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20 June 2005, 10:10 am
Ready And Set For Racing
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Block Island Race Week 2005
Block Island, Rhode Island, USA

The population of Block Island, a tiny island ten miles off the coast of Rhode Island, USA, has swelled by over 2,000 sailors, while the island's marinas have filled with an additional 189 boats that have arrived to compete in a week of sailing that has repeated itself here biennially since 1965.
The Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race Week XXI presented by Rolex kicks off today, and the pre-event bustle is intense, matched only by an eagerness among the sailing world's brightest stars to get started.

'Surprisingly, it's my first time here, so I'm really excited' said Mark REYNOLDS (USA), the 2000 Olympic gold medallist in the Star, who is rejoining his 2002 Farr 40 World Champion team aboard Steve and Maxine PHILLIPS' (USA) Le Renard. The twelve Farr 40s entered comprise one of eight one-design classes that in total add 85 boats to the regatta mix. Ed ADAMS (USA), who in contrast to REYNOLDS, says he has 'lost count' of how many of these Block Island Race Weeks he has done, will call tactics aboard Fred and Steve HOWE's (USA) California entry Warpath. From Monaco comes Peter DE RIDDER's (NED) Mean Machine, with brothers Matt and Jeff REYNOLDS (USA) aboard. No relation to Mark REYNOLDS, the duo also was part of the Le Renard World Champion team. Also racing are John DEMOURKAS (USA), driving Groovederci with Canadian Olympic Star medallist, Ross MCDONALD aboard, and John THOMSON (USA), taking the helm of Solution with Tom WHIDDEN (USA) as tactician.

Almost equal in their percentages of fleet composition are four classes of IRC boats, totaling 50 boats, and five classes of PHRF boats with a total of 55 boats. IRC, a popular handicap rating method used worldwide, is making its debut at this race week, having recently been embraced by the Storm Trysail Club along with several other prominent yachts clubs and sailing organizations.

Among the IRC contenders sailing in the star-studded Super Zero class (for the event's largest yachts) are Tom HILL's Farr 60 Titan XII, Dan MYERS' Farr 60 Numbers, Edgar CATOS' Farr 60 Hissar, and David FORD's TP52 Lightwave.

Chris CANALES (USA) will take the helm of the U.S. Naval Academy's Farr 49 Hellcat in the next class down, the IRC Zero class, while the U.S. Coast Guard Academy will be represented by the Nelson/Marek 43 Agincourt in IRC One class and Gem in the Farr 40 class. Not to be outdone, the Merchant Marine Academy has entered both Nimbus and Columbia in the Farr 40 class.

Race Week veterans include, in IRC One class, Chuck TOWNSEND, sailing his IMX 40 T-Squared and Jim and Tom RICH (USA), sailing their custom 42 Settler; in IRC Zero class, Steve BENJAMIN (USA) aboard the ILC 40 High Noon; in IRC Two class, Morton WEINTRAUB (USA) aboard his Express 37 Troubador.

Block Island Race Week's best overall performer from 2004, Pretty Sketchy, skippered by Thomas ENRIGHT (USA), also has returned to sail in the largest class at the regatta, the J/105 class with 21 entrants. Along with the J/105s, three other J/boat classes (J/44, J/120, J/109) are competing. The J/109s are contesting their East Coast Championships here and are enjoying their largest-ever turnout for an East Coast event (16 boats). The event also serves as the Farr 395 North American Championship and the Beneteau New England Championship.

'It looks like we're going to have good conditions,' said Race Chairman John FISHER. 'Tomorrow we'll see the end of the northeasterlies and the beginning of southwesterlies [favorable winds that prevail in summertime].'

A combination of steady race management, heated competition in a variety of classes, and famously energetic post-racing 'tent' socials has contributed to this event's reputation as one of the most popular, eagerly awaited sailing race weeks in the country.

Four fleets will sail on four different courses, divided into Red, White, Blue and Green. The Red, White and Blue Fleets will race windward/leeward courses, sailing for class trophies and coveted Rolex watches given as prizes for the top performing yachts for the week on each course. For the Red, White & Blue fleets, a minimum of two races each day is planned for four of five race days (Monday through Friday 20-24 June). The Green Fleet will race around government marks and/or race committee marks, and one race a day is scheduled. Tuesday has been reserved for the traditional Round the Island Race, with the exciting new addition of a Rolex watch as prize for the winning IRC entry.

Event Media. Image, Pretty Sketchy sails to victory in 2003:© Tim Wilkes/Rolex
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