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22 June 2005, 10:22 am
Round The Block
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Block Island Race Week 2005
Block Island, Rhode Island, USA

They say that going around 'the Block' is never the same experience twice. Yesterday's experience for over 1,000 sailors on 190 boats at the Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex was nothing short of remarkable.
A solid seabreeze built from ten to twelve knots at the start to a high end of 20 at the finish, and sunny, clear skies allowed the competitors a fabulous view of the island's bluffs and beaches and, conversely for the islanders watching from ashore, an even more fabulous view of the colourful fleet.

'You couldn't have asked for a better brochure day,' said the event's Chairman John FISHER. The 19 mile course was counterclockwise around the island and became a true test of navigation and wits as the boats crowded each other near the shore and around twelve government marks that kept them safe from natural obstructions. At the race's halfway point, the fleet was flying its spinnakers, speeding along past the Southeast Lighthouse, when Tom HILL's (PUR) Titan XII, the largest boat in the fleet at 75 feet, seemingly turned on a motor and gave new meaning to the word 'horizon job.' The yacht, which had started last with the other IRC Super Zero class entrants, powered through the fleet at 18 knots, threw in a showy jibe and made its way to windward to avoid barelling down on any smaller boats. By the time the rest of the fleet rounded the Block Island North Reef and made its way back upwind to the finish, Titan XII had long been finished. 'I wish I had been off the boat,' said Titan's captain Scott BRADFORD, 'so I could have seen us!'

For its performance today, Titan won the Island Sailing Club of Cowes Perpetual Trophy. It has been awarded since Race Week's inception in 1965 and commemorates the link to Cowes Week in Great Britain, which Block Island Race Week was originally fashioned after. This year, the trophy, along with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner timepiece, was awarded to the best overall IRC rated boat in the Around the Island Race.

Another great show was in the J/109 fleet, which is sailing its East Coast Championship with 16 boats in the class. Eventual class winner, Charlie MILLIGAN's (USA) Phoebe's Phling, rounded in first at the first mark of the course, having stayed into shore and out of the current, but the increasing breeze helped out the laggards from behind, and Phling lost her prime position. By the 1BI mark (at the tip of the Block Island North Reef), there were five boats from our class ahead of them. Crewman Billy BURKE (USA) commented, 'But the others went directly into the beach and we legged out a bit with a tack and then went to the beach. We climbed over the whole lot of them.' BURKE said that while going downwind in the brisk breezes there could have been carnage on their boat, but they averted disaster. 'It was tough. We got caught a couple of times and layed the boat over.' Tom BURROWS's (USA) Classmate Warrior ripped her spinnaker when Electra relentlessly forced her beyond her limit to windward. Incommunicado, in PHRF class 3, lost her mast.

In the Beneteau 36.7 class, M&M's added another bullet to her scoreline yesterday, as did Michael RAJACICH's (USA) Big Time in PHRF class 5 for a perfect record of four victories each.

'We had a fantastic day,' said Tom CASTIGLIONE (USA), main trimmer and tactician aboard Avalanche, which after posting a second in yesterday's race, is leading the Farr 395 fleet. 'The rounding at 1BI was a scene!,' said CASTIGLIONE. 'We were power reaching through a lot of boats. Our fleet stayed pretty tight around the island. Because of light air two years ago, we didn't sail the Around the Island Race and I really missed it. Windward/leeward courses are great, but this is a nice change. Winds, shore effect and current make it challenging. There's a lot to talk about under the tent tonight.'

The fleet will return to around-the-buoys racing today and conclude the event on Friday.

Barby MacGowan (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Titan XII:© Dan Nerney/Rolex
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