Stealing an analogy from the working world, today was "hump day" (Wednesday) for the 153 boats and 1500 sailors competing in the Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race Week XXIII presented by Rolex. After scores were turned in for two races in each of 16 IRC, PHRF and one-design classses and one race for a 17th Navigator's class, 153 teams could mark their fleet progress, or lack thereof, and plan their strategies for making the most of the precious two days remaining in this five-day competition.
Martha Parker works the bow on John Hele's (newport, RI) Swan 42 Daring
Act One, the King 40 owned by Charlie Milligan/Allan Stern/Tom Roche (Newport, R.I.), has been leading its IRC 40A class all week and still leads after today, but only by a slim margin due to finishes of 4-8 added to their score-line of 1-2-1-1 from the first two racing days. "The boat is wicked fast," said Act One's bow man Geordie Shaver (Newport, R.I.), "but we got out of touch a little with a few groups today and separated ourselves too much. We had a five-point lead going into today and now it's one (over the Mills 43 Cool Breeze sailed by John Cooper of Springfield, Mo.)" Shaver, far from dismayed, however, added in a spirited tone, "So maybe it will be mano a mano with Cool Breeze in a race-off on Friday!"
Dramatic wind shifts in today's 7-12 knot breezes also contributed to blips in Jeffery Willis' (Huntington, N.Y.) formerly flawless score line as leader of the J/44 One-Design class on Challenge IV. Today's positions of 2-3, added to four previous bullets, proved a point that Willis' son and tactician David, expressed: "We are not untouchable; nobody is in this class." The team leads James Bishop's (New York, N.Y./Jamestown, R.I.) Gold Digger by five points and third-place finisher Resolute, owned by Don and Rick Rave (Huntington Bay, N.Y.), by six. Aboard Resolute, which won both races today, the story was that light air played to their advantage. "They (Challenge IV) probably thought they had it in the bag until today," said Rick Rave, pointing proudly to his team's race scores that counted back 5-4-3-2 before today. His tactician Thom Haring (Huntington, N.Y.), who predicted more light winds for tomorrow, added: "We're an average of 40 pounds less per person than Challenger's crew, so these are our conditions. We're going to be like Tiger Woods coming back!"
Scott Dodge (Annapolis, Md.), crew aboard Rodrick Jabin's (Annapolis, Md.) Ramrod, which leads in the Farr 40 class, also used a golfing analogy: that tomorrow would be like the PGA's "moving day" where competitors try to set themselves up for the final push and either advance up the leaderboard by leaps and bounds or collapse under the pressure. "There is a tight group going for second place, so you would expect those guys to go after each other tomorrow," said Dodge, adding that with 12 points overall Ramrod is a fairly safe distance from Larry Bulman/Jeff Scholz's (Bethesda, Md.) Yellow Jacket, in second with 19 points. Yellow Jacket is separated, however, by only one and two points, respectively, from third-place finisher Nightshift and fourth-place Nimbus.
The NYYC Swan 42 class also has a clear leader and a tight race for second, although the contenders run deeper. Ken Colburn's (Dover, Mass.) Apparition has 19 points, with a whopping 19 point lead over Andrew Fisher's (Greenwich, Conn.) Bandit. After that only 7 points separate second through 10th place. According to Martha Parker (Newport, R.I.), the bow woman on fellow Newporter John Hele's Daring (currently in third overall), "It's a whole new regatta; everyone is starting at zero with the exception of Apparition."
Gary Jobson (Annapolis, Md.), co-owner of the NYYC Swan 42 Mustang, which suffered from a collision on Monday but is one of those still in the hunt with a ninth overall, added his thoughts on the atypical northeasterly that has prevailed here this week: "The combination of figuring out the current and the wind is tough. So what I'm coming away with is that you have to play for a good average because taking big chances can cost you."
Competing are four IRC classes (33 boats total) taking part in the 2009 US-IRC Gulf Stream Series. Forty PHRF boats are divided into five classes (one of those being "Navigator" for non-spinnaker), while making up the balance are eight One-Design classes (Beneteau 36.7, NYYC Swan 42, Farr 40, J/122, J/44, Farr 30,J/109, and J/105).
Compliments of Rolex, the T2P.tv coverage will be broadcast on-line each night by 9 p.m. on www.T2P.tv. Sponsors of Race Week are Rolex, Caithness Energy, Mount Gay, Lewmar, Bitter End Yacht Club, Gill, Gowrie Group, Hall Spars & Rigging, Heineken, ING Real Estate, Sailing World magazine, Summit Yachts, UK Halsey Sailmakers, WindCheck magazine, Yellow Tail, and Vineyard Vines.
For more information, visit www.blockislandraceweek.com