Day 1: Fog and Wind on Water Leads to Fun Ashore The 1BI: A daily e-newsletter for the 27th Storm Trysail Block Island Race Week

AP over A was raised at 11:30am by the Race Committee due to Wind and Fog, but that doesn't stop the sailors on Block Island from having some fun. Competitive corn hole, mudslides, and a bike race to the Mt. Gay Rum Tent.

Cover Photo: Kate Wilson

Welcome to The 1BI

Named after the Block Island North Reef Lighted Bell Buoy 1BI, which is an indication for sailors coming from the North and East that the entrance to New Harbor is just a few more miles.

The 1BI will bring you the daily recap of the day with video, photos, and articles on and off the water.


  • VIDEO: Highlights of Day 1 ashore
  • PHOTOS: How sailors spent the day off
  • ARTICLE: Storm Trysail Burgee Raising Ceremony
  • Thanks to our Sponsors

Sailors Hike to North Light during a day spent ashore due to a cancellation of today's races. Photo: Cate Brown

Official Race Information


Fog and Wind on Water Leads to Fun Ashore

As a rule, members of the Storm Trysail Club are a hardy lot.

After all, the club’s by-laws state that “Candidates for membership must have set a storm trysail under storm conditions offshore or have weathered a storm under greatly reduced canvas or sailed 1,000 nautical miles offshore. They also must be experienced blue water sailors, capable of taking command of a sailing vessel offshore under any and all conditions.”

However, there is a time when even the most seasoned sailor must be prudent and proceed with caution when considering the safety of the boat and crew. Such was the case on Monday when organizers of Block Island Race Week XXVII cancelled racing due to high winds and severe fog. Race committee chairman Dick Neville made the final call after monitoring the wind velocity and fog layer on Block Island Sound and consulting multiple weather forecasts.

“Conditions on the sound were not safe for sailboat racing. There is less than 100 feet of visibility, which is a very dangerous situation,” Neville explained. “Commander’s Weather and other forecasts agreed that if the fog lifts, the wind would get five knots stronger. That would put the wind in the high 20s with gusts into the 30s.”

Shawn Adams, who operates the weather mark boat for the White Fleet racing circle, traveled out to Block Island Sound first thing in the morning and again at 10:30 in order to provide the race committee with real time information. Adams recorded steady winds of 20 knots with gusts to 28.

Boats ashore at the Boat Basin. Photo: Kate Wilson

“That would have been sail-able. However, there was no visibility, which was the problem,” Neville said. “Based on all reports, when we get the visibility the breeze comes up to a level that is not sail-able. For those reasons, we think it’s best to take the day off and let the sailors enjoy Block Island.”

Which is exactly what the crews of the 146 boats competing in the regatta elected to do. Brandon Flack, kite trimmer for the C&C 30 Themis, threw out the idea of having an Around the Island Race on bicycles. What transpired was “All Roads Lead to the Oar,” a bike race that started at Henry Maxwell’s crew house in Old Harbor, stopped at local watering holes, and finished at the Atlantic Rigging Trailer by the regatta tent.

Brandon Flack, from the C&C 30, Themis organized a "All Roads lead to the Oar" Bike Race in the afternoon. Photo: Elisabeth Whitener

Teddy Papenthien, skipper of the Naval Academy’s TP52 Hooligan, said he and some other midshipmen were going to go surfing. For the family-based crew of Teamwork, a day of bocci ball at the rental house seemed like a good idea.

Not surprisingly, The Oar filled up rather quickly as soon as the cancellation announcement was made as some sailors decided that drinking mudslides should be the first order of business.

Lincoln Mossop and the Crew of the Swan 42, The Cat Came Back, enjoys the afternoon some Mudslides at the Oar. Photo: Elisabeth Whitener

Most of the skippers asked agreed with the decision, citing the experience of Neville and others on the race committee.

“I would defer to the discretion of the race committee and say it must be a good call,” said Jim Carkhuff, owner of the Donovan GP 26 Hall Pass. “The Storm Trysail Club does not make these decisions idly. These folks know what they’re doing.”

Gear breakdowns and sail blowouts are almost inevitable in 25-30 knot winds. No skipper that went through the expense of fielding an entry in Block Island Race Week 2017 wants to see that happen at the start of a five-day regatta.

“I think everyone out here would agree that it would not be good to break up the boat on Monday,” Carkhuff said.

Further down the dock at Champlin’s Marina, the crew of the J/105 Good Trade sat in the cockpit and tried to figure out how to spend the unexpected off day. Husband and wife co-owners Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault regularly sail in 25-30 knot winds on San Francisco Bay.

“We would have liked to have gone out racing, but we understand the race committee must think about the good of the entire fleet,” Stone said.

Neville noted that in the early editions of Block Island Race Week, the Storm Trysail Club rarely cancelled racing.

“In the old days we went around the island in the fog and some boats didn’t bother to round every mark,” Neville said with a smile. “How can you protest someone when you can’t see whether or not they sailed the proper course?”

The long-time race committee chairman for Block Island Race Week said consideration was given to racing in heavy air under a unique stipulation.

“One of our committee suggested that we should have a race using only storm trysails on days like this. I thought that was a pretty good idea,” Neville joked.

In all seriousness, it would be irresponsible of organizers to conduct racing in heavy air when competitors cannot see each other. Multiple skippers reported near-misses during Sunday’s practice race, which was held in fog that was not as thick as Monday’s.

“We could not have raced on Sunday because of the same concerns. We need a minimum of 1,200 feet visibility to have a safe race and prevent collisions,” Neville said. “That is the number that allows the race committee to start boats properly, allows boats to find the weather mark and allows adequate time for boats to avoid each other.”

Neville announced a two-hour postponement at 9 a.m. and the longhorn making that official came at 9:30. After getting the update from the racecourse at 10:30, Neville then announced the cancellation at 11 with the horn following a half hour later.

“As recently as a few years ago, we would do rolling postponements. Every half hour, there would be an announcement,” Neville said. “We got feedback from the sailors that they hate rolling postponements because you can’t do anything. That is why we made the first postponement two hours. That gives sailors an opportunity to get a cup of coffee or breakfast.”

In considering the prospect of a lost race day, Neville and the race committee looked carefully at the forecast for the rest of the week. It is very promising, both in terms of wind and weather.

Neville said the signature Around the Island Race will still be held if the wind cooperates. He noted there have been some editions of Block Island Race Week that did not include the distance race due to lack of breeze.

“We looked down the road to the next four days and believe we can do plenty of racing,” Neville said. “There is a front coming in that should pass through by Tuesday morning. When that clears and the thunderstorms move away, it’s going to be sunny with good breeze and that should hold for the rest of the week.”

How Sailors Spent The Day...

Cornhole, Bike Races, Hikes, and Mudslides. No racing doesn't stop all the fun Block Island has to offer.
Please Continue to look for email announcements as well as RC announcements posted on the online Notice Board

The Storm Trysail Burgee Tradition

Late Saturday afternoon, flag officers with The Storm Trysail Club conducted a solemn ceremony that has become a tradition at Block Island Race Week.

Commodore Leonard Sitar and 2017 Block Island Race Week chairman A.J. Evans hoisted The Storm Trysail Club burgee to the top of the yardarm located outside The Oar. As is customary, the American flag was shifted to the gaff, or angled spar.

Steven Draper, owner of The Oar, also participated in the ceremony, which marked the official start of Block Island Race Week XXVII. The Oar has served as regatta headquarters for Block Island Race Week for many years.

“This is an important tradition because the Storm Trysail Club purchased the mast-style flagpole that is located outside The Oar,” Evans said. “Mr. Draper and The Oar are in charge of the flagpole most of the time, but when Block Island Race Week is held The Storm Trysail Club takes control. So this ceremony recognizes a temporary changing of the hands and now it becomes a regatta flagpole, which we used to display our burgee and any race committee flags that must be flown as part of the competition.”

In addition to flying the burgee, Storm Trysail Club also attaches a plaque to the mast pole that explains its origin, which was to “commemorate the 1965 establishment and biennial presentation of the first big boat race week in the United States.”

This flagpole honors many years of race week tradition, camaraderie and espirt de corps Created by Block Islander Sam Mott, Commordore Jacob Isbrandtsen, Everett Morris and the race week committee members of the Storm Trysail Club.

Unfortunately, the fact the Storm Trysail Club burgee flies atop the flagpole has caused some confusion among those not familiar with flag etiquette.

Anyone visiting The Oar this week should rest assured the flagpole arrangement is not only proper, it is protocol. It is in accordance with maritime tradition dating back centuries. The following passage is taken directly out of a guidebook for flag etiquette.

The United States, or “American” flag is always displayed from the hoist of highest honor, which is not necessarily the highest height, and is always above all flags on the same halyard. Most ships display their ensign low near the deck on the back of the ship. In the case of a flagpole rigged with a gaff, the hoist at the tip of the angled spar is the place of honor.

“That is why we display the American flag from the gaff on the flagpole outside The Oar when our burgee is displayed at the top or truck,” Evans explained. “This particular yardarm is designed the same as those on a ship of sail. The gaff is pointing aft as though the ship is going seaward. On such a ship, the American flag would be flying from the stern or from the gaff of the aft-most sail.”

Imagine a sailing warship standing out to sea in the age of sail with her ensign displayed from the gaff that points toward the back of the ship behind her sails. Meanwhile, other flags or long pennants identifying her owner or command are displayed at the top of the taller masts. Even today, modern warships promptly shift their ensign from the short staff low on the stern to a gaff high on the mast upon getting underway.

Commodore Leonard Sitar (left) and 2017 Block Island Race Week chairman A.J. Evans (center) and Nick Langone hoisted The Storm Trysail Club burgee to the top of the yardarm located outside The Oar.

“The flagpole outside The Oar, like most yacht clubs around the world, continues that tradition during Block Island Race Week when The Storm Trysail Club displays its white and red burgee and race flags,” Evans said. “This protocol is endorsed by navies around the world, including our own, and is consistent with U.S. law regarding the display of our national flag.”

“So, when you’re enjoying a Mudslide outside The Oar this week and see the U.S. flag flapping a little lower than the Storm Trysail Club burgee, think of all the sailors that have gone to sea for the United States, whether for war or trade. It is done with 100 percent respect,” added Evans, who works as a maritime and admiralty lawyer in New York and New Jersey.

Thanks to our sponsors!

BIRW would not be possible without them.

Block Island Race Week Media Production is brought to you by RisingT Media & Marketing with collaboration with Chris Love Productions. & Newport Live Media


Kate Wilson, Elisabeth Whitener,, Cate Brown

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.