The news came today from the team at World Cruising Club of the death of Steve Black, founder of the Caribbean 1500 rally, following a long personal battle against cancer. We are all saddened by his passing and our thoughts are with his family.
The WCC Blog wrote. “Steve was an inspiration to very many sailors through his long and varied career in sailing, including numerous offshore races, many of which were single-handed, and a three-year stint as executive director of the U.S. Sailing Association, based in Newport, Rhode Island. However, there is no doubt that his biggest legacy will be the Caribbean 1500 cruising rally, which first set sail in 1990, with a fleet of 50 cruising boats to make landfall in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.
The impetus for the rally started when Steve saw that cruising sailors outnumbered offshore racing sailors, but there were virtually no organized events for cruisers. The Caribbean 1500 rally offered the chance to sail in company, combined with preparatory seminars taught by sailing experts, an SSB radio safety net at sea, and of course a great deal of fun and socializing. Always leading from the front, Steve sailed with the rally, helping to inspire and trouble-shoot the fleet at sea.
He always found time to foster personal connections, spending hours matching crew to boats, allowing those new to sailing to take experienced crew along, or placing novices onto boats with veteran skippers for mile-building. His calm manner and easygoing personality led to many firm friendships being formed over the years.”
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Black moved to Michigan where he ran an educational publishing company. He started sailing recreationally in his mid-30s in regattas hosted by the Grand Haven Sailing Club. Black learned the sport from single-handers and has always preferred this aspect of sailing.
“Steve is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing today,” says Andy Schell, event manager for the ARC Caribbean 1500 and offshore delivery skipper. “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.”
After helping make offshore cruising more accessible to countless cruisers since the early 1990s, Steve Black, sold out to the World Cruising Club (organizers of the popular Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, among others) in 2011.
When Steve announced his decision to retire in 2010, he was determined that “the 1500” would continue and develop into the future. It was his firm belief that after 21 years of his leadership, combining the Caribbean 1500 with World Cruising Club’s world-wide portfolio of rallies would see it continue to inspire sailors for many years to come.
“The most satisfying aspects of starting the Caribbean 1500 Rally and other rallies such as the Atlantic Cup and now the Bahamas Cruising Rally, said Black in a 2010 interview with All at Sea, “are the friendships formed. “We had 235 past ralliers meet at a reunion at the Annapolis Boat Show this year.”
The 2014 Caribbean 1500 rally will be the 25th edition and a fitting memorial to a man who encouraged so many cruisers to discover the delights offshore sailing.