It was as good as it gets for 47 teams sailing in the Ida Lewis Yacht Club’s 18th Ida Lewis Distance Race presented by Bluenose Yacht Sales. Race organizers had promised to reinforce the race’s reputation as a challenging 24-hour overnight competition, and that they did by developing a brand-new selection of courses to fit all sorts of weather scenarios and incorporate as many sailing angles as possible. After a two-hour postponement due to a severe weather forecast, the race started off Fort Adams in Newport, RI on Friday, August 18 at 1 p.m., and subsequently saw winds of 20-30 knots delivered over courses that ranged from 129 to 203 nautical miles for ORC 1, ORC 2, PHRF Doublehanded, PHRF Aloha, PHRF Coronet, and PHRF Bagheera classes.
“I wouldn’t call it easy, but it sure was a lot of fun,” said Dave Reed (Newport, RI), crewmember aboard the Swan 36 COCO, which won the six-boat PHRF Bagheera class on a 155 nautical mile course. “It was a blur of a coastal tour with two visits to Buzzards Bay Tower, a gusty midnight flyby of “1BI” (a buoy off the north end of Block Island), a frantic hunt for a mark among dozens of lights off Fishers Island, a difficult night run past the Block Island Wind Farm and a magical sunrise spinnaker leg with spouting whales and the best dolphin show I’ve ever experienced. From start to finish we had big breeze, big waves, a star-filled sky and 26 hours of challenging coastal racing. Our navigator Stu Streuli (Newport) is our MVP; he did an incredible job of finding our marks, keeping us fast and safe and re-packing spinnakers when no one else had the stomach to.”
For COCO’s skipper Ian Scott (Newport), who has competed several times and never won, this first victory was exhilarating. “It was a true distance race, and tiring!” he said. “There was never any drifting, and there was a lot of navigation at night in high winds. Our boat needs lots of wind to perform, so we were always moving well and even caught up with the class ahead of us.”
This was the third time winning the event’s growing Doublehanded class for Ken Read (Portsmouth, RI) who sailed with his brother Brad Read (Middletown, RI) aboard the Jeanneau Sunfast 3300 Avalon. “This was the best Ida Lewis Distance Race course ever,” said Read, who has won many sailing championship titles and explained that his class’s course (for eight boats) was 188 nm. “A real variety of angles and conditions; going to places outside of Rhode Island Sound; great course length; and plenty of breeze and big waves. It was fun, challenging, and refreshing. And we finished in 26 hours which is pretty close to the published goal of a 24-hour race.”
“Sailing doublehanded offshore in some pretty sporty conditions is daunting, for sure,” said Brad Read. “It’s cool sailing with your sibling, though. There were a couple of brotherly squabbles out there, but my takeaway was just how amazing my big brother is at sailboat racing.”
In ORC 2, John Feliciano and Zach Doerr (Glen Cove, NY) co-skippered the Figaro 1 Groupe 5 (also a Collegiate Challenge entry) to victory over 10 boats. The “four-up team” (only four sailors aboard) represented the North East Keelboat Alliance (NEKA), a non-profit (based in Glen Cove) dedicated to training the next generation of sailors to race at the highest levels in keelboat racing. “This was one of the most intense races we’ve ever done, with the wind up the whole time and the waves steep and choppy,” said Feliciano, who typically trains in the more predictable (and calm) conditions of Long Island Sound, “and a lot of things happen when it gets dark.”
Trophies were given for top Collegiate as well as Youth teams, and it was notable that 48 individuals under the age of 26 sailed across eight boats. Groupe 5 not only won the Commodore’s Trophy for best corrected time overall in ORC but also the William Tuthill Collegiate Trophy as top finisher in the Collegiate Challenge. Winning the Arnt H. Kitts Trophy as top finisher in the Youth Challenge was James Phyfe’s J/44 Digger (Cranston, RI), which finished third in the 13-boat PHRF Coronet class.
“This is a generational sport, and it was a pleasure to see such vim and energy in the young sailors and the mentoring by adults as they pass along their knowledge,” said Glenn Walters from Bluenose Yacht Sales, who also competed in the event (finishing second in PHRF Coronet aboard the Jeanneau Sunfast 3300 Arkana).
Oakcliff Sailing’s R/P 86 OC-86, which finished second in the six-boat PHRF Aloha class, was the first-to-finish team at 09:50:16 Saturday morning, completing its 203 nm course in just over 20 hours and 15 minutes. It counted 18 people under the age of 21 among its crew, many of them sailing overnight for their first time. Finishing approximately 18 minutes behind them was Richard Moody’s R/P 66 Boudicca (Jamestown, RI), which corrected out over OC-86 to win the class.
Other winners were Michael D’Amelio’s JV/66 Denali (Boston, MA) in ORC 1 with three boats, and Steve Marenakos J/105 Reckless (Niantic, CT) in PHRF Coronet with 13 boats. Complete results are posted at lyc.org/distancerace.
Shake-A-Leg Miami’s The Impossible Dream sailed in an Exhibition Multihull class. The organization behind this remarkable 58-foot wheelchair accessible catamaran is a nonprofit with a mission of demonstrating how boating can be accessible to all and inspire people to do more.
Presenting Sponsor for the 2023 Ida Lewis Distance Race was Bluenose Yacht Sales. Gold Sponsor was Contender Sailcloth. Silver Sponsors were Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard and Hogan Associates/Christie’s International Real Estate. Bronze Sponsors were Langan Design Partners, Newport Construction Services, Inc. and Gold’s Wine and Spirits. Contributing Sponsors were Toni Mills Graphic Design, Mac Designs, Goslings Black Seal Rum, and Stella Artois. ■