A Different Experience Each Year
By Kirsten Ferguson
The Ida Lewis Distance Race, a popular sailing overnighter hosted by Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport, RI, wrapped up its 11th edition on August 16, 2015 with the entire 36-boat fleet finishing within the time limit – a stark contrast to last year when many entries had to retire due to inclement weather.
The Ida starts off Fort Adams. © Meghan Sepe
The race started Friday, August 14 off Fort Adams, near the mouth of Newport Harbor, with a steady breeze and calm seas that remained consistent on two courses: the 153-nautical mile Block Island Course for the IRC Class and the 121-nautical mile Point Judith Course for PHRF and Doublehanded Classes. Brian Cunha’s Ker 55 Irie 2 (Newport) crossed the finish line on Saturday morning at 5:50 am, claiming line honors and taking the overall win in PHRF division.
“This is the first time we’ve done the Ida Lewis Distance Race, and it was a lot of fun,” said Cunha, who was awarded the Lime Rock Trophy for best-corrected time in PHRF and the Lois J. Muessel Trophy for best elapsed time in PHRF. “The conditions were perfect for us, with the wind staying between eight and 12 knots throughout the entire race.”
Although the fleet was divided on two courses, all boats had to incorporate an approximately 37 nautical mile upwind leg from Buzzards Bay to Montauk Point. The “tricky beat” called for teams to decide whether to head right or left around Block Island, and for Cunha and his team, the choice was clearly left because of the wind angles, but the following leg posed larger challenges for Irie 2.
In her first “Ida,” Brian Cunha’s Ker 55 Irie 2 claimed line honors and the overall win in PHRF. © Meghan Sepe
“After we hit Montauk we headed back down to Buzzards Bay and had to navigate our way through a fleet of about 200 fishing boats that were right in the middle of the course,” said Cunha. Despite the unusual obstacle, the team finished with a three-hour lead on the rest of the fleet.
In addition to event newcomers like Cunha, a slew of returning race veterans competed, including Heidi & Steve Benjamin’s Carkeek 40 SPOOKIE (Jamestown, RI/Norwalk, CT) and Tristan Mouligne’s Quest 30 Samba (Boston, MA). Both teams defended their wins in IRC Overall and PHRF A, respectively.
“This is the sixth Ida Lewis Distance Race that I’ve done in a row, and what is great about it is you never experience the same race twice,” said Mouligne, who was also awarded the newly-established Rhode Island Offshore Challenge Trophy for best-combined score in the Ida Lewis Distance Race and the Sid Clark Offshore Race (which took place in July). “I’ve had Samba for a while and have done a lot of point-to-point sailing and distance racing. I’ve gone to Bermuda and back twice with the boat and raced in six New England Solo/Twin Championships, a very similar race to this one. We’ve done that offshore leg between Buzzards Bay and Montauk about 25 times, so we are starting to figure out what to look for and which way to go.” Mouligne added that the level of competition at the Ida Lewis Distance Race is what brings him back every year. “We are always trying to race against as many boats as we can. This year in the PHRF class, we had an awesome offshore fleet of 25 boats.”
The separately-scored Youth Challenge also saw a repeat victory by the team aboard Alfred Van Liew’s J/111 Odyssey (Middletown, RI), who won the Arent H. Kits van Heyningen Trophy for the second year in a row.
When asked about how her experience on Odyssey differed this year compared to last, 18-year-old Kate Nota (Newport) said, “We definitely approached racing with a different mindset. Last year, the wind was pretty crazy. With calmer conditions this year we were able to focus on all the little details and make every second count. It’s good to have different conditions to test us as sailors and build up our experience.”
Team Odyssey won the Youth Challenge for the second consecutive year. © Meghan Sepe
The Youth Challenge was developed by the race organizers nine years ago as a stepping stone for junior sailors interested in transitioning into offshore racing. This year, the Youth Challenge hosted five teams. (To qualify, more than 40% of the crew had to have reached their 14th birthday but not turned 20 prior to August 15, 2015.)
Nota added that Team Odyssey included seven junior sailors and two adults: Van Liew and David Brodsky. “We had a few junior sailors on our team that were new to the event and one who had never sailed in an overnight race before,” she said, “so it was fun to go through the experience with them and see how excited they were.”
Starting Line Sponsors for the 2015 Ida Lewis Distance Race include Bluewater Technologies, the City of Newport, Helly Hansen, New England Boatworks and Newport Shipyard; Contributing Sponsors are DYT Yacht Transport, Flint Audio & Video, Gosling’s Rum, Mac Designs, Toni Mills Graphic Design, Triton Insurance, North Sails, Rig Pro Southern Spars and Stella Artois.The Ida Lewis Distance Race also is a qualifier for the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF) and the Northern and Double-Handed Ocean Racing Trophies (IRC).For more information, visit www.ildistancerace.org, and follow the race on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.