours, 37 minutes and 48 seconds later.
The southeast side of the island showcased Block Island’s famous Mohegan Bluffs topped by the Southeast Light, which by monumental effort in 1993 was moved 300 feet back from its perch on the cliffs to save the 2000 ton structure from sliding into the ocean. But by the time the fleet had reached it, the wind had veered to the west so that the usual run down the eastern side of the island became a tight reach to North Light, another iconic landmark on the island. It was there that the course was shortened for the later classes, lest the sailors in them be stuck on the ocean while the fun ashore, including water jousting, volleyball and corn hole tossing, had begun.