A Sailor’s Life | Block Island Times


When I returned to Newport harbor after a few days of cruising a few weeks ago I noticed a bunch of racing yachts that weren’t in town on the day I left. Due to the past year of Covid protocols and constant uncertainty, I couldn’t tell if these boats were coming from a race or going to a race. I soon found out when I got ashore that these various racing sleds had just finished the Annapolis race in Newport. I’ve seen at least thirty boats moored around the harbor since the race and noticed their crews plying Bannister’s Wharf and the restaurants and marinas on Thames Street packed to the brim. Additionally, this seafaring crowd hinted at the upcoming season of lifting of Covid restrictions and a return to some semblance of normalcy in and around Newport Harbor, The Vineyard, Nantucket and Block Island. Later that day, Newport Harbor Master Steve Land informed me that this year’s season will be extremely busy due to pent-up demand to be outdoors and participate in maritime activities and other coastal activities. Plus, just like Newport, Block Island too. The noise around the Newport docks that day was that Storm Trysail Race Week would be held on Block Island
this June 21. I heard some chatter earlier in May that there would be a limited racing series; however, this would not be the case. Race Week on Block Island will be a great week of racing with many boats. I recently heard on 6/20/21 from a member of the race committee that there will be 160 boats competing. The way things went last year, we’ve all been in a wait-and-see frame of mind, and there have been a lot of rumors about a lot of social and sporting events.
While working in the Standby Lot 6/13/21 I met a sailor named Tom Hansen who was the first concrete sign that Race Week was returning for good to Block Island this year, where the boats will race, the drinks will be hoisted in 2019, singer Jimmy Buffett could take a pop-in tour and sing a few. Like the last Storm Trysail Race, in 2019, Margaritaville will host the festivities which after the past year should give rise to a hell of a party. Moreover, for racers, it cannot get more normal than that. It’s a solid bunch of serious competitors who also love to party. In 2019, 150 boats were registered to race against 160 this year. Indeed, these figures are indicative of the aforementioned return to a semblance of normalcy. This year’s races are sure to be intense and fun. While waiting for his SUV and boat to be called by the Mate to load the rigging, Tom Hansen and I discussed sailing and racing. Tom runs a charity called Sail Last Inc. which helps children, teens, adults and non-sailors participate in sailing and racing. It is a program that promotes STEM protocols: science, technology, engineering, and math and is designed to make sailing a fun and informative learning platform. (For more info, Google Sail Last Inc.) Hansen is a very bright and likeable guy who has a supportive wife and two children who are very much in tune with their father’s mission to stimulate enthusiasm for the veil and all its auxiliary intellectuals, psychological and physical benefits. Hansen’s career has involved work involving cybersecurity where he was involved in the modernization of Pentagon, Marine Corps and Army facilities. He studied at UCONN
and currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The UCONN alumni of sailing were the founding members of Sail Last Inc. As we talked about his charity, he cited an example of something that happened in 2019 during the Storm Trysail Race.
Tom and his crew of 11 were racing in cruise class – without a spinnaker – on a Taylor 42 called Africa. Her story made me shake my head and laugh. Here is what happened. After fixing some engine and halyard issues when the boat arrived at Block Island, the team of sailors won first place overall in a cruise class pursuit race. But, here’s what really made me laugh. Tom Hansen’s crew consisted of children and adults between the ages of eight and 75, and the crew came from America, Denmark, Argentina and Colombia; here is the best part, there were four crew members who
even less, had been on a sailboat before, not to mention having raced in one. Tom Hansen sailed as a boatswain and was in charge of his sailor’s performance, welfare and the equipment of the boat. “Maybe I was hoping for a second place,” he said. “It was surreal.” Jimmy Buffett presented Tom and his team with their trophy at the awards ceremony and no doubt left a powerful memory with the entire crew of Africa.
Tom told me that this year his team is improving their game and piloting a 30ft Henderson, which is a very difficult and very physical boat to navigate. “Have been
come back to race in a competitive boat and hopefully win a few races, ”he said. By the way, the name of the Henderson 30 is, Double down. Tom Hansen is a man who knows what happens in the race of a sailboat. He knows that sailing can improve a person’s life regardless of age and expand
personal growth and opportunity. Most importantly, he knows that racing a sailboat can be memorable and a lot of fun. Finally, to the wind for all Storm Trysail Sailors and especially the intrepid crew of Double down.


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