Block Island Race Week (as I am quickly finding out) is one of those regattas that you should try and do. A five-day, this event is held on a beautiful island that brings together a plethora of yachts. Teams like Robert Begueli’s team of New York High School team on the J-105 ‘Buckaroo’ students that are here experiencing their first big boat regatta. I met them walking around town and had a great time chatting with Robert about his program and how they are really bringing this somewhat exclusive sport to the younger generation that needs to be involved to make it grow.
I am racing on one of three Flying Tiger’s that made the trip. Jeff Freeman’s team Renegade made the trip from Atlanta and I joined up on Saturday to sail the boat over with Jeff and his bowman Tommy Sawchuk (really Tommy is a workhorse and does everything). This was my first time sailing in the area and it was a stunning start to what is shaping up to be a beautiful week.
On Sunday Tommy and I walked around the town and checked out the beaches. The highlight was jumping in the Atlantic after being in the Pacific just one day prior.
Sunday afternoon we had a good practice in about 12-15kts and smooth seas. It is always difficult to come to a big regatta with a group of people that have never really sailed together. We know that improving each day is our goal and enjoying a competitive regatta against the other Tigers will make this a great experience. The two other Tiger teams have already become our good friends and wingmen around the local scene.
Our fleet consists of some big programs. One Melges 32 in our fleet is stacked with more than one world champion sailor and one guy who just came from winning the Etchells Worlds for the third time! Congratulations on that one Steve.
The first race we had a decent start but got out to the wrong side of the course and had some major boat speed problems upwind. Tommy and I made some adjustments in between races and saw them take affect in the second race as we beat the other two boats we are gunning for. The top boats have another gear and the competition is fierce.
What is really amazing is how many one design fleets they have here. The J-44 class has a sail buy program where each boat owner puts in a certain amount of money a year and the class buys sails that are then rotated around boats. They have 8 boats this week and usually run up to 8 regattas a year with this format.
Day two of BIRW saw us partake in the highlight, the around Block Island Race, which was a wonderful way to see the beauty of this little island. It was great to be in the same starting area as all the boats and be able to see all the different teams.
We started in about 6-9kts of breeze and as we approached the first turning buoy we struggled to power through the chop and swell. It was tough but we knew that once we rounded the mark it was time for Tiger conditions. Light air downwind sailing with the new AP Spinnaker would be our forte. We were not disappointed as we quickly passed the J-109’s that started ahead of us and reeled in some J-44’s that were bringing up the rear of their fleet.
Once again the Melges 32 teams were out in front but Red Stripe (another FT-10) and ourselves were hanging in there. Around the backside of the island things got a little weird. The boats that stayed to close to the island suffered as the wind transitioned. A J-120 forced us to jibe away and did us a huge favor as we caught the fresh breeze and sailed around and out in front of Red Stripe. We are still looking to thank the J-120 team as I asked them if we could cross but they forced us away and then they jibed into the light air.
The next portion of the race was a tight reach and the boats that had Code 0’s and 3A spinnakers put them up. We shad our AP jib up and held off the J-122’s and various other PHRF boats around us. The final leg of the race was a beat up the front side of the island to the finish. It was a beautiful sight as there were boats of all kinds fighting the current to the finish line.
We managed a respectable fifth place and were happy to finish well ahead of the other FT-10’s. Today the wind is forecasted to be light and I am sure shifty and hopefully in the Tiger’s favor.