Caminos wins 2015 North American Championship

Caminos photo by

Caminos photo by

Helmed by Ryan Dempsey, son-in-law of boat owner Donald Filippelli, the team on J/109 Caminos won boat of the week as well as first place in the J/109 fleet at Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race Week XXVI held 21-26 June 2015. The team, out of Amagansett, NY, won their 24-boat one-design class by 17 points and took first or second in 9 of 11 races.

The 50th anniversary race week event was a huge success with 5 days of great sailing weather. View the full results on, and photos at


Here is the story from Ryan Dempsey about the Caminos crew…….

I began sailing on Caminos back in 2007, a few months after I met my (now) wife, Tina Filippelli (her father, Don, owns the boat). In fact, the 2007 edition of BIRW was my first regatta on Caminos! It was also my first time sailing with Ken Nilsen, who is still with the program. He’s done bow on Caminos for ages, but for Block this year we had him trim kite – he did an awesome job. Kenny has been an integral part of the Caminos team since the very beginning: he always offers to help Don out in preparation for regattas, doing whatever has to be done (organizing and flaking sails, cleaning the boat, delivering it to and from the regatta venue, even offering to jump in the water and clean the bottom in between days of racing! There’s nothing this guy can’t or won’t do; he’s irreplaceable).  Kenny also sails a good deal on his father’s Beneteau 36.7, That’s Ridiculous, which competes mostly in distance races.  Ken and his brother Matt came to Block Island fresh off of winning the PHRF double handed division in the Annapolis to Newport race.  Matty also sailed with us at Block Island this year, doing bow.  Matt went to SUNY Maritime just like his older brother.  He’s only sailed on Caminos a few times, but he does a great job up there on the bow. I put a lot of trust in him at the starts, and I have to hand it to him: we were never over early, and we were close to the line.  Clearly, there is nothing Ken and Mat don’t know how to do well on a boat.

My wife, Tina, started sailing on Caminos in 2008, initially doing sewer.  She was reluctant to try sailing when we met in 2006: she had done a bit of dinghy sailing as a kid, but didn’t like the yelling and intensity of keelboat racing.  After convincing her that those folks weren’t doing it right and that racing is a lot of fun, she started sailing with me on my J80 Gallant Fox and picked things up very quickly.  Tina now does pit on Caminos (or, as she likes to call it, “cluster-fuck preventer”),  but in my opinion, her greatest contribution is her presence on and off the boat.  In the past few seasons, she’s really grown into a leadership role on the boat, giving pep talks as necessary, keeping us on-task and focused, and initiating team debriefs at the end of the day. She also does a ton of leg-work off the water, recruiting crew and organizing all kinds of logistical things, including…well, I’m not ever sure what it is that she does, other than that she’s very organized and gets things done! Oh yeah, and she balances all this with be an amazing mom to our 15-month-old son, Jack.

Mark Gorman was trimming main for us this week. He currently lives in Tennessee and has a J70 that he sails mostly in Florida. We did a J80 regatta on my boat a few years ago and I was really impressed with the way Mark felt the boat: some people just feel the way the boat moves and know what to do to make it go faster.  I was optimistic that he would do a good job even though he had not trimmed a J109 main before, and he exceeded my expectations.  Bruce Sawyer is another friend via J80’s. He sailed on Caminos once in 2011 and we brought him back to trim jib for this event.   Although this was his first time trimming a J109 jib I had confidence in Bruce’s work ethic, professionalism, and knowledge to help get him up to speed and performing well quickly.  With a little input about what we wanted the jib to do on a 109 as we went through the gears Bruce was able to get the job done.  Both Mark and Bruce did very well for their first go at main and jib on this boat.

Michelle Horn did sewer/squirrel for us, and we were very lucky to have her! Leading up to the event we were having a really hard time finding somebody to do this position that would work within the weight limits for the event. Believe it or not, Tina actually found her via the Crew Board on Yachtscoring – her sailing resume was impressive, and we discovered we had a number of Annapolis friends in common.   And, most importantly, she did a great job.

Terry Flynn called tactics for this event. Although I’ve known Terry through the J80 class and sailed against him in the J109 sub class at Key West in 2008, this was my first time sailing with him.  He is incredibly talented and was instrumental in our performance at Block Island this year.  Along with his talents as a sailor he is also very tuned into people and group dynamics, and was an incredible asset on the boat; we all learned a great deal from him.

Last, but most certainly not least, we have Don and Birgitta Filippelli, Tina’s parents.  They own the boat, but for some time now Don has only sailed in local events due to health issues.  This past week, not only did they take care of everything on shore, but they also looked after Jack (which is no small feat!). They are truly wonderful, kind, generous people, and are so much fun – people just love spending time with them.  For example,  on Thursday of Race Week, a friend of Don’s (who used to own a J109 and now has a  power boat) wrangled a whole bunch of Don’s friends – many of whom sail on Caminos or against her in local races. They surprised Don by motoring over to Block Island and picking him up to watch the races from the water, which he very rarely gets to do. It was so great to see him out on the water, and all of us on Caminos are incredibly grateful and honored to sail his boat and are thrilled to have finally won him a North American Championship!

One of the more important things that we did for this event was to show up early.  With a group who had not sailed together before we felt that is was crucial to get two days together on the water prior to racing.  North’s starting clinic bought us a bunch of practice starts as well, so when the first gun went off we felt prepared.  BIRW is a marathon and we treated it as such, focusing on one race at a time. It was a big fleet and we noticed that our holes on the start line could close up very fast, so we quickly developed a strategy of starting toward the favored end, but prioritized having a clean lane over winning the start. Our overall strategy was to aim for consistently good finishes without having to eat any deep numbers. The boat felt great all week, and I think we did a good job responding to changing conditions and shifting gears; the boat never felt under- or over-powered (except maybe during the Round the Island Race!). We saw very few big wind shifts all week, but Terry did seem to send us in the right direction more often than not. It was a fantastic week on Block, with epic conditions, well-run racing, and great competition. We were absolutely thrilled with the outcome.

Permanent link to this article: