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Twin J/99s win Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race

by J/Boats 3 Jun 19:20 BST 26 May 2023
Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race © Storm Trysail Club

This past Memorial Day holiday weekend marked the unofficial start of the summer offshore sailing season for many J/Teams in the northeast.

The Storm Trysail Club's famous Block Island Race started Friday evening off Stamford, CT. However, due to the light air weather forecast, the STC Race Committee and PRO team made a wise decision, sending the fleet on a shorter course inside Long Island Sound. Of the fifty-six boats that entered, twenty-one were J's (38.0% of the fleet) ranging in size from the 28-foot J/88 up to the 53-foot J/160.

PHRF 2 Doublehanded Division- Sweep!

Sailing the seven-boat PHRF 2 Doublehanded class were three J/Teams that swept the podium! Winning the division and PHRF Overall was Kevin Marks and John Fallon's J/99 VELOCITY 2, followed by Adam Zakka's J/99 WIZARD taking 2nd in division, and 2nd PHRF Overall! That was quite a remarkable performance by these two J/99 sisterships! Completing the sweep in third place was Adam Hayden's J/109 SMILE.

Here is the report from Kevin Marks from aboard his J/99 VELOCITY 2:

"During a winter Dyer Dhow frostbiting event, John Fallon and I agreed to enter the Storm Trysail Block Island Race as a double-handed entry aboard my J/99 VELOCITY 2.

The Block Island Race is the third major event in the Long Island Sound spring sailing calendar, and we had already participated in the American Yacht Club Spring Series (we were 1st in Class), and the EDLU (canceled due to no wind).

There was never a question of the suitability of the J/99 for this kind of racing. We were familiar with the general sailing area, participating in many Stamford YC Vineyard races. But instead, the physical and mental challenge of a double-handed entry caused the itch that needed scratching!

In the days preceding the Memorial Day weekend Block Island Race, the weather forecast was mixed, but leaning toward the lighter side. As a result, the Race Committee's final decision on game day to go with the shorter 116.0nm course vs. the full 186.0nm around Block Island was met with alternating appreciation and disappointment by various sailing teams.

Almost from the light wind condition start, the two J/99s (VELOCITY 2 and WIZARD) punched out from the other members of the double-handed fleet. With a heading of near due East, it was an A2 spinnaker reaching leg. A classic match race, streaky wind lines meant that VELOCITY 2 and WIZARD would consolidate and stretch multiple times. Finally, near sunset and with WIZARD hard on our heels, the wind backed, and we changed over to our Code 0. The combination of the early punch out and the benefit of the ebb tide enabled VELOCITY 2 to be the first vessel around the first mark in the entire fleet. The A2/Code 0 combo proved valuable to the race's east and west legs. We were able to keep our boat speed up while other boats in our class and the fleet stalled.

Nearing dawn, we found ourselves well ahead and about 4 miles from the CT shoreline and west of New Haven. With zero wind speed, only the last bit of the flood keeps us in positive VMG. Most of the fleet saw the dreaded Long Island Sound dead zone and sailed south with light pressure toward the Long Island shore. Would the CT shore northerly or the Long Island shore southerly prevail? We watched with envy as the southerly powered up the fleet behind us, before slowly making its way to us.

The final 35.0nm of the leg went quickly as a building breeze from the south took us to the turning mark off Stamford. Then, it was a quick sail change to the A2 (sail change number 235?), and the final rush to the finish.

VELOCITY 2 ended the race with line honors for our class and the best PHRF performance in the entire division. The J/99 WIZARD also had a great race, finishing second in class and second in the PHRF Overall.

For sailors who have enjoyed years of racing in all vessel types, double-handed can be a new format that provides fresh challenges and opportunities for success. And it all started during a Dyer Dhow winter frostbiting race in January!


  • Changing gears based on wind speed and direction is critical in distance racing. The cumulative effect of seconds per mile is everything.
  • In double-handed racing, the autopilot becomes a trusted crewperson. While not as effective in optimizing performance with variations in wind speed, for sail changes it becomes invaluable.
  • When it's light, variable, and patchy the most important question is "where will the new wind come from". VELOCITY 2 was lucky to have John Fallon onboard as co-pilot, Chief Naviguessor/wind prognosticator.

As a former J/80 and J/88 owner that enjoys a powered-up sailboat, I was initially skeptical of the J/99's ability to perform well in the light wind, and lumpy conditions of Long Island Sound. I was wrong. The J/99 is everything and more. Congratulations on a very well-executed design!"

ORC 7 Division- Sweep almost!
The nine-boat ORC 7 division was 90% J/crews! And, as a result, it nearly produced a clean sweep of the top five. Winning was Andrew Clark's J/122 ZIG ZAG, followed by Jim Phyfe's J/44 DIGGER in third, Steve Levy's J/121 EAGLE in fourth, and Ove Haxthausen's J/133 RUMBA in fifth place.

ORC 8 Division
In the seven-boat ORC 8 division, Len Sitar's beautiful navy-blue J/160 COUGAR managed to finish in fourth place.

PHRF 4 Division- Sweep!
The ten-boat PHRF 4 division saw a clean sweep of the podium. Leading all J/crews home was Maggie & Eric Deichmann's J/112E MISCHIEF, winning by just 2 min 30 sec corrected over William Ingraham's J/124 TENEBRAE. Taking the bronze was Richard West's J/120 CHARLOTTE.

PHRF 6 Division- Sweep!
As an all-J/Boats affair, undoubtedly the podium would become a sweep by default! Winning was Bill & Jackie Baxter's J/111 FIREBALL, with the King's Point Academy's J/44 COMET in second place, the John Storck family's J/130 BLITZEN in third position, and Pito Chickering's J/111 THE ROOST in fourth place.

More information here

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