Industry mourns founder of Caribbean 1500 rally

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Steve Black, a Midwesterner who did not take to sailing until his mid-30s but became an iconic figure in the industry, died of cancer Monday at the age of 71.

His long and varied career included stints running an educational publishing company, three years as executive director of the U.S. Sailing Association and managing the Sailing World National Offshore One-Design Regattas in four regions around the country.

His role as founder of the Caribbean 1500 rally, which offered snowbirds the safety of cruising in company to the Caribbean, will be his most lasting legacy.

The impetus for the rally came from Black’s observation that cruising sailors outnumbered offshore racing sailors, but there were virtually no organized events for cruisers like him. The Caribbean 1500 offered the chance to sail in company, combined with preparatory seminars taught by sailing experts, an SSB radio safety net at sea, collaborative troubleshooting during the voyage and plenty of fun and socializing.

Black retired from the 1500 he created in 2010 after 21 years — the longest-running ocean-crossing rally in North America — and handed over management of the annual rally to the World Cruising Club. The rally has since been renamed the ARC Caribbean 1500.

“Steve is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing today,” Andy Schell, event manager for the ARC Caribbean 1500 and an offshore delivery skipper, said in an online remembrance on the World Cruising Club website. “He put me on a 1500 boat back in 2006, which was my first offshore passage, and helped me make connections in the ocean sailing world. Steve was a huge inspiration. It’s an honor to be managing the 25th Caribbean 1500 this year and carry his legacy into the future.”

For the 2014 ARC Caribbean 1500 this fall, the fleet will leave Portsmouth, Va., at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and cruise in company to Nanny Cay on Tortola, British Virgin Islands. The start port and dates have been set to make the most of the available weather to maximize Caribbean sailing.

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