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Sail Scene

Block Island Race delivers challenging conditions

In order to take advantage of the northerly direction of the wind, the Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race was run counter-clockwise around Block Island for

the first time in decades. However, according to overall IRC and IRC Super Zero class winner Roger Sturgeon of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., having to leave Block Island to port rather than starboard wasn’t the only atypical thing about the race.

“As far as I can figure, nothing is typical here,” he says, explaining that this was his team’s first time sailing on Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound. “We’ve done a lot of sailing on San FranciscoBay, where the tricky currents might compare, but the wind changes here are way more complicated.”

The 186-nautical mile race, in its 63rd running, began May 23 and sent Sturgeon’s STP65 Rosebud/Team DYT and 108 other IRC- and PHRF-rated boats on a course from Stamford, Conn., down Long Island Sound, around Block Island and back. A Northwest breeze of 16-18 knots got the boats off to a quick downwind start and stayed consistent until the fleet got to Plum Gut.

“On the way out through the Gut the wind was tricky, and coming back through it upwind, it threw everything at us, including 20-30 degree shifts,” says Sturgeon, who finished the race at 12:40 a.m. May 25 after sailing a little more than 18 hours.

Given that Rosebud/Team DYT didn’t have the benefit of local knowledge, keeping Bob and Farley Towse’s Reichel Pugh 66 Blue Yankee of Stamford, Conn., in its sights “helped us around the course,” says Sturgeon, explaining that Blue Yankee wound up second. “It was back and forth with Blue Yankee, and then we leapfrogged them.” Sturgeon was proud to win his first Storm Trysail-organized race, since the club was instrumental in the development of the STP65 class, and Rosebud was the first STP65 launched.

George David’s 90-foot Reichel/Pugh-designed Rambler, which last year won IRC overall and in Super Zero class, took line honors, finishing in a little more than 17 hours.

According to chairman Ray Redniss, the boats finished in a strong northerly. “There was some dropping out of the breeze along the way, but we were done with all finishers by 5:30 a.m. Sunday [May 25] when usually we’re done around noon,” Redniss says. “It was chilly, but crystal clear and a pretty ride.”

Hiroshi Nakajima’s Swan 43 Hiro Maru (Stamford, Conn.) turned in the best corrected and elapsed time for the PHRF fleet. “We were lucky all the way around,” says Nakajima, who has “lost count” of how many times he has competed in this race, but is happy to finally win after entering his own boat six times.

Best performance by a double-handed boat went to Peter Rugg’s J/105 JADED from New York, N.Y.

Other trophy winners were Rives Potts’ McCurdy & Rhodes 48 Carina for “best corrected time in IRC below 1.08 rating” and “best performance by a vintage yacht;” the Storm Trysail Club for “best team race performance” (Lora Ann, Vamp and Christopher Dragon); and Tom Carroll’s J/133 SirenSong of New York, N.Y., for the best combined IRC scores in the Edlu and Block Island Races, awarded as The Tuna Trophy.

Stonington to Boothbay: new race debuts

In 1979, the Annapolis to Bermuda race had its first start. Now, almost 30 years later, The Corinthians Association, in cooperation with the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club and the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club, has created a natural rounding-out of the North Atlantic ocean racing scene with a new event.

First gun for the Corinthians Stonington to Boothbay Harbor Race will be 11 a.m. July 27 off Stonington, Conn. Competitors will round the Nantucket Shoals buoys and finish at Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The course length is 332 nautical miles and will be a “navigator’s race,” with a choice of passing to the north or south of Block Island, and a similar decision with regard to Squirrel Island near the finish.

Organizers say the race will be held every two years, in even years, and will appeal to those who also do the Marion-Bermuda Race, or wish to prepare for it, as well as yachts returning from the Newport Bermuda Race who wish to cruise to Maine in August.

Billed as a race with a wonderful “vacation destination,” the finish is also convenient for crew transfer. Already being touted as the “Lobster Run,” the event will feature pre-race and post-race dinners and parties, complements of the race’s main sponsor, Gosling’s Rum.

Each yacht will carry a transponder that will allow position reporting that can be followed at iBoat Online registration will be available at

Ambrose Light to The Lizard in record time

British sailor Mike Slade and his crew eclipsed the famed trans-Atlantic speed record for a monohull maxi yacht June 3, according to the team. Slade managed to shave eight hours off the previous record held by the 246-foot yacht Phocea.

Slade and the crew of the 100-foot Farr-designed super-maxi yacht named Leopard finished the 2,925-nautical mile course from Ambrose Light, off New York City, to Cornwall, England’s Lizard Point in seven days, 19 hours and 21 minutes. Phocea finished in eight days, three hours and 29 minutes and has held the monohull record since July 1988.

This is the second world record Leopard has achieved in the last two years, the first being the Rolex Fastnet Race Record completed in nine hours.

Leopard crossed the Atlantic at an average speed of 15.5 knots and a top speed of 37.4 knots, according to the team’s press release. But it was no easy ride. Since Slade’s May 27 departure, he negotiated icebergs, freezing temperatures, sleeping whales and a collision with a large sunfish.

“Having only had a three-day weather window in New York during which to leave, the weather gods have been kind,” Slade wrote on his Web site. “We always knew it would be close, but that is the beauty of yacht racing, as you rely entirely on forces beyond your control to get you there.”

—Elizabeth Ellis

Boston named Volvo Ocean Race stopover

The Volvo Ocean Race recently confirmed Fan Pier in Boston as the sole North American stopover when the race visits the United States in April 2009.

Spanning some 37,000 nautical miles, stopping in 11 ports around the world and taking nine months to complete, the Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s premier global race for professional racing crews.

The entire stopover facility, including berthing for the seven-boat fleet, race village, entertainment complex and haul-out area will be accommodated on a five-acre Volvo Ocean Race zone within the development site.

Two weeks of festivals and local events are planned for May 2009 to celebrate the arrival and departure of the Volvo Ocean Race, Boston’s maritime history and the sport of sailing.

American Olympian tops European field

Anna Tunnicliffe sailed a stellar week at the ISAF Grade 1 Delta Lloyd Regatta held May 21-28 in Medemblik, Holland. Going into the medal race, Tunnicliffe knew she was guaranteed gold or silver; all she had to do was stay no farther than five boats behind her closest competition, Gintare Volungeviciute of Lithuania.

By finishing five boats ahead of Volungeviciute, Tunnicliffe clinched her gold medal and won the 71-boat fleet by 21 points. Rounding out the top three was Italian Larissa Nevierov, who sat 43 points behind Tunnicliffe on the final scoreboard.

Over the course of the chilly week, the winds and chop grew, causing sailors like Croatian Tina Mihelic, who had posted a scoreline of 2-1-1 on the second day, to fall back into the teens in the overall standings. Meanwhile, Tunnicliffe remained strong and extended her lead as the conditions changed.

Tunnicliffe finished the regatta with six bullets out of 14 races, while the second-place finisher only managed two race wins. The event provided for one “throwout,” meaning every competitor’s worst score was dropped. Tunnicliffe’s worst score was better than that of every other racer on the Laser Radial course.