Block Island Race Week, Light-Air Patience

Block Island Race Week
Block Island Race Week, Light-Air Patience Stephen Cloutier/STC

Sailors woke up to a layer of fog for Mount Gay Race Day, but after a 3-hour delay, the sailors on 3 circles crossed the line getting in 2 races before hitting the docks and getting up to a delay rum tent party thrown by the iconic rum brand.

Robin Team has grown accustomed to winning. The Lexington, North Carolina resident has done so with regularity at major regattas all over the country, earning PHRF Boat of the Week at Key West Race Week and capturing the Palmetto Trophy several times at Charleston Race Week.

Team brought his J/122 Teamwork to Block Island Race Week for the first time in 2017 and added captured the IRC 2 North American Championship. Teamwork came back to the biennial regatta this year and carried a lot of confidence after claiming IRC 4 class at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta.


However, Teamwork is getting all it can handle from a Ker 11.5 named Peacemaker YCC. Skipper Leo Vasiliev posted a pair of bullets on Thursday and have overtaken Teamwork for the lead in ORC 2 at Block Island Race Week, presented by Margaritaville.

“The Ker is a great boat that is being sailed very, very well,” Team said graciously. “They went from two points behind to two points ahead today so kudos to them.”

Richard Royce is calling tactics for Vasiliev, a resident of Bayville, New York who is making his Block Island Race Week debut. After opening the regatta with a fourth, the Ker 11.5 has won four of five starts with the lone blemish being a second in the Around the Island Race.


Teamwork hasn’t stocked multiple mantles with first place trophies by giving up easily. Team is looking forward to fighting to the finish on Friday.

“We’re going out there tomorrow poised for battle. We’re hoping to draw some blood,” he said.

ORC 2 is one of several classes going down to the wire as Block Island Race Week concludes with two races (hopefully!) on Friday. J/105 is also separated by two points with defending champion Good Trade clinging to first place. Skipper Paul Beaudin and his crew on loulou notched a second and a first in two races on Thursday to close the gap, 20 points to 22.

Block Island Race Week
The Pursuit fleet and multihulls battle for lanes and any hints of breeze off Block Island before the southerly eventually filled. Stephen Cloutier/STC

Gray Matter, owned by John and Marisa Koten of Larchmont Yacht Club, is also in striking distance with 25 points. “We’ve been duking it out quite a bit with those two boats,” John Koten said of Good Trade and loulou. “It’s been great competition and a lot of fun so far.” Koten is a veteran sailor whose crew is comprised of folks that work with him at a wood shop in Brooklyn known as the Liberty Labs Foundation. He has taken a group of people entirely new to sailboat racing and molded them into a well-oiled machine that is contending within one of the toughest classes of an iconic regatta.

“We thought it would be fun to form a sailing team and learn together,” said Koten, whose crew normally does weeknight Beer Can Racing. “This is the first big regatta we’ve done in the six years we’ve been together and we’re just happy to be in the hunt.”

ORC 1 has featured an outstanding duel between the Botin 44 Interlodge IV and the Ker 40 Tschuss with the latter taking a five-point lead into Friday. Tschuss picked up a point on Interlodge IV after two races in medium breeze on Thursday.


“We have a very good battle going with those guys. We enjoy and embrace the competition,” Tschuss skipper Christian Zugel said. “We made some improvements with our upwind mode today and we’re racing neck-and-neck with (Interlodge IV).”

Zugel said Tschuss cannot go into Friday with the strategy of match racing Interlodge IV because Baby Bella (Dunning 42, Jim Grundy) is just four points behind in third after winning Race 7.

“We have to go out and sail clean. Every second counts and we cannot make any mistakes,” he said.

Ranger, the Farr 40 crewed by the Naval Academy varsity offshore sailing team, has seized control of PHRF 1 class by winning three of the last four races. Skipper Hayden Kuzemchak and company will try to hold off their rivals on the sister ship Zephyr, skippered by Zackary Bauer.

Moneypenny, a J/111 owned by Ken Comerford, had been in second place and just five points behind Ranger before having a seventh in Race 7 changed to a 12th due to a protest hearing.

“It was a tough day on the water. We were seeing big shifts and the fog rolled in at one point and made things difficult,” Comerford said. “Navy’s two Farr 40s are sailing in their own breeze and we’ve got five J/111s doing one-design racing within a PHRF class. We had three lee-bows on one beat today.”

Racing was postponed until the afternoon on Thursday due to light air and heavy fog that enveloped Block Island. On-water chairman Dick Neville sent the fleet of 122 boats out around 1 p.m. and the Red and White circles managed to complete two races. Meanwhile, the Blue circle had to abandon its first start during the second upwind leg after wind conditions created an unfair course so the PHRF 1 through 3 classes only got one race in an 8-10 knot southeasterly breeze.

Skipper Jack McGuire and the Dirty Harry team have built a six-point lead over fellow J/29 Mighty Puffin (Steve Thurston). McGuire and four other crew members are products of East Greenwich (RI) Yacht Club where their coach was John Mollicone. Now the head coach at Brown University, Mollicone is calling tactics for his former pupil McGuire.

“We had clean starts again today and were able to get out and sail our own race,” McGuire said. “We fleet managed the other J/29 – got on top of them and covered. I thought we sailed fast, smart and clean.”

Beau Geste continues to control the action among the three 52-footers in IRC 1. Skipper Karl Kwok and helmsman Gavin Brady posted a 2-1 score line on Thursday and lead Fox by four points. Owner-driver Victor Wild led Fox and the boy on Fox had a strong day – getting the gun in Race 6 then taking second in Race 7.

Rush (Bill Sweetser, Annapolis, MD) and Wings (Mike Bruno, Armonk, NY) continue to pad their impressive leads in J/109 and J/88, respectively. Rush has won four races and placed second in the other two and is 11 points clear of Morning Glory. Wings has won six of seven races and is ahead of Deviation by 12 points.

It was an afternoon start for the four Performance Cruising classes in the Pursuit Division. Rascal skipper Chris Schneider said his boat crossed the start line just after 2 p.m. to begin a six-nautical mile race in Performance Cruising 3 Non-Spinnaker.

The Ericson 39 passed the Bristol 35.5 Ida G and the Alden 44 Checkmate, but could not overtake the Taylor 42 Africa on Thursday. Rascal, which was launched in 1971, still leads the class after winning Monday’s pursuit race and Tuesday’s Around the Island Race.

“I’ve got guys on the boat who have been racing with me for 25 years. They have remained loyal and committed so I keep the boat in good condition so we can continue racing,” Schneider said.

Schneider crewed on this Ericson 39 from 1971-74 when it was owned by Ed Dole and has owned her since 1984. “She’s still fast after 48 years. I’ve got good sails and I personally clean the bottom myself every week,” he said.