Sprint around "The Block"Around the Island Race held Tuesday
More than 1,500 sailors embarked on an 18.2 nautical mile Around the Island Race Tuesday at the Storm Trysail Club’s 25th Anniversary Block Island Race Week. A total of 182 teams are competing in 19 classes throughout the week. And while the bluff-lined coast of Block Island 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 that turned in the top overall performance.
The winner of that coveted dual-prize was Dave Curtis’ (Marblehead, Mass.) Taylor 38 Rival, which won in the PHRF 4 Class and added that victory to two previous races from Monday 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 said 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 (Noank, Conn.), which won in PHRF 5, and R80, skippered by Will Crump (Annapolis, Md.) 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, Annapolis, Md.), 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 Lighthouse, which by monumental effort in 1993 was moved 300 feet back from its perch on the cliffs to save the 2,000-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.
Robin Aisher traveled all the way from England to present the Island Sailing Club of Cowes (ISCC) Perpetual Trophy for Block Island’s Around the Island Race. His connection is that he is Admiral of the ISCC (for life, he says, until he decides he wants to hand the responsibility off to another), and his father, Owen Aisher, was the one who initially deeded the trophy, a pewter tankard — complete with engravings of winners, outlines of the Isle of Wight and Block Island and crossed ISCC and Storm Trysail Club burgees — to the Storm Trysail Club just before the inaugural Block Island Race Week in 1965.
The thought at the time of the trophy’s bequeathing was that the Around the Island Race at Block Island closely replicated the Isle of Wight’s Round the Island Race, which was inaugurated in 1935. According to Aisher, that race is the fourth largest by participants of all sporting events in the United Kingdom (the first three being marathons), and it has grown to 22,000 sailors and 2,000 boats. “Our Isle of Wight race is only five miles away from a whole lot of yacht clubs on the mainland and five yacht clubs in Cowes that can feed it,” said Aisher, who sailed today’s and yesterday’s race on Black Watch, which, appropriately, competed in the very first Block Island Race Week. “It’s a bit different from Block Island, which is 20 miles away from the yachting hub of Newport, but in the same way, it’s very much for everyone, like this is. Block Island Race Week is very special; I’m most impressed. It’s very friendly and the atmosphere is brilliant. And by the way, it’s warmer here.”