Welcome from the Commodore
Few regattas compare to Block Island Race Week for our on-the-water excitement and shoreside fun. While any sail lets you slip away from life ashore, a week of sailing on this special island is a true escape. The sea breezes can be sporty. The fog can be confounding. Cellphones aren’t prohibited because they’re not needed for distraction. Jackets and ties are discouraged, not required. Intense competition at every level of the sport—from Grand Prix to family-friendly—is -balanced by the laid-back vibe when we’re back at the dock.
It’s appropriate then that we welcome Margaritaville, a brand widely associated with a relaxed coastal lifestyle and escapism, as the first presenting partner of Block Island Race Week in our history. We’re delighted to be able to bring a little Key West to Block Island. And we also thank our new and -returning -partners whose sponsorship makes this event happen.
You spoke and we listened.
A no-lay-low Lay day
The Block Island Race Week Lay Day is back, and we’ve got your fun lined up
By Erik Stork
Remember the Block Island Race Weeks when everyone slept aboard their boats? When there were feeder races? How about the “band boat” that drove around the harbor to rouse everyone for another day’s racing? Or the famous tug of wars and mini 12-Meter races? While I think we can all agree we’d rather a dry bed and a real shower after -racing, I’ve always enjoyed hearing stories from the good ol’ days.
Sure, it’s fun to race every day of a regatta, but some of my best sailing memories have been from planned or unplanned off days. In 2015, at the RORC Bicentenary Regatta in Cowes, racing was canceled because there was too much wind, so we took a boat trip up the River Medina in search of a proper English Pub lunch with a good number of our competitors. In Perth, Australia, for the 2009 Team Race Worlds, we went to an animal sanctuary—koalas! kangaroos! emu!—and hosted a regatta party at our rental house; by luck alone there were no impacts to our damage deposit. Finally, I’m confident my 49er crew, Trevor Moore, holds the lap record at the local go-kart track in Hyeres, France, where 30 sailors or so from a dozen nations would take the competition shoreside. I’m lucky to have made friends from around the world through sailing, and that wouldn’t have happened without plenty of downtime over a café au lait or some friendly onshore competition.
The reintroduction of the lay day at Block Island Race Week this year is meant to recreate some of those moments. Whether you’re looking to spend time with friends and family who -aren’t racing, catch up with old friends or make some new ones, we’re sure there’s -something for everyone.
The main event is the first Block Island Storm Tryathalon. Here’s how you get your day started on the right foot, with the North Sails 5K at 0830. The race will start at the North Sails service loft, situated at the Block Island Maritime Institute and take serious runners and casual joggers across the Island in a loop that finishes at the Narragansett Inn. That mudslide will taste mighty good, and besides, now you’ve really earned it. The winner in each age/gender group will win a prize from North Sails.
After you’ve showered and explored the island, gather on the Narragansett Inn’s scenic porch for the first Block Island Race Week Trivia presented by Margaritaville at 1300. Make sure to form a diverse team, because questions will cover Block Island, Block Island Race Week and BIRW sponsors new and old.
Meet the Showrunner - Whitney Kneisley
While there are many people involved in pulling off a perfect Race Week —most of them out front and visible—this Wizard of Block remains behind the curtain making sure Race Week goes off without a hitch
By Dave Reed, Sailing World
Motherhood has nothing on the Storm Trysail Club. Raising a couple of rough-and-tumble teenage boys is comparatively simple, says Whitney Kneisley, STC’s executive director since 2014. The 51-year-old is captain of a tight ship with 250 or so crew “members,” each with strong opinions on how best to stay on course or keep it upright. In its long history, the club has only had three executive directors.
The previous queen managing Storm Trysail Club’s colony of volunteers was Marcy Trenholm, who served the organization for 26 years, always with a sharp wit, an unflappable sense of humor and skin thick as steel. In her retirement, Trenholm left big Top-Siders—into which Kneisley tentatively toed when recruited by past STC commodore Nick Langone.
She agreed to a part-time role, with no idea how challenging the assignment would be. “It’s turned into a colossal full-time job,” she says with a chuckle, “but it’s always exciting. And unpredictable.”
The scope of events and initiatives Storm Trysail Club has taken on over the years is exhaustive, but Race Week is the crown jewel as the last remaining destination race week in the United States. While it only happens every other year, the planning never wanes. Over time, Race Week’s volunteer army had grown too large to house and feed, so the organization has spent the past two years cultivating its A-Team, Kneisley says: “This is a lean-and-mean machine this year, and we’re happy with that.”
Linc and the Entourage
For this skipper and revolving cast of characters, the annual pilgrimage to Race Week means more than the races themselves
By Bill Wagner
Lincoln Mossop III is happiest when he’s on Block Island. He has been competing here since the mid-1970s and has always loved everything about the event and its location. Mossop has consistently berthed The Cat Came Back at Block Island Boat Basin and every race day is capped by multiple rounds of mudslides at The Oar.
For many years, the Mossop family has rented the Spear House, located across from The Oar on West Side Road, and Lincoln is a familiar sight riding his motorized four-wheeled scooter back and forth to the basin before and after racing.
They say he has a reserved seat at Yellow Kittens Tavern, his favorite night spot. The 56-year-old has been coming to Block Island for so long and with such regularity that he is well known by many New Shoreham locals.
Gary Brophy, pit man aboard The Cat Came Back, remembers when the team was leaving Yellow Kittens late one night and a few sailors were stumbling. A pair of Rhode Island state policemen approached and everyone was worried they were going to get hassled, but “the cops come up and start slapping Lincoln on the back and asking how he’s doing,” Brophy says.
A mid-week crew dinner at The Spring House is a long-standing tradition dating back to the days when Mossop crewed aboard his father’s boat at Block Island Race Week. Put it all together and the seven days Mossop spends on Block Island in odd years are among his most cherished.
“Block Island Race Week is the regatta Lincoln looks forward to most, bar none,” says Skip Mattos, longtime manager of The Cat Came Back.
“It’s the highlight of his year,” Brophy agrees. “He talks about it for months and months in advance.”
Mossop’s The Cat Came Back sailed to victory in the ORC Club fleet during the 2017 edition of Block Island Race Week. It was an impressive performance by the crew, which won six races and placed second in two others. Of course, Mossop was front and center at the final awards ceremony, proudly accepting the hardware with a broad smile.
“Lincoln really loves sailing, really loves having a good time and really, really loves winning,” Mattos says. “He’s very, very competitive. He’s extremely determined and can be a real tenacious bastard, I’ll tell you that.”
Mossop has owned a series of boats named The Cat Came Back and brought them all to Block Island Race Week. In order, there has been a J/24, J/30, J/109 and J/120. A dozen years ago, Lincoln Mossop Jr. and his namesake son purchased a Swan 42. “I’ve never seen Linc more excited than when he and his father decided to get the Swan 42,” says Brophy, who came aboard in 2001 when it was the J/109.
Around The Island
While the forecast changes every time and the current of the day might vary, there are a few go-to moves in getting around the island
By Anderson Reggio, Fleet Captain Storm Trysail Club, Photo: Steve Cloutier
The highlight for many of us during Block Island Race Week is the Around the Island Race, an 18-mile jaunt on the day the organizers deem best. This is not a simple adventure, but rather a tactically challenging race around a topographically diverse landmass. Typically raced in a building southwesterly breeze in a counter-clockwise direction, there are a few key points around the track. Current, wind bends and funneling all play a factor in executing a solid plan to claim the trophy.
Around the island, the current is fairly predictable. On the flood, it flows from the south, taking a northerly direction on the east side of the island and a northwesterly direction on the southwest side. Current flow around the southwest corner can easily reach 2 knots, so this is a crucial area to play. On the west side of the island, and in particular the starting area, the flow can vary in speed and direction dramatically because the water bends around the island from both the north and the west on the flood and retreats in both directions on the ebb, fanning out from the Great Salt Pond. Real-time current observations early up the track are important to getting the first beat right.
Off the starting line, the race committee typically likes to see the first beat be reasonably square to the breeze. In our assumed southwesterly flow, this would necessitate dropping a windward mark to be left to port before continuing around the island. After that first mark, the slow left turn around R6, R4 and R2 will take you from a jib reach through to a kite set. Timing that kite set is essential because you’ll want to be on the kite as early as possible, sailing a hot angle; it’s the only way to make gains on this starboard-tack parade before transitioning to VMG running.
If you’re lucky enough to have a reaching sail in your quiver that you can deploy before turning to full run, be ready for a few sail changes along the south side. Transitions come quickly, so you need to anticipate and decide in the moment whether you have time to switch to a reacher or whether it’s faster to push on until you can go straight to the kite. Always be mindful of the next left turn and what your TWA will be on that leg.
The leg-to-leg, true-wind angle on this race always depends on the bearing from one mark to the next, but also on what the anticipated windshift on the next leg will be. As you work around the south side of the island and things free up, you’ll soon be jibing in a VMG-running scenario. Know that the normally acute angle between the sea breeze and the bluffs results in less wind lifting and more in wind accelerating and bending. This will often yield a left shift along the shore, which can be beneficial to go for. If you get knocked while heading downwind toward the shore, remember that you’ll also get knocked as you come away from the shore and get away from that bend.
So, if you’re jibing toward one of the drop marks around the southeast corner of the island, you might consider jibing early on starboard in anticipation of getting knocked so as not to end up over the lay line and sailing extra distance.
Once you clear the southeast corner, heading high of rhumb on port jibe usually pays: You’ll be first into the acceleration and right shift coming out of Old Harbor. Here, the wind bends around the northern side of the bluffs and the highest points on the island. Ride this as long as you can and take it low before you sail out of the shift and back into the relative left gradient. There is more current offshore, as well, so be mindful of its flow.
Despite it typically being a one-tack leg, the east side of the island usually serves as a great opportunity to make real gains on your competition before rounding 1BI for the beat to the finish.
The final beat is normally 4 miles of upwind sailing. By this point you should know how you’re faring against your competition and cover those who you think are the biggest threat to your current positioning.
Be careful of the current rips around the reef adjacent to 1BI and the associated sea state, which can be nasty. This is a traditionally left-shift-favored beat once you clear the reef—but remember how quickly the sand rises from the bottom.