Glassy seas and fickle breezes made for hard luck stories on Block Island Sound yesterday for Day Four of the Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex.
Fluky winds killed any chance of racing for the big boat class, but three other classes sailed shortened courses in patchy variable conditions after a three-hour wait ashore in sunny, sweltering conditions with only a hint of a breeze. Racing in the 20th edition of the biennial regatta for ocean racers wraps up today.
For William BAXTER, Jr., owner and skipper of the Abbott 33 Pirate, from Cutchogue, NY., the race was a mixed blessing. Baxter's run of top-two finishes came to a screeching halt when he finished fifth. Pirate was holding second to Ed AUSTIN'S Chinook (J/30) halfway down the run to the finish of Race 6. Then the wind died, filled in from behind and brought the trailing boats up to the front. Nevertheless, Baxter defended his title won in 2001. With six races completed, Pirate leads second-placed Chinook by 8 points and cannot be beaten on Friday.
Baxter has attended every Block Island Race Week since 1967, on both even and odd-numbered years. He believes he's sailed more races off this idyllic island than anyone else. He rates local knowledge as one of the key factors to his success. "You have to have outstanding crew work,"
Baxter says. Baxter's crew is comprised of his wife, son, two daughters and tactician Larry SUTER, an Olympic coach.
In PHRF 87-120 the Navy midshipmen from Annapolis, Maryland, aboard Vigilant won again, logging their fourth consecutive victory and have the class locked up. Vigilant, co-skippered by Brooke Anderson and Chad Ingle, has the low score of 10 points. Anderson and Ingle have swapped turns each race helming and calling tactics. According to co-skipper Anderson, the key for the midshipmen yesterday was minimizing the maneuvers aboard the heavy displacement Navy 44 (31,000 pounds).
Class honours have yet to be settled in the J/105 class, but Dr. Thomas ENRIGHT'S Pretty Sketchy from Bristol, R.I. has a commanding lead. After winning yesterday's sixth race in the hotly contested 34-boat class, Pretty Sketchy has the low score of 28 points. Jim SORENSEN'S Wet Leopard is second with 44 points. As long as Enright finishes in the top 11 in Friday's race, he will win the class title.
Two other classes where the outcome has been decided are the 12-Meter Class where Edgar CATO'S Hissar from Charlotte, N.C., has six bullets for a perfect record, and Robert Towse's Blue Yankee, from Stamford, Conn., enjoys a commanding lead over her nearest competition.
The presenting sponsor for Block Island Race Week XX is Rolex Watch U.S.A., which will present Submariner timepieces to the skippers of the outstanding boats in the three biggest fleets. The three skippers will be those whose boats have displayed the outstanding performance in their fleet in the judgment of the race committee.