CHRISTOPHER DRAGON WINS BLOCK ISLAND RACE

For the second year in a row, Andrew and Linda Weiss’s Italia 11.98 CHRISTOPHER DRAGON has won the Block Island Race overall under ORC. This year’s race was a tough, light air challenge that demanded constant crew work with scores of sail changes in order to keep the boat moving. With light air for the weekend forecast, the Storm Trysail Club’s race committee posted the short course for the fleet. Instead of sailing the traditional 186-mile race from Stamford, Connecticut, around Block Island and back, this year, the fleet sailed a 132-mile race that stayed inside of Long Island Sound.

According to UK Sailmakers New York’s Emmett Dickheiser, who was the speed doctor aboard CHRISTOPHER DRAGON, “The key in this race was keeping your eyes open and connecting the dots of wind.” Throughout the race, sailors constantly had to be alert to big changes in wind direction as the northerly gradient wind battled against the southerly sea breeze. Both breezes came and retreated during the race. For instance, DRAGON had to beat from Bartlett’s Reef to the turning mark off of Plum Island, while the boats further back did the same leg with spinnakers.

At one point, after the boat was stopped with the spinnaker draped against the rig, Emmett had the crew set the spinnaker staysail from the headstay to use it as a wind seeker. “That got us going again.”

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CHRISTOPHER DRAGON starting the 2023 Block Island Race. All photos by Rick Bannerot (Ontheflyphoto.net) except where noted.

Skipper Andrew Weiss said, “We were aggressive on sail changes. Our headsail trimmer, Colin Fitzpatrick, counted 25 spinnaker changes, which is a lot when you only have three in your inventory.” To optimize his rating, Weiss set up the boat without a Code Zero. Instead, he relies on his A3 for close reaching in heavy and light air. For this race, he carried an A1.5, light A2 and the A3.

Despite a full crew of experienced Long Island sound sailors, the light air was a challenge for the team, “In conditions this shifty and light, we had to work really hard to find breeze and were changing sails all day and night,” Andrew said, “It was an exhausting race physically and mentally.” The hard work paid off and CHRISTOPHER DRAGON corrected out on top of the ORC fleet (0:20:53:50) to win the William Tripp, Jr Memorial Trophy.

CHRISTOPHER DRAGON flies a genoa staysail inside the A1.5 in light air. Racing photography by Richard Du Moulin.
CHRISTOPHER DRAGON flies a genoa staysail inside the A1.5 in light air. Richard du Moulin photo.
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He gave an example of sail changes his team used to get the boat going. About three-quarters of the way to the first turning mark, off Bartlett Reef, the J/160 COUGAR (a 52-footer) was catching them as they were both close reaching with jibs. Weiss had the crew change to the A3, and they started pulling away. The J/160 changed to their Code Zero and started catching back up until the wind faired, and DRAGON was able to peel to their A1.5, “And then we left them for good.”

The latest sail to CHRISTOPHER DRAGON’s UK Sailmakers inventory was a genoa staysail, which is smaller than a spinnaker staysail. It is designed with a shorter hoist and a lower clew for closer wind angles so that it works well in the narrower slot. Weiss said that since the A3 is so close-winded, they could not carry the spinnaker staysail inside of it. The new sail was just what he wanted. In light air, they even carried the genoa staysail inside of the A1.5, as shown in the picture taken by competitor Richard du Moulin.

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“Everyone makes fun of my little boat, but I love it,” said Weiss. They were around bigger boats all throughout the race. After 23 hours and 16 minutes of racing, they finished ahead of all the J/44s, a Farr 40, a J/121, and Baltic 52. Even though DRAGON finished three hours after the GP42 ARMA, Weiss’ team corrected to a one-minute victory for the ORC Overall award. ARMA was second overall, and the Figaro 2 GROUPE 5, in DRAGON’s ORC Class 5, finished third, over 20 minutes behind on corrected time.

Andrew Weiss said, “We have won overall in almost every race we sailed, which included the Lauderdale 2022 Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race, the 2022 Edlu Race, and the 2022 Block Island Race that couldn’t have been any more different from this year’s race. In 2022, the long course around Block Island was sailed; the fleet had a 15-20 knot tight spinnaker reach all the way to Block Island. “We have won more overall trophies with this boat than with any other.” And Andrew should know this is the 12th boat to carry the name CHRISTOPHER DRAGON.

You can hear more about that winning year on the UK Sailmakers Lessons Learned Podcast.

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Adam Loory
Adam Loory

Adam Loory is a lifetime sailor, who worked as the General Manager of UK Sailmakers International for 34 years. He is based in Port Chester, NY and regularly sails his custom Rodger Martin-designed 40-footer Soulmates on the Long Island Sound.

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