In late June I returned from sailing my ninth Block Island Race Week; this year turned out to be a totally different experience than the preceding eight. Why? Because instead of racing two or three races per day with a full crew, I opted to sail in the Performance Cruising Class. What a difference that made! Let me tell you why I feel this way.
Most people attend Block Island Race Week as their vacation. However, after racing multiple windward/leeward races I would always come off the water exhausted. This year in the Performance Cruising classes, each day we sailed a single long race around government marks. Even so, we finished earlier than the drop-buoy classes, which meant we had more time to enjoy the Island, our families, and friends. For the first time, this really did feel like a real vacation.
Also, with a smaller crew aboard, I didn’t have to deal with issues between crewmembers that always seem to develop in a larger crew. An added benefit of a smaller crew is that we all got to do everything on the boat. No one felt like rail meat.
Many sailors snicker at boats sailing the navigator courses; but our races were just as serious. I gave a loud whoop as we crossed the finish line in first place after Thursday’s light and fluky race. We worked hard to sail toward where the sea breeze would fill in and then worked just as hard to get in front of the bulk of the fleet that stayed near the Island, then watched our COG to make sure we didn’t sail extra distance to the mark that was in two knots of current and on the way to the finish we played the shifts to keep away from the island’s bluffs that created wind holes on the rhumbline. Net result for our efforts – a horizon job on the fleet.
My class was made up of fast boats that could have sailed in any of the higher rating classes, but the owners chose not to. Our class included a J/125, a Farr 395, a custom Schumacher 50, a J/44, a J/120 and the scratch boat was a 60-footer that rated -72 PHRF. My custom 40-footer, the Farr 395 and the Schumacher 50 sailed with five people and we were competitive with the fully crewed boats. My only suggestion going forward (being a marketing person by trade) is to rename this style of sailing “Coastal Racing” so that people don’t get the impression that these are just ham ‘n egg sailors. I look forward to more Coastal Racing where boats don’t need to be staffed tons of crew.
Photos by Photoboat.com