Margaritaville is Block Island Race Week
Legendary musician Jimmy Buffett made a surprise appearance at the final awards party for Block Island Race Week, presented by Margaritaville.
Buffett took the stage to address the huge gathering of sailors enjoying Margaritaville margaritas and LandShark lager and expressed total enthusiasm for the regatta his lifestyle company sponsored this year.
“I think Margaritaville is Block Island right now,” said Buffett, who performed an impromptu concert to cap off Margaritaville Race Day. “I always thought it would be kind of cool to have a regatta that was part of Margaritaville. Thank you Block Island for being the very first one.”
Buffett, performing solo, then launched into renditions of ‘Son of a Sailor’, ‘Margaritaville’ and ‘Five O’Clock Somewhere’ to the delight of the massive crowd jammed into the big top tent.
Several hours earlier, long before Buffett arrived on the island, Kevin McNeil sat on a bench at Payne’s Dock drinking a Mudslide from Mahogany Shoals. The Annapolis skipper was the very picture of exhaustion, relief and satisfaction all rolled into one.
McNeil and his team aboard Seabiscuit had just captured an incredibly competitive class by winning the eighth and final start at Block Island Race Week, presented by Margaritaville. HeadFirst3, a Canadian entry skippered by Peter Toombs, had given Seabiscuit all it could handle in PHRF 2.
Seabiscuit emerged victorious in the week-long battle between very evenly matched Farr 30-footers. McNeil steered the Annapolis entry to four bullets and a couple seconds in seven races for a low score of 19 points – two better than HeadFirst3.
“We’re very, very happy to come away with the win. The Canadian boat was really tough, very well sailed,” said McNeil, who was presented with the Isbrandtsen Overall Perpetual Trophy for “second-best performance” at Block Island Race Week. That award was established in 1975 and rededicated in 1991.
Bucket List Checked for many Newcomers
By Bill Wagner
Block Island Race Week has long been on the bucket list for Bill Zartler. The Houston, Texas resident registered for the biennial regatta in 2013, but could not get away from work and had to pull out.
This year, Zartler was not going to be denied and cleared the decks in order to compete at Block Island Race Week XXVIII, presented by Margaritaville.
“It’s a week-plus commitment, but I made time to do it,” Zartler said. “If you’re a serious sailor, this is just one of those regattas you have to experience.”
Schedule-wise, including Block Island Race Week in the season schedule worked well because Zartler was bringing the J/105 to the East Coast anyway for the multiple events. Deja Voodoo began by racing the Annapolis stop of the National Offshore One-Design (NOOD) series and later this summer will head to Marblehead, Massachusetts for another NOOD followed by the J/105 North Americans.
Zartler made it clear that Block Island Race Week is the highlight of this season.
“We’ve heard so much about how great this regatta is and I have to say it has lived up to the advanced billing,” Zartler said. “Block Island is kind of the summertime version of what Key West used to be.”
One thing Zartler and team learned quickly is the weather conditions off Block Island are much more unpredictable than Key West.
“We saw all three seasons yesterday,” he joked. “You definitely get a little bit of everything out here on this island.”
Deja Voodoo is one of many first-time entrants at Block Island Race Week 2019, presented by Margaritaville. According to records compiled by host Storm Trysail Club, almost 50 percent of the 122 boats competing here this week are newcomers.
“We are very pleased about the number of first timers. We think it points a brighter future for the event and a renaissance of folks bringing their boats back to the race course for competition and fun” regatta chairman Ed Cesare said.
Mount Gay Race 4 Recap
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.
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.”
Learning the Ropes
By Bill Wagner
For the Naval Academy varsity offshore sailing team, there has been no better training ground than Block Island Race Week.
Current head coach Jahn Tihansky said Navy has been sending its varsity offshore squad to this iconic regatta for decades and the experience gained has proven invaluable.
“This is the premier big boat regatta in the New England region and it takes place during the summer when we have a robust training program in place,” said Tihansky, in his 14th season as head coach. “Block Island is an extremely well-run regatta and features as reliable a breeze as you’ll find anyway so you’re always going to get high quality racing.”
Navy has two teams competing at Block Island Race Week 2019, presented by Margaritaville. Ranger and Zephyr, a pair of Farr 40-footers, are competing in PHRF 1 this week and entered Thursday’s action in second and third place, respectively.
“This is a very competitive setting and there are some great boats in our class. We’re gaining experience and learning something every day,” said Hayden Kuzemchak, skipper of Ranger.
Navy’s summer training program is primarily focused on offshore distance races such as Annapolis-to-Newport and Marion-to-Bermuda. Tihansky said an intensive week of round-the-buoys racing with a 20-nautical mile Around the Island Race added forces the midshipmen to expand their skill set.
“It is very challenging to race off Block Island. There are tricky currents to deal with along with fog and visibility issues,” he said. “This regatta will test the crew dynamics of each boat. You do two or three windward-leeward races over four days and you either refine your boat-handling or pay the price.”
Navy is not the only service academy sailing program participating in Block Island Race Week XXVIII. Hedgehog, a Melges 32, is being crewed by members of the Coast Guard sailing team led by skipper Ben Williamsz.
Two other training programs have followed the lead of those service academies by bringing boats to Block Island Race Week, presented by Margaritaville. MudRatz, a Connecticut-based program that introduces youngsters to big boat racing, has entered a Farr 40 in PHRF 1. Meanwhile, Oakcliff Sailing, headquartered in Oyster Bay, New York, has returned with a group of college-aged students aboard a Ker 50 owned by Arthur Santry.
MudRatz has a crew of eight youth and collegiate sailors ranging in age from 16 to 22 aboard Summer School. There are three adult coaches providing direction and serving as safety officers. Sarah Wilkinson, a 22-year-old College of Charleston sailor, steered on Monday when Storm Trysail Club held three races.