By Bill Wagner
For some competitors, just getting to the starting line can be the greatest challenge of Block Island Race Week, presented by Margaritaville.
Just ask Timothy Lyons, whose routine boat delivery from Annapolis almost turned disastrous.
Or Ted Ruegg, whose best-laid plans went astray when the boat he planned to sail never got delivered to the United States.
In both cases, it took some creativity and ingenuity to rectify the situation, but both skippers managed to make Race 1 on Monday.
Lyons brought his trimaran Triple Threat to Block Island Race Week XXVIII in 2017 and had no problems. A repeat run last week did not work out so well. Triple Threat sailed up the Chesapeake Bay then motored through the C&D Canal before literally running into a crisis.
Lyons was sleeping in a forward berth around 4:30 a.m. last Thursday when he was jolted awake by a thunderous collision. It was so loud, so hard and so violent the Annapolis resident was certain his Corsair 43 had crashed into another vessel or possibly rammed a submerged shipping container.
Lyons scrambled onto deck just in time to see a buoy pop up behind the boat.
Lyons on the bow in Block Island after racing on Day 1 (Photo: Bill Wagner)
It turns out Triple Threat smashed into an unlit buoy that is used to mark an anchorage area for freighters entering or exiting the C&D Canal. Lyons said that relatively new buoy is not shown on the two-year-old paper charts he had aboard, but it is properly marked in that exact location on updated charts that can be viewed electronically.
The sizable buoy struck the trimaran between the main hull and the left outrigger hull (or ama in Polynesian). Fortunately, the buoy was bottom-heavy and therefore got knocked over by Triple Threat and went underneath the boat before bouncing back upright after clearing the stern.
“We were very fortunate the buoy hit the strongest part of the boat,” Lyons said in retrospect.
However, at the time of the collision Lyons had no idea what damage had been inflicted and feared the worst. “I was thinking sinking, abandoning ship and a salvage operation,” he said.
After making sure his crew was safely aboard and uninjured, Lyons set about assessing the damage. By now, daylight had broken and the sun had started to come up – albeit a half hour or so too late to prevent the unfortunate incident.
Most obvious was the severe damage to the bow sprit, as the stays had been ripped away and the mounts were sheared off. Of greater concern was whether the trimaran had been punctured and was taking on water.
A thorough inspection found no water in the main hull or the port ama. Lyons could easily see some cosmetic damage to the port ama, mostly a bunch of yellow paint that had come off the buoy of that color.
Triple Threat’s crossbar that is so vital to a trimaran’s structural integrity had absorbed a hard blow and that soon became the immediate concern of the crew. Lyons peeled away the paint in the damaged area in order to look at the carbon interior and was pleased with what he found.
“I needed to make sure there wasn’t structural damage to the cross beam because that would have been a major problem that would have taken considerable time to address,” he said.
Triple Threat sailed down the Delaware Bay then limped into Cape May to begin the attempt to salvage the voyage to Block Island. Lyons removed the two mounts for the bow sprit and shipped them by Federal Express to Annapolis Rigging. He called Jay Herman, owner of Annapolis Rigging, and explained that parts for the bow sprit stay would also be needed.
Herman had custom-designed and built the original bow sprit mounts for Triple Threat and therefore knew exactly how to repair them properly. He had the work completed in time to hand off to crew members that were leaving Annapolis on Saturday morning to drive to Block Island.
“Once we knew the mounts had been repaired and were on the way, we left Cape May and continued here,” said Lyons, who was forced to sail without a spinnaker because of the broken bow sprit. “If Jay had not been able to repair the mounts so quickly, we would have just stayed in Cape May and partied then headed back home.”
Lyons and crew re-installed the bow spirt on Saturday afternoon at the dock of Champlin’s Marina. They took Triple Threat out Sunday for the practice race and set the asymmetrical spinnaker in heavy air to load up the rig and make sure the whole structure was sound.
“After what we’ve been through the past few days, we’re very happy to be going racing today,” Lyons said Monday morning before beginning the pursuit course as part of Performance Cruising 4.
Ruegg first participated in Block Island Race Week way back in 1987 and has attended every edition since. That streak was in jeopardy when the Grand Soleil 34 he had entered did not arrive from Italy.
“For some reason, the shipping schedule was delayed four times. It was supposed to ship on May 15, but still has not been loaded,” Ruegg said.
Ruegg realized about a month ago the Grand Soleil 34 wasn’t going to arrive on time and began scrambling.
“We had already paid the entry fee and rented the house so we were committed,” Ruegg said. “I wasn’t planning on having to find a boat at the last minute.”
As advertising director for the Bonnier Corporation that publishes Sailing World and Cruising World, Ruegg has a strong relationship with Bluenose Yacht Sales, which has offices in Annapolis and Newport among other locations.
Bluenose Yacht Sales came through big-time for Ruegg and his team, providing a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410 for them to sail at Block Island Race Week. This particular boat is right out of the box, having made its debut last weekend at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta.
Ruegg and company are campaigning the true cruiser-racer as Bluenose this week. They are aboard the first Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410 built in the United States.