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24th Block Island Race Week - Day 4

by Barby MacGowan 24 Jun 2011 10:41 BST 20-24 June 2011

After yesterday’s “no blow” for zero races, today’s 12-15 knots of breeze brought big smiles to the faces of more than 1,000 sailors competing in the Storm Trysail Club’s (STC) biennial Block Island Race Week XXIV presented by Rolex. Forecasted heavy rain did not hit until late afternoon, and that was well after the fleet of 134 boats was safely back at the docks after enjoying an 18.2 nautical mile Around-the-Island Race.

As spectators traveled to different vantage points around the tiny island of only 21 square miles, it couldn’t be denied that the biggest boats from IRC 1 and 2 were the best of show, especially as they found it advantageous to tuck in close to the beach near North Light right after they started on the west side of the island. At Southeast Lighthouse, a full array of colorful spinnakers added to the visual impact, and by then it was clear that Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s (Newport, R.I.) JV 52 Interlodge had a hold over the whole pack, and more important, was keeping its closest competitor in IRC 1, Peter Cunningham’s (George Town, Grand Cayman, CAY) 52-foot PowerPlay, well at bay. Interlodge eventually was first-to-finish in the race and in its class, and the performance brought it into a podium-position third from fourth yesterday. (Powerplay is currently second overall with Jim Swartz’s IRC 52 Vesper leading by a slim margin of two points.)

“The race was very exciting and intense,” said Austin Fragomen. “The distance between boats was very compressed, and the top four to five boats are very well sailed.“ Interlodge’s tactician Brad Read (Middletown, R.I.) explained that the team was neck-and-neck with PowerPlay after the start but got a lift and passed that boat and Vela Veloce before the first mark. After putting up its code zero, Interlodge then peeled to an asymmetrical to get a nice run on the backside of the island and “made a couple of moves” near the Southeast Lighthouse to extend. “PowerPlay is just so fast,” said Read. “If the race had been another 10 minutes longer they might have beat us boat-for-boat.”

Vesper, which until today had a perfect score line in IRC 1, fouled one of the smaller boats at the start and did a penalty turn, eventually finishing fifth. “We never recovered from that,” said owner Jim Swartz (Park City, Utah). “If we had rounded the island a second time maybe we could have.” Swartz is wishing for a couple of good races tomorrow, which is the last day of the five-day event, to defend his position at the top of the scoreboard. “It’s still anyone’s game.”

Lawrence Dickie’s (Greenwich, Conn.) Ker 43 Ptarmigan won IRC 2, adding another perfect score to three victories already posted after Monday’s opening race and two races held on Tuesday. With an eight-point lead over John Cooper’s (Springfield, MO) Mills 43 Cool Breeze, he may have the strongest position in the run for the IRC East Coast Championship. That title will be awarded at tomorrow night’s closing awards, and as well, the top performing IRC-rated boat from today’s Around-the-Island Race will be presented with a Rolex timepiece. (The event is also serving as the J/122 National Championship and the J/109 East Coast Championship.)

Howie Rice, the Vice President of Block Island’s Chamber of Commerce, watched the racing from Southeast Lighthouse today after delivering 52 fourth graders to its sweeping lawn on the school bus he drives for his “other job.” He has lived on the island since 1945, and since Race Week has been re-appearing here every other year since 1965, he is friends with many of the Storm Trysail Club organizers. “We all do what we can to make this work,” he said, “and we like the publicity we get from this. People all over are tightening up their belts, but they are still coming out here, because everyone realizes that what we have on this island is special. There are 27 miles of nature trails, 47% of the island is preserved, we use reverse osmosis for our drinking water...I could go on and on.”

The pristine beauty here is exactly what brought Brian Gillen (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and his classic 43-foot yacht Latitude back to the island this week after discovering it last summer. When he learned that Block Island Race Week was underway, he asked race officials if he could sign up just for the Around-the-Island Race so he could be part of the spectacle. “We’re not really racers,” he said, which might explain his last-place finish today, “but we wanted to sail around the island anyway, so we thought we might as well have a purpose. The island is stunning, and the fact that the people are as caring to the island as they are, is amazing.”

Latitude, which “starred” as Angelina in the movie Romancing the Stone, ferried Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner down New York’s Madison Avenue in the movie’s last minutes. Today it joined the PHRF Cruising Non-Spinnaker class, devoted to sailors who like navigator-type courses and more relaxed sailing. That class is currently led by Jim Goldman’s (West Hartford, Conn.) C&C 36 Patience, which won today’s Around-the-Island Race for a score line of 3-1-1 over three races so far.

Today was Mount Gay Race Day, and Mount Gay co-hosted the post-racing party under the “Big Top” Race Week tent, where nightly awards and daily highlight videos by are enjoyed. (The daily highlights are also broadcast on-line at and each night by 9pm).

Race headquarters for the 2011 Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex are located at The Oar Restaurant. Sponsors are Rolex, Toyota, Caithness Energy, Mount Gay Rum, Vineyard Vines, ING Clarion, Gill, Gowrie Group, UK-Halsey Sailmakers, Bitter End Yacht Club, New England Ropes, Hall Spars, Fiji Waters, West Marine, Robert Oatley Vineyards, Heineken, Sailing World, and WindCheck.

A Rolex timepiece will be raffled off at the end of the event along with a trip to the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda to benefit the Block Island Rescue Squad, Block Island Maritime Institute and the Block Island Early Learning Center. (In 2009, this Race Week Raffle raised more than $16,000 for Block Island charities.) As well, a bid to the 25th Anniversary Pro Am Regatta at Bitter End Yacht Club will be won by one lucky Race Week class winner drawn from among all class winners on closing night.

For more information and results, visit

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