Warrior, Irie 2, Haerlem and Young American Persevere to Win
By Barby MacGowan, Media Pro International
Co-skippered by Stephen Murray, Sr. and Stephen Murray, Jr., the modified Volvo 70 Warrior won line honors and IRC division in the 2017 Ida Lewis Distance Race. © Stephen Cloutier/photogroup.us
The weather started out gloomy, then got downright nasty for the 13th edition of the Ida Lewis Distance Race, which started Friday, August 18 off Fort Adams State Park in Newport, RI. A forecast calling for storms to pass over the racecourse during the night convinced seven of the original 40 entrants to drop out prior to the start for six classes (IRC, PHRF Spinnaker A, PHRF Spinnaker B, PHRF Cruising Spinnaker, Doublehanded and Multihull). Of the remaining 33 teams, an additional ten were forced to retire due to damaged equipment or other problems incurred during multiple squalls that left memorable impressions and their calling cards of driving rain and winds gusting over 40 knots.
“It was biblical,” said Brian Cunha, whose Ker 55 Irie2 (Newport) took overall honors in PHRF division and won the 11-boat PHRF Class A with a crew comprised primarily of local sailors. “It was just one cell after another, and it was raining so hard you couldn’t have your face to the wind because it hurt so much. We were waiting for Noah’s Ark to come floating by.”
The two PHRF Spinnaker classes and the IRC class sailed a 150-nautical mile course that took them to Buzzards Bay Tower, past Block Island to a government mark off Montauk Point, back to Buzzards Bay Tower and then back to Block before heading home. The first storm hit on the first stretch to Buzzards Bay Tower, making for a long, wet, yet exhilarating night of competition.
“We won on the last beat from Buzzards Bay Tower to Block Island. That’s when we passed all the guys ahead of us,” said Cunha, noting that soon after his team finished at 7:14 on Saturday morning, the wind shut down, making it an even more testing challenge for those behind him.
The first to finish the race was the modified Volvo 70 Warrior (formerly Camper), co-skippered by Stephen Murray, Sr. and Stephen Murray, Jr. of Metairie, LA. Finishing at 12:41 am Saturday, Warrior not only took line honors but also topped IRC Class, which started with ten boats and finished with seven.
Brian Cunha’s Ker 55 Irie2 won the 11-boat PHRF Class A and took overall honors in the PHRF division. ©Stephen Cloutier/photogroup.us
“I’m getting kind of long in the tooth for that kind of sailing, but I enjoyed it,” said the elder Murray, adding that he and his son are used to such wind in the Gulf of Mexico and on Lake Pontchartrain where they often sail. “It got kind of wild out there, but the boat’s fast. All you have to do is turn her loose and she’ll get you around.” Murray, known widely in sailing circles for his race boats named Decision, has competed in this race and won it two other times. Warrior is an acquisition he made to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project through a program run in conjunction with the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation.
Hendrikus Wisker’s Swan 55 Haerlem was victorious in the PHRF Cruising Spinnaker class. © Stephen Cloutier/photogroup.us
Second to cross the line after Warrior was Hendrikus Wisker’s Swan 55 Haerlem (Round Hill, VA), in the Cruising Spinnaker class, at 4:37 am. The team, along with three others in its class, sailed a shorter 107-nautical mile course. According to crew Tom Maynard, the key to winning was having a big, heavier boat in the big air compared to the faster, lighter boats that rounded out the class. “It was blowing 40, we were reefing, and it was chaos; the rain was pelting us,” said Maynard. “Then when we were approaching the harbor, the wind was light and it was pea soup so we actually took our jib down for safety reasons – so we could slow down even more.” Haerlem was greeted at the finish line, set just off Ida Lewis Yacht Club, by a welcoming committee in a chase boat and given a bottle of Prosecco, a gesture that has become a tradition for the race and acknowledges every team for its effort.
Perhaps most impressive was the performance by the Young American Junior Big Boat Team aboard their J/105 Young American, which persevered with three others teams in Spinnaker B to finish the race and take the top trophy for the first-place finish as well as the Arent H. Kits van Heyningen Trophy for the race’s Youth Challenge.
“We knew the forecast wasn’t going to be easy on us but we didn’t think we’d see 50 knots,” said Constantyn van der Voort (Rye, NY), who helped steer and ran things in the cockpit. “That was a little scary, because we had three sails up…the storm jib, the #3 jib on the furler and the mainsail.” His crewmate Nick Hein (Westport, CT), who was on bow, said the team of eight is preparing for the next Newport Bermuda Race. “This was the most open ocean sailing we’ve ever done as a team,” he said.
In doublehanded class, the Tartan 4600 Meridian, sailed by the father/daughter team of Murray and Hilary Beach of Westwood, MA, would have stuck it out to the very end, but, they were too far away from the finish when the wind shut down to make it in by the time limit. They were given an award of merit, which they happily accepted at the awards party on Saturday night at Ida Lewis Yacht Club.
The multihull class had only one entrant, Charlie Barmonde’s Gulfstream 35 Merlin (Little Compton, RI), which was going to sail for the experience but dropped out when conditions deteriorated. Arthur Santry’s Ker 50 Temptation-Oakcliff (Oyster Bay, N.Y.), which finished sixth in IRC, took home the William Tuthill Collegiate Trophy. Complete results are posted at YachtScoring.com.
Gold sponsors for the 2017 Ida Lewis Distance Race are New England Boatworks and City of Newport. Silver sponsors are Bluewater Technologies, Helly Hansen, and Newport Shipyard. Bronze sponsors are North Sails, Rig Pro Southern Spars, and Stella Artois. Contributing sponsors are DYT Yacht Transport, Flint Audio & Video, Goslings Rum, Mac Designs, Toni Mills Graphic Design, and Triton Insurance. For more information, visit ilyc.org/long-race.