Sail Scene New England March 2007

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New Englanders among Athletes of the Year

US Sailing selected five athletes as sailing’s 2006 U.S. Olympic Committee Athletes of the Year for outstanding performance and achievement.

Star sailor Mark Mendelblatt of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Laser Radial sailor Paige Railey of Clearwater, Fla., were named SportsMan and SportsWoman of the Year, respectively. The Star team of Andy Horton of Newport, R.I., and Brad Nichol of Lake Sunapee, N.H., is the Team of the Year; and Sonar sailor Rick Doerr of Clifton, N.J., is the Paralympic of the Year.

US Sailing also nominated these sailors to the USOC for consideration for the overall USOC Athletes of the Year Awards. The USOC will select the award winners from the Athletes of the Year recognized by each Olympic sport’s national governing body.

Mendelblatt burst into Olympic contention this year after winning a gold medal with crew Mark Strube in a 93-boat fleet at the 2006 Star European Championship, part of Rolex Baltic Week in Neustadt, Germany. They scored three consecutive bullets in the first three races and finished with only 10 points. Mendelblatt and Strube won another gold medal in a fleet of 49 Star boats at Kiel Week in Kiel, Germany and finished second in a 70-boat fleet at the Star Eastern Hemisphere Championships in Naples, Italy.

At age 19, Railey has celebrated an impressive string of victories this year, including a gold medal in a fleet of 34 boats at the Qingdao International Regatta, the first of two Olympic test events in China. Railey also won gold medals at the Semaine Olympique Francaise in Hyères, France, and at the ISAF World Sailing Games in Austria. At the Laser Radial North American Championship in Florida, Railey won the 18-boat fleet by 33 points after finishing with a perfect 9-point score. Railey also won the gold medal in a fleet of 94 boats at the Laser Midwinters East Regatta in Florida. In addition, Railey won silver medals at U.S. Sailing’s Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta and Olympic Pre-Trials in Newport, R.I.

Ranked number one on the U.S. Sailing Team in the Star class, Horton and Nichol have consistently achieved podium finishes in 2006. They dominated the Star class and won a gold medal at the Qingdao International Regatta. They also won a silver medal in a fleet of 67 Star boats at US Sailing’s Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta and a bronze in a 93-boat fleet at the 2006 Star European Championship. The team came in fourth place in a fleet of 66 boats at the Star World Championship in San Francisco, Calif., and fourth place in a fleet of 14 boats at the Holland Regatta in Medemblik, the Netherlands. They also came in eighth place in an aggressive 80-boat fleet at the Star North American Championship in Miami.

Ranked No. 1 in the Sonar class on the U.S. Disabled Sailing Team, skipper Rick Doerr has had strong results in both Disabled and Open events with a variety of crew in 2006. At US Sailing’s Paralympic Pre-Trials in Newport, R.I., Doerr, along with crew Timothy Angle and Bill Donahue, dominated the four-boat Sonar fleet with six wins in seven races. Doerr, with crew Angle and Donahue, again secured the gold medal among strong international Paralympic contenders at the Clagett Regatta in Newport, R.I., after winning four bullets in five races among an eight-boat fleet. At the America’s Disabled-Open Midwinter Regatta in St. Petersburg, Fla., Doerr dominated the seven-boat Sonar fleet and won the gold with Angle and Brian Tabler. Doerr continued his gold medal streak when he won — with crew Peter Wilson, Angle and Britt Hall — the Sonar Long Island Sound Championship, an Open regatta in Noroton, Conn., which attracted 21 boats.

Block Island Race Week to pull double duty

The Storm Trysail Club’s biennial Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex is set for its 22nd running from June 17 to 22. The event, which traditionally offers five days of both handicap and one-design racing, will attract extra attention this time around when it doubles as the debut of the Rolex US-IRC National Championship.

“2005 was the first time Block Island Race Week hosted divisions sailing under IRC, which over the last few years has gained consensus as a replacement for IMS,” says STC Commodore Rich du Moulin of Larchmont, N.Y. “It made sense to use Block Island Race Week XXII as a platform for the nationals, especially since Rolex has stepped up to sponsor the IRC rule nationally and the Storm Trysail Club’s Chesapeake Station has hosted the IRC East Coast Championships for two years running.”

Du Moulin explained that the Rolex US-IRC National Championship targets boats with a PHRF handicap faster than 90.

“Those boats will need to obtain an IRC rating and sail in IRC, while boats with PHRF handicaps of 90 or slower will have a choice of sailing either PHRF or IRC,” said du Moulin. “However, any boat with a valid IRC certificate — even if it is entered in PHRF or one-design divisions — qualifies for IRC overall fleet trophies for first, second and third in the around-the-island races, of which we hope to run two in 2007.”

These multidimensional offerings, according to Block Island Race Week’s 2007 Chairman Jim Bishop of Jamestown, R.I., are a natural progression of the racing sailors have come to expect at Block Island. Bishop, himself an overall and class winner at Block Island, has owned and sailed a J/44 for 16 years and is a proponent of keeping sailing affordable and fun.

“You’ll have the high-end, purpose-built IRC boats at Block Island Race Week,” said Bishop, “but you’ll also see the one-design and PHRF sailors there having a blast, enjoying outstanding competition.”

All told, more than 200 boats and 1,000 sailors are expected to converge — as they have in odd-numbered years for over four decades — on the tiny land mass located about 12 miles southeast of Rhode Island. The racing format for the week allows for three fleets on three different racecourses. Sailors will be gunning for individual class trophies, with fleets vying for Rolex watches as overall prizes for the top-performing yachts. The traditional around-the-island distance race — with an option for a second distance race — also will be included.

For those with endorsed IRC ratings, the Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race Week XXII presented by Rolex is a qualifier for the US-IRC Gulf Stream Series. www.blockislandraceweek.com

New England boat takes honors in Caribbean 1500

The 17th annual Caribbean 1500 drew a record of 74 boats from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Taking line honors was Gill Smith’s Joy for All of Glastonbury, Conn. The Farr 50 sloop completed the 1,500-mile passage in 7 days, 14 hours, 22 minutes. Overall Handicap and Class 5 winner was Hi Yo Silver, a Pacific Seacraft 40 sailed by Ray Dionne, Baltimore, Md.

The record-size fleet of offshore sailboats gathered in Hampton, Va., for the rally to Tortola, British Virgin Islands. The fleet was headquartered at Bluewater Yachting Center, where inspections, briefings and nightly parties preceded the departure. The group included 19 veterans and 55 first-time participants in boats ranging from 28 to 62 feet. Following a two-day weather delay, the boats set sail for Tortola in the British Virgin Islands on Nov. 7.

A foggy, light-ir start turned to brisk winds following the Gulf Stream crossing, and was then followed by nearly two weeks of light shifty winds with more than its share of southeasterlies. Fuel management was an issue for nearly everyone and the radio chats often revealed the fickle nature of the winds with boats near each other reporting winds of widely differing strength and directions.

The professional weather routers at Commanders’ Weather issued a forecast each morning throughout the trip and daily positions were reported on the events Web site. All received a warm welcome at Village Cay Marina in Road Town, Tortola, where Mount Gay Rum hosted nightly awards parties for the sailors.

A return rally, the Atlantic Cup is planned for May 3 and a rally to Bermuda will take place June 20. For information on future rallies and seminars, visit www.carib1500.com .