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Epic Block Island Race Week

by J/Boats 26 Jun 13:34 BST June 19-23, 2023
Block Island Race Week 2023 © Stephen R Cloutier

It was truly a wonderful "block party" for 2023! And, especially a "block party" for all the awards garnered by J/crews during the week.

Of the 172 sailing teams participating for the week, 92 were J/Boats teams, over half the regatta! Unbridled passion for sailing... that is J/Boats sailors around the world!

From June 19th to 23rd, it was great racing in postcard-perfect sailing conditions for the first three days of competition. The Wednesday Round Island Race was epic, 10 to 17 kts from the ENE with the fleet going counter-clockwise around the 18.2nm course. Thursday became a "lay day" due to the huge waves and ESE 20-30 kts winds. Then, Friday showed promise and was partly sunny and nice, but the promised sea breeze south easterlies never materialized. Nevertheless, it was epic racing for the one-design classes of J/80s, J/88s, J/105s, J/109s, and J/44s as well as for the offshore ORC and PHRF handicap classes.

J/109 North Americans

Thirteen J/109s pointed their bows across the starting line on Monday, fighting for 2023 J/109 North American Championship honors during Block Island Race Week! Many of the usual suspects and veterans were in attendance. In the end, John Greifzu's GROWTH SPURT team started their first day with a 1-2-3 tally and never looked back. They ended up winning with 21 pts total. The balance of the podium turned into the proverbial dogfight between Dan Nash's MISTRAL and the Group W team in GOSSIP. Both teams won two races and had somewhat roller-coaster scorelines; MISTRAL with a 5-1-1-2-7-6-4 and GOSSIP with a 4-3-5-1-6-7-1. Count them all up and MISTRAL takes the silver with 26 pts versus GOSSIP's 27 pts to have to settle for the bronze medal.

The balance of the top five included Bud Rogers' BIG BOAT in fourth place and Chris Ercole's SWEET CAROLINE in fifth place.

J/88 East Coasts

The six J/88s were competing for the 2023 East Coast Championship over the five days of racing. Much to the surprise of the fleet, it was a Lake Ontario team from Rochester, New York that simply sailed off into the sunset collecting all the silverware they could handle! Winning daily awards all three days and being crowned the J/88 East Coast Champion was Dave Tufts' crew on GAUCHO. Counting ONLY podium finishes in their 11 pts total with finishes of 3-1-1-1-1-2-2! Class veteran and top woman help Iris Vogel might have been a wee bit shell-shocked by GAUCHO's performance, being a J/88 North American Champion herself. Nevertheless, she hung on strong and Iris's DEVIATION team compiled a 1-2-2-2-3-3-4 for 17 pts to easily take the silver medal. Behind her, taking the bronze medal, was Dave Dennison's PIRANHA with a 4-6-4-3-2-1-3 tally for 23 pts.

J/105 East Coasts

With 25 teams participating and by far the largest fleet/class at Block Island, it was the hotly competitive J/105 class that also produced the most startling, and perhaps shocking, performance for any class at Block Island Race Week. Who would ever guess that a bunch of characters from Lakewood Yacht Club in Houston, Texas would decimate a J/105 fleet loaded with talent, including several North American Champions? That was, indeed, what happened over the first three days. Winning with six bullets and a third for 9 pts total was Bill Zartler's happy-go-lucky crew on DEJA VOODOO. Some J/105 sailors in the party tent commented they must've been practicing some kinda voodoo! LOL! Kudos to Bill and his team!

Past J/105 North American Champion and Block Island Race Week Champion (3x each!)- Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault- were sailing ARBITRAGE@TRIFECTA. Normally accustomed to being at the top of the leaderboard, their less-than-ordinary first-day performance (6-4-2) didn't improve much over the next four races. Compiling a 6-4-2-3-7-3-2 for 27 pts was still good enough to earn them the silver medal! Rounding out the podium with the bronze medal was Kristen Robinson's VELVET HAMMER team from Annapolis Yacht Club in Annapolis, MD. Her team stayed consistent and avoided bad races, posting a 2-7-4-12-5-5-3 tally for 38 pts total.

J/44 Class

The J/44 one-design class may have had the most extreme "schooling" ever in the history of the class. With several past J/44 class champions participating, it's unlikely anyone has ever been witness to or experienced the complete domination by any one boat in a regatta. Nevertheless, like some other Texas teams at Block Island, Chris Lewis's KENAI crew from Austin Yacht Club won with seven straight bullets. Ouch!

Aside from KENAI's performance, the fascinating part for the 44 class was to witness the continued ascendancy of two women guiding their J/44 PALANTIR 5 to victory or podium finishes in recent times. June & Amanda Kendrick, owners of PALANTIR 5, should be justifiably proud of their amazing accomplishment to earn the silver medal, garnering four 2nds in their performance for 19 pts total. Past J/44 North American Champion and Block Island Race Week Champion Bill Ketcham and his crew on MAXINE fought hard to get the final bronze medal step on the podium. MAXINE's mission at Block Island was not as smooth as their past performances, posting a 2-5-5-3-3-2-4 for 24 pts.

J/80 Class

For the first time in years, the J/80 class had a one-design fleet at Block Island. The great news is that everyone can honestly say the sailing was "awesome" and the Round Island Race was "insane" and "very fast"! All great news for J/80 sailors that love sailing their boats offshore. In the end, it was JR Maxwell's SCAMP that took class honors winning five of the races. The battle for the next two steps on the podium ended up being a four-way battle in all seven races. The regatta's outcome hung on the balance of the final race. Steven Parks' VORPAL got a 5-DSQ in his last two races to drop to the bottom of the heap after vying for class honors. THE PARTY TREE RACING team hung tough and squeaked out a silver medal by a single point over Don Suter's HOKUS POKUS. Then, the most disappointed team may have been Brian Gibbs' crew from Jubilee Yacht Club sailing on BLIND FAITH. After a disastrous first day 4-DNS-DNS, they came roaring back to take four straight 2nd places to miss the podium by a single point!

PHRF 2 Division

Sailing well in the nine-boat PHRF 2 division was George Harrington's J/112E #BIGSANDWICH, taking the silver medal. Then, finishing fourth was Keith Amirault's J/130 DRAGONFLY.

PHRF 4 Division

Traditionally a division that has been dominated by J/29s over the years, the nine-boat division was subjected yet again to a J/29 dominating the fleet. This time it was Jack McGuire's J/29 DIRTY HARRY winning with 19 pts, not having sailed the last race! Fifth place went to Steve Thurston's J/29 MIGHTY PUFFIN.

ORC 3 Division

In the ORC 3 division of fourteen boats, it was Robin Team's famous J/122 TEAMWORK, sailing with a family crew, that completely dominated a very talented class of offshore racers. Winning four races, the TEAMWORK team won with just 16 pts total. Taking third was Andrew & Sedge Ward's J/11 BRAVO team with Bill Hardesty as tactician, just a half point from taking the silver. Fourth place went to Bill & Jackie Baxter's J/111 FIREBALL, then the sixth place went to Al Minella's J/112E THE ROCC.

Performance Cruising Divisions

The format that has grown most spectacularly since the last race week is the one-race-per-day PHRF fleet using a combination of government marks and orange race marks. Starting later and finishing earlier than the "windward-leeward" 3 race per day course racers, this laid-back division embodies the spirit of Block Island- that Jimmy Buffet vibe of "Margaritaville"!

PHRF PC1 Division

This huge 13-boat division was laden with talented teams, ten of which were J/Boats! In the end, it all came down to the Round Island Race to determine the outcome of this fleet. Taking the silver was Abhijeet Leie's J/111 VARUNA, followed by Doug Curtiss's J/111 WICKED 2.0 in the bronze medal position. The balance of the top five included Erik Asgeirsson's J/45 ACADIA in fourth place and Joe Brito's J/121 INCOGNITO in fifth place. Ironically, both ACADIA and INCOGNITO suffered hugely bad races in their otherwise strong scorelines that all pointed towards podium finishes or outright winning the division. In the J/45 ACADIA's case, they had a 1-4-1-11 tally, the shocker being their Round Island Race 11th. In the J/121 INCOGNITO's case, their first race 12th was a disaster, followed by a 1-2-6! "Next time", as they say for these two generally very well-sailed boats.

PHRF PC2 Division

This huge 15-boat division saw a clean sweep by three J/Teams! Winning on a tiebreaker at 13 pts each was Jeff Johnstone's J/99 UPBEAT over Bill Klein's J/120 SPECK. Then, just two points back taking the bronze medal was Rick Hanson's J/120 NO SURRENDER.

PHRF PC3 Division

This large division of 14 boats enjoyed sailing the PHRF pursuit race format, where the slowest boat starts first, and all others chase them down based on their start times. In the end, it was Brandon Flack's J/105 MAD BLUE/ MUDRATZ Youth Offshore sailing team that won. Fourth went to TJ Buckley & Paul von Maffei on their J/105 SNOWBIRD.

PHRF PC4 Non-Spin

This 11-boat division is all white sails and in the pursuit race format, too. Andrew Genser's J/112E MACCABI got onto the podium in third place, followed by Peter Hilgendorff's J/29 MEDDLER in fourth place.

More information at

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