A sailor’s life

Fri, 06/25/2021 - 10:15am

When I came bashing back into Newport Harbor from a couple of days of sailing a few weeks ago, I noticed a bunch of racing sailboats that weren’t in town the day I left. Because of the past year of Covid protocols and constant uncertainty, I couldn’t figure out if these boats were coming from a race or going to a race. I soon found out when I went ashore that these various racing sleds had just finished the Annapolis to Newport Race. I saw at least thirty boats docked around the harbor from the race and noticed their crews as they roamed Bannister’s Wharf and Thames Street restaurants and marinas were full to capacity. Moreover, this crowd of sailors hinted at the upcoming season of lifted Covid restrictions and a return to a semblance of normalcy in and around Newport Harbor, The Vineyard, Nantucket, and Block Island. Later in the day I was informed by the Newport Harbor Master, Steve Land, that this year’s season will be extremely busy as per the pent up demand to be outside and engaged in maritime and other coastal activities. Moreover, as goes Newport so goes Block Island. That day the word around the docks in Newport was that the Storm Trysail Race Week would be held on Block Island
this 21 June. I did hear some chatter earlier in May that there would be a limited racing series; however, that would not be the case. Race Week on Block Island will be a great week of racing with many boats. I recently heard on 6/20/21 from a Race Committee member that there will be 160 boats competing. The way things have been the past year, we’ve all been in a wait and see mindset, and there has been much hearsay in regards to many social and athletic events.
While working in the Standby Lot 6/13/21, I met a sailor named Tom Hansen who was the first concrete sign that Race Week was returning in earnest to Block Island this year, where boats will race, drinks will be hoisted, and as in 2019, singer Jimmy Buffett may do a pop-in visit and sing a few. Like the last Storm Trysail Race, in 2019, Margaritaville will host the festivities which after the past year should lend itself to a hell of a party. Furthermore, for racing sailors it can’t get any more normal than this. It’s a solid gang of serious competitors who also enjoy a good party. In 2019, 150 boats were registered to race in contrast to this year’s 160. Indeed, these numbers are indicative of the aforementioned return to a semblance of normalcy. This year’s racing is sure to be intense and fun. While waiting for his SUV and boat to be called by the Mate for the rig to be loaded, Tom Hansen and I discussed sailing and racing. Tom runs a charity called Sail Last Inc. which helps get kids, teens, adults and non-sailors involved in sailing and racing. It’s a program that fosters the STEM protocols: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and is designed to make sailing a fun and informative learning platform. (For more intel, Google Sail Last Inc.) Hansen is a very bright and personable guy who has a supportive wife and two kids who are all right on point with their dad’s mission to ratchet up enthusiasm for sailing and all of its ancillary intellectual, psychological and physical benefits. Hansen’s career involved work involving cybersecurity where he was part of the modernization of the Pentagon, Marine Corps and Army, and Navy installations. He studied at UCONN
and currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sailing alumni from UCONN were the founding members of Sail Last Inc. As we talked about his charity, he cited an example of something that happened in 2019 at the Storm Trysail Race.
Tom and his crew of 11 were racing in the cruising class – non-spinnaker – on a Taylor 42 called Africa. His story had me shaking my head and giggling. Here’s what happened. After working through some engine and halyard issues when the boat got to Block Island, the team of sailors went on to win First Place Overall in a pursuit race in the cruising class. But, here’s what really had me giggling. Tom Hansen’s crew consisted of children and adults between eight and 75, and the crew members were from America, Denmark, Argentina and Colombia; here’s the best part, there were four crew members who
let alone, had ever been on a sailboat, never mind having ever raced aboard one. Tom Hansen sailed as Bosun and was in charge of his sailor’s performance, wellbeing, and the boat’s equipment. “I was hoping for maybe a second place,” he said. “It was surreal.” Jimmy Buffett presented Tom and his team with their trophy at the awards ceremony and without question left a powerful memory for all of the crew of Africa.
Tom told me this year, his team is upping their game and racing a 30-foot Henderson, which is a very challenging and very physical boat to sail. “We’re
coming back to race in a competitive boat and hopefully win some races,” he said. By the way the name of the Henderson 30 is, Double Down. Tom Hansen is a man who knows what goes into racing a sailboat. He knows that sailing can enhance a person’s life regardless of their age, and expand
personal growth and opportunity. Most important, he knows that racing a sailboat can be memorable and lots of fun. Finally, to windward for all of the Storm Trysail Sailors and especially the intrepid crew of Double Down.