By Barby MacGowan, Media Pro International

For a 15th year, the Ida Lewis Distance Race indulged competitive racing sailors in an overnight sprint that proved both challenging and extraordinary. Thirty-one teams, in five classes for boats of 28 feet and longer, set out after noontime on Friday, August 16 to engage in a 110-mile course that took them from the start off Fort Adams in Newport, RI, past Castle Hill to Buzzards Bay Tower, then to a mark southwest of Block Island (near Montauk, NY) and back to Buzzards Bay Tower before returning to Newport Harbor where a finish was sighted from the deck of host Ida Lewis Yacht Club and teams were greeted on the water with a bottle of Prosecco. The course was the shortest of four options chosen by the Race Committee prior to the start in anticipation of extremely light breezes.

“The goal is always to have the bulk of the fleet back to shore by late morning/early afternoon,” said Event Chair Pat Kennedy, “and we were concerned at one point that even our shortest course might not accommodate that, but in the end, the fastest boat – the Volvo 70 Warrior (skippered by Stephen and Steve Murray of New Orleans, LA) – made it back before last call (12:30 a.m.), and the last three boats finished just before 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.”


Paul Grimes’ J/35 Breakaway (also competing in the Collegiate class) was victorious in the event’s new PHRF Spinnaker Aloha class. © Stephen Cloutier


“We were extremely happy with our finish given that the wind model we ran before the start had us finishing in 17 or 18 hours,” said IRC winner Dr. Dave Siwicki of Jamestown, RI. Instead, Siwicki’s Mills 68 Prospector, which he sailed with 18 crew and owns with partners Paul McDowell, Larry Landry and Martin Roesch, finished the course in 11 hours and 40 minutes, taking the gun at 1:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. Siwicki said Warrior, sailing in the same division, gave his team a good run for the money when it scooted out ahead of a wind shift on the south side of Block Island that required Prospector to throw in an extra half dozen or more tacks in order to make the turning mark. “We saw them slipping away from us, but then we caught them on the last leg coming home (from Buzzards Bay Tower), correcting out ahead of them on handicap.”

Brian Cunha of Newport, RI skippered his Ker 55 Irie 2 to win the PHRF Spinnaker Coronet class (for larger boats with PHRF ratings of 54 and lower). He has sailed to victory in this race several times before, including last year when he won the PHRF A class. “This was the opposite of every other Ida Lewis Distance Race I’ve sailed,” said Cunha. “The wind was east and southeast, when it’s usually from the south and southwest. It was the first time we’ve put up a spinnaker coming from Buzzards Bay Tower back to Newport; usually it’s a reach. And coming from Montauk to Buzzards Bay, we were tacking, which is unusual.” Cunha said he saw 7-12 knots of breeze the entire time, which was more than the smaller boats experienced. “They had a more challenging time getting around the Montauk mark because of the dying wind and the current against them.”

This year marked the first time for the PHRF Spinnaker Aloha class (for smaller boats with PHRF ratings of 55 and higher). Winning that was Breakaway, a J/35 skippered by Paul Grimes of Portsmouth, RI and dual-scored as a Collegiate team entry. Grimes enlisted the talents of five college sailors – including daughter Megan Grimes (Yale), Aili Moffet (Connecticut College), Colin Moffet (Princeton), Spencer Dellenbaugh (Brown University) and Victoria Boatwright (Georgetown University) – who are all members of Jamestown Yacht Club and for years sailed aboard Youth Team entries until they aged out. “This year was a nice change from last year, which had thunderstorms and lightning,” said Colin Moffet. “It was tough getting by Block Island with two knots of current and two knots of breeze, but it was nice once we got out of there.”


Winning the Collegiate Challenge for the William Tuthill Collegiate Trophy was Art Santry’s Ker 50 Temptation Oakcliff. © Stephen Cloutier


The Quest 33s Cepheus, skippered by newcomer Philip Haydon of Boston, MA, won the Doublehanded class and found the race to be perfect in practicing for next year’s Newport to Bermuda Race. Haydon bought the boat in October and sails with co-skipper Mike DiMella (also Boston). He said one of his team’s winning moves was to head south of the wind turbines to keep from getting sucked in to the wind shadow underneath the bluffs of Block Island. “We registered a boat speed of 0.00 at times,” said Haydon. “We would put our flashlight in the water just to see seaweed and bubbles so we’d know if we were moving or not.”


Prospector, a Mills 68 co-owned by Dr. Dave Siwicki Paul McDowell, Larry Landry and Martin Roesch, won the IRC division. © Stephen Cloutier


Another newcomer to the Ida Lewis Distance Race (and practicing for the 2020 Newport Bermuda Race) was Fred Grieb of Westport, CT. He sailed his Swan 46 Tiger to victory in the Cruising Spinnaker class, edging out defending champion Andy Burton aboard his Baltic 47 Masquerade (Middletown, RI). “It’s a well-known race, and we wanted to do a shorter distance race ahead of Bermuda next year,” said Grieb, who sails with six aboard. “It was really exciting and incredibly close, with less than 10 minutes (corrected time) between the top three boats in our class.” Grieb said his traditional spinnaker might have been his secret weapon, since Masquerade had an asymmetrical spinnaker that required it to sail “more of a zig-zag course” from Buzzards Bay Tower back to Newport. “When we were reaching on the second leg, Masquerade’s asymmetrical jib smoked us, but then it was almost like a restart south of Block Island, because everyone became becalmed. Masquerade finished ahead of us, but we corrected out to win. They beat the third-place boat by just 54 seconds, which is pretty remarkable after 20 hours of sailing.”


First-time Ida Lewis Distance Race competitors Philip Haydon and Mike DiMella sailed Haydon’s Quest 33s Cepheus to victory in the Doublehanded class. © Stephen Cloutier


Winning the Collegiate Challenge for the William Tuthill Collegiate Trophy was Arthur Santry’s Ker 50 Temptation Oakcliff (New York, NY/Newport, RI). Ten of the team’s 17 crew were in college or high school, and the team finished third in IRC. “We were in the hunt for first with ten minutes to spare, but as the wind shut down, then there was five minutes to spare and then we were just out of the running completely,” said Navigator Alex Lulewicz of Milwaukee, WI, who has competed several times before in this race. “I always look forward to this. It’s not really an offshore race where you just sail in a straight line and have moments that you hate it, and it’s not like an inshore race; it’s a perfect in-between sprint race that’s less than 24 hours and everyone has a fair shot.”

Ida Lewis Yacht Club hosts this world-class race with the help of generous sponsors. Gold sponsors for the 2019 Ida Lewis Distance Race are City of Newport, Contender Sailcloth, Ocean Navigator, and Safe Harbor New England Boatworks. Silver sponsor is Newport Shipyard; Bronze sponsors are Cay Electronics, Gold’s Wine & Spirits, North Sails, Rig Pro Southern Spars, and Stella Artois. Contributing Sponsors are Ferzo Wines, Goslings Rum, Mac Designs, Newport Construction Services, Inc., Toni Mills Graphic Design, Triton Insurance, Zardetto Prosecco, and Z Blok. For more information, visit or contact Race Chairman Pat Kennedy at ■