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10 May 2007, 10:53 am
Continuing Traditions, Raising the Bar, Giving Back To The Community
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Block Island Race Week 2007
Block Island, Rhode Island, USA

From 17-22 June 2007, the population of tiny Block Island will swell by over 2,000 sailors while marinas fill with an extra 200 plus boats when the Storm Trysail Club arrives to coordinate, for its 22nd time, Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex.
One of the most popular sailing weeks in America, the event has repeated itself here biennially since 1965, offering competitors impeccably managed competition on the water and famously friendly rivalry ashore. At press time, nearly half of the expected fleet had already signed up.

Traditions Extend Beyond Racing

Nelson WEIDERMANN (USA) has competed six times in the event with his best performance being a second in class. He skippers his J/105 Kima against other J/105s in the one-design division that was started for this class at the 1996 event.

'It is one of the bigger one-design classes,' said WEIDERMANN. 'There were more than 20 J/105s last time, and we expect that again.' WEIDERMANN sails with his two sons and friends whose families enjoy vacationing on Block Island. 'We rent a house and have the seven grandchildren here. We sail all day while the kids hit the beach; then we all have dinner together every night.

'Some of the J/105 sailors are dyed-in-the-wool, around-the-buoys sailors,' added WEIDERMANN, 'But over the years, we've come to really enjoy the race around the island, which challenges us with all its different currents and weather.'

According to Ed FREITAG (USA), who in 2005 missed a class victory by half a point in his Beneteau First 40.7 named DownTime, 'Block Island Race Week is most definitely right up there with the race week at Key West. This is our favourite regatta, however - a great venue, it's low key, and the Storm Trysail Club organizes everything beautifully.'

FREITAG, whose wife Molly works the pit with another Annapolis local Frieda WILDEY (USA), said his toughest competitors will come from Maryland and throughout New England. In fact, many of them are doing the Annapolis to Newport Race to get their boats to Rhode Island. Other Beneteaus are planning to race, like Jim CARKHUFF's (USA) Yard Dog, but there will likely not be a one-design class for the boats. Instead, FREITAG can look forward to racing handicap against CARKHUFF and others such as 2006 IRC East Coast champion Curt SCHWAB (USA) aboard his Beneteau 36.7 Volition and Erik WULFF (USA) aboard his Australian-designed 36-footer Endorphin.

'We will sail for the Rolex US-IRC National Championship because it is part of this,' said FREITAG, 'But our being there and winning our class is more important.'

Raising The Bar

This year, the event serves as the first-ever Rolex US-IRC National Championship for boats certified under IRC, a relatively new rule in the U.S. for handicapping race boats of different kinds so that they can compete on equal footing.

'Having the Nationals as part of Block Island Race Week proves that the IRC rating has come of age in the US,' said Steve DE VOE (USA), who will sail his Swan 45 Devocean in the event. 'Before, handicapping had driven a lot of sailors to a single-class boat, but the IRC, for us in our 45-foot boat, is very fair and encourages us to race handicap.' DE VOE and his group of a dozen 'hard-core amateurs' who have been sailing together since 2003 are typical of the teams that will be vying for the new national championship title. DE VOE's team finished second on corrected time at last year's American Yacht Club Annual Fall Regatta where races, 'were being won by margins of only 10-15 seconds.'

'I anticipate the same kind of close racing and a representative showing of good IRC boats in all classes,' said DE VOE.

Giving Back

In 2005, through contributions and a raffle, the event raised in excess of $18,000 for three charities: Block Island Rescue Squad, Block Island Maritime Institute, and Block Island Community Playground.

This year the raffle's grand prize again will be a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner timepiece with additional prizes supplied by Mt. Gay, Gill, Vineyard Vines, Heineken and other Block Island Race Week sponsors.

'For more than 40 years, Storm Trysail members, guest skippers, crews, and families have descended upon Block Island and, essentially, taken it over for an entire week,' said Storm Trysail Club Commodore John FISHER. 'Block Island, like many summer destinations, recognizes the importance of tourism to its local economy and embraces the economic contributions of Block Island Race Week, Conversely, we recognize the importance of Block Island to our club's heritage and want to give something back.'

Block Island Race Week Headquarters will be located at the Oar Restaurant in the Block Island Boat Basin on the shore of the Great Salt Pond, also known locally as New Harbour. It is there, under a giant event tent, that racing will be complemented by socializing each evening and Race Week sponsors will host displays and special events. Compliments of Rolex, daily video shows of each day's racing, produced by Annapolis-based T2Productions, will be shown and broadcast online each night by 21:00 on www.t2p.tv. Race Week sponsors are Rolex, Jeep, Mt. Gay, Caithness Energy, Vineyard Vines, Lewmar, B&G, Gill, Hall Spars, J Boats, the Rhode Island State Yachting Committee, Sailing World, UKHalsey Sailmakers, West Marine, Gowrie, Barden & Brett, Summit Performance Yachts, WindCheck Magazine, Sailing World, Heineken and Yellow Tail wine.

Barby MacGowan (As Amended by ISAF). Image, Action from Block Island in 2005:© Dan Nerney/Rolex
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