Eight Bells: Steve Black, Founder of the Caribbean 1500

It’s with a heavy heart that I write of the passing of Steve Black, an icon in the world of cruising sailors. Steve’s passing came as a surprise to no one, as he fought a long-running battle with lung cancer in his home in Oriental, North Carolina.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Eight Bells: Steve Black

Passed March 17, 2014

It’s with a heavy heart that I write of the passing of Steve Black, an icon in the world of cruising sailors. Steve’s passing came as a surprise to no one, as he fought a long-running battle with lung cancer in his home in Oriental, North Carolina. His brother Mike was by his side until the end.

A Midwesterner by birth, Black didn’t get into sailing until his 30s, when he migrated to the east coast and took to the high seas for the first time. His star rose quickly, and he became director of US Sailing for several years while he ran an educational publishing company and managed the Sailing World NOOD (National Offshore One Design) Regattas throughout the country. Black was also a dedicated racing sailor, competing in trans-ocean events, many of which were single-handed. But Black will be best remembered throughout the sailing world as the founder of the Caribbean 1500 cruising rally.

“I saw the tremendous value in helping to get cruisers to their cruising grounds for the winter,” Steve said in an interview in 2009 at the start of his iconic event. “We started [it] so Americans and Canadians could get to the Caribbean, make new friends and do it a little more safely.”

Black first approached me in 2006. I was eager to expand my own sailing horizons and was looking for a berth on an ocean-going boat. Black, ever the matchmaker, connected my dad and me with the owner of Dress Parade, a Jeanneau 40 that was set to depart Charleston, SC.

“What struck me that year was how attentive Steve was to the fleet,” my dad told me recently. “We were the last boat to arrive, by an entire day, and still, there he was attaching our dock lines and greeting us with a bottle of cold champagne.”

Since then my dad and I have sailed on half a dozen other rallies, all on Black’s recommendations. Our story is by no means unique. Black had an uncanny talent for connecting people, and kept a binder full of information on eager crewmembers looking to get offshore. He’d pair the less-experienced owners with the most experienced crews, and vice versa, to ensure compatibility offshore and try and enhance the safety of his event.

Indeed several passionate groups formed out of this process, including the Order of the Salty Dogs and the Prairie Pirates, whom Black held in particularly high regard given his Midwestern roots. Steve led from the front, sailing in all of the events he ran. His last rally passage was aboard Lone Star in the 2013 Atlantic Cup. Fittingly, he won his class, and Black received a standing ovation from his longtime friends and supporters at the prizegiving in Bermuda.

Black was aware of his legacy and very particular about passing the 1500 torch. It took years of negotiations between him and the World Cruising Club before a deal was struck to continue the event under the new flag. Only in hindsight did I realize that Steve was not joking when he told me in 2009 that I could become “the next rally guy.” I’m humbled that he supported me. Black was devastated at hearing of a competing rally organization springing up just as the transition took place—he took the news very personally—and he worked hard, despite his retirement, to support the ongoing 1500.

But what stands out the most about Steve Black was his desire to inspire and help other people to fulfill their dreams.

“This is one of the last great adventures of our modern times,” Steve used to say at the Skipper’s Briefings at the 1500, just before the fleet cast off and headed offshore. It was enough to give you chills.

“If somebody only gets to do this once or twice in their lifetime, we really hope their memories are happy ones.”

As, indeed, are our memories of Steve Black.

Related

VG2048x

Vendeé Update: Escoffier Rescued in Southern Ocean

Around 1345 UTC on Monday afternoon, Vendee Globe competitor Kevin Escoffier (PRB) activated his EPIRB 840 miles southeast of The Cape of Good Hope, in the heart of the Southern Ocean amid some of the most violent water anywhere on Earth. Shortly after, he managed to get a ...read more

Shelly-forward-last-day

Charter Advice for First-Timers

Never chartered? No worries. A vacation under sail can be the most memorable time of your life. That said, it also pays to be prepared by doing some reading, building your skills and listening to what the experts say. First and foremost, not all charter grounds are created ...read more

HugoBoss

Video: Vendeé Update

Last week Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) led the fleet across the equator. As one of the class' top sailors who's been on the Vendeé Podium twice, it seemed possible that Thomson was going to grab an early lead and hold on to it all the way around the world. But early on Saturday, he ...read more

AdobeStock_229409051

Chartering Again for the First Time

It’s been a rocky road of late for the charter industry, especially here in the Western Hemisphere. First came hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean followed by Dorian in the Bahamas. There has also, of course, been the coronavirus, which burst into global prominence ...read more

01 LEAD cedaryachtclub_onedesign18_hike

An Interview with Ayme Sinclair

In recent months, US Sailing, like many organizations, has been taking a closer look at diversity to ensure it’s doing the best job it can of introducing people from all backgrounds and ethnicities to the sport. As part of this effort, this past summer it organized an online ...read more

125768940_10222759720523627_5373654001582879638_n

US Sailing Presents Adaptive Sailing Panel

On Tuesday, November 24, US Sailing’s Leadership Forum will present the latest panel discussion in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series. This event will focus on adaptive sailing and provide practical recommendations for organizations looking to expand their adaptive ...read more

02-IMG_5971

A Carbon Neutral Circumnav with Jimmy Cornell

Historic anniversaries have always held a special fascination for me, especially if they mark a significant nautical achievement. In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ would-be voyage to India, I organized a transatlantic rally that followed the historic route of the ...read more

DJI_0068

SAIL Podcast: Jimmy Cornell’s Carbon-free Circumnav

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with bestselling author and pioneering bluewater sailor Jimmy Cornell, who set out November 19 on yet another circumnavigation aboard a newly designed, carbon-neutral Outremer 4Zero catamaran. The voyage, which ...read more