Eight Bells: Steve Black, Founder of the Caribbean 1500 - Sail Magazine

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:
Publish date:

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.

C1500-2011-Sara-Proctor-%28202%29-top

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.”

 Madrugada's crew

Madrugada's crew

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.

 Participants in 7 or more Caribbean 1500 cruising rallies

Participants in 7 or more Caribbean 1500 cruising rallies

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

ElanGT5-a

Boat Review: Elan GT5

Aboard many modern yachts, it can be hard to remember exactly what boat you’re on until your eye happens to light upon a logo. However, this is most definitely not the case with the Elan GT5, a performance cruiser with a look all its own and style to burn.Design & ...read more

01-Lead-P1060210

Handheld VHF Radios

For many sailors, cell phones have become their primary means of both ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. Even the Coast Guard will often ask for a cell number after it receives a distress call. None of this, however, makes a VHF radio any less important—and this goes ...read more

Seascape24

Boat Review: Seascape 24

Since its inception in 2008, Slovenian builder Seascape, founded by a pair of Mini Transat sailors, has focused solely on creating boats that are both simple and loads of fun to sail. With their 18-footer and then a 27-footer they succeeded in putting out a pair of trailerable ...read more

01-Trash-Tiki_in-partnership-with-Subtch-Sports_starting

The Adventurers Aboard Trash-Tiki

If you were in Gotland, a popular island vacation destination off the coast of Sweden, on the morning of July 3, your holiday might have been interrupted by a startling sight: a tiny island of trash approaching shore with people aboard. It was, in fact, a sailboat made from ...read more

atlantic-cup-trailer

2018 Atlantic Cup Video Mini-Series

Atlantic Cup 2018: TrailerThis past spring, SAIL magazine was on-hand to document the 2018 Atlantic Cup, a two-week-long Class 40 regatta spanning the U.S. East Coast and one of the toughest events in all of North America. The preview above will give you a taste of the four-video ...read more

hardangerfjord

Cruising: Holland to Norway

In 2015, we cruised to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on our Nordic 40, Juanona, which we’d sailed transatlantic from Maine to England. Our 2016 plan was to cruise through the Netherlands to the Kiel Canal, sail into the Baltic as far as Stockholm, then cruise the western coast of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comThe Watch-keeper’s Nightmare The commercial watchkeeper’s most awkward decisions come with a vessel converging from abaft the starboard beam showing a red light. If he’s more than 2 points, or around 22 ...read more

cosair760R

Boat Review: Corsair 760R

We’d only been out on Miami’s Biscayne Bay aboard the Corsair 760R a few minutes when Corsair Marine marketing manager Shane Grover and I began bemoaning the fact neither of us had a GPS with us to determine our boatspeed. Moments later, though, we both came to the same ...read more