Must be Race Week

Fri, 06/25/2021 - 11:00am

Fog is no stranger at Race Week. In the third week of June (after weeks of glorious weather) the fog descends, prompting islanders to say: “It must be
Race Week.”
Storm Trysail Race Week is held every other year, with smaller regattas in the off-years. This year the race has returned to Champlin’s Marina, with
Margaritaville as a major sponsor, as its headquarters, where Race Week first began in 1965. After a year of no racing due to Covid, the race had 158 boats participating – the biggest fleet ever. The night before the racing was to begin, the weather looked promising for the Regatta Craft Mixers- sponsored around-the-island race, one of the favorite races of the week for participants and spectators that hope to get a glimpse of the colorful sails as the boats round the island below the bluffs and along the beaches.
On Monday morning though, it was “socked in” as they say but with the promise of burning off. At times the fog would lift – a bit – only to descend again moments later. Still, the parade of boats proceeded through the cut, out of the Great Salt Pond through the channel recently dredged by the US Army Corps of Engineers, with spectators lining the beach by the old Coast Guard Station.
The Block Island Times was on a support boat with Race Director Ray Redniss and others from the Race Committee.
Outside the channel, as we headed for the starting point, the fog was so thick little could be seen. Occasionally a boat would cut in front of, or beside us,
jockeying for position, only to disappear moments later. And then as the support boat pulled ahead in front of the racers, we were all alone – navigating the swells off Southwest Point and along the southern coast. There was no sight of shore and even three miles off the coast, right where the five turbines of the Block Island Wind Farm should have been, the towers and the blades were invisible.
The conversation in the boat was whether or not to cancel racing for the day, and only one of the three fleets – the Green Fleet, consisting of 52 boats in
the multihull and performance cruising class got off a race. The support boat had pulled ahead and waited offshore near BI1, the buoy at the northernmost point of the island. The fog had lifted enough to just make out the bluffs of Clayhead. And we waited for the racers.
Eventually what could have been sails appeared in the distance, a mirage in the miasma. Some of the boats could be seen on a computer screen, but not all of them were equipped with the particular technology and it was impossible for the race directors to know just how many were out there.
But as the fog again lifted just a little bit, there were more and more boats emerging, racing towards the green can that is BI1 with their jibs furled. As they neared, the jibs came down and the boats rounded the buoy, to head back to the west side of the island and the finish point.
Joe Brito’s J 121 Incognito won in the class of performance cruising 1 spin with a corrected time of two hours, 59 minutes and one second in southwesterly winds of 15 to 20 knots. Block Island sailors Robert “Red” Closter on Island Spirit, and Henry duPont on Rush, finished second and third, respectively in the performance cruising 3 spin category.
Back at Champlin’s Marina, the party had started early for those whose races were canceled. But it was with high hopes that they anticipated getting back out on the water the next day and for the rest of the week.