Tom Hill’s brand new Custom Reichel/Pugh 75 Titan 15 took line honors on May 23 in the Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race in a near-record time of 17 hours, 18 minutes and 13 seconds, and with that finish scored the overall victory in IRC.
The 186 nautical mile race, in its 64th running, began Friday afternoon, May 22, and sent Titan 15 and 54 other IRC- and PHRF-rated boats off on a course from Stamford, Connecticut, down Long Island Sound, clockwise around Block Island (Rhode Island), and back.
“It was one of the greatest days of my life,” said Hill (San Juan, Puerto Rico), of winning the race with his Titan 15, and of the first chance to test the boat in racing conditions. “We’re totally satisfied with the boat. For a year we didn’t know if we would wind up with a boat that wouldn’t be able to perform…it could have been a lemon or a speedboat.”
A Southwest breeze of 8-10 knots got the boats off to a quick downwind start and stayed consistent until the fleet got to Plum Island Gut.
“At the start, I looked over my shoulder and we were even with Rambler!”
said Hill. “How can our 75-footer match a water-ballasted, 90 footer?”
Hill credited his key crew—tactician Peter Isler, Artie Means and Mike Toppa, among others—for doing an exceptional job. With only one day of practice before the race and a day before that to work out all of the onboard systems, Hill could not contain his pleasure with Titan 15.
“The boat performed perfectly,” he said. “There were huge grins on the boat, and these are guys with a lot of experience on America’s Cup boats, VO70s, and the like.”
The Block Island Race—the traditional start to the summer sailing season held each Memorial Day Weekend—featured eight classes for IRC, PHRF and doublehanded entries. Titan 15 had the fastest corrected time and finished first in IRC Zero class over John Brim’s (New York, N.Y.) Reichel/Pugh 55 Rima2 in second, with Rambler in third. A total 55 out of 60 entered boats completed the race.
Organizers of the U.S. East Coast’s standout races, such as the distance race at New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta presented by Rolex, Storm Trysail Club’s Vineyard Race and the Ida Lewis Distance Race, should take notice, as Hill intends to enter his new speed machine in all of them.
The Block Island Race is part of the US-IRC Gulf Stream Series, the Northern Ocean Racing Trophy and the Double Handed Ocean Racing Trophy (both for IRC) and the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF).
In addition to hosting Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex in odd-numbered years, the Storm Trysail Club club holds various prestigious offshore racing events, among them the annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race and the Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race.