Gearing up for Ida Lewis Distance Race
Published on April 28th, 2015
For over a decade, grand prix sailors and racing/cruising enthusiasts alike have flocked to the summer destination of Newport, R.I. to compete in the Ida Lewis Distance Race, and on Friday, August 14, 2015 the tradition will continue with another year of “just-right” overnight racing planned for the hallowed waters of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island as well as Block Island Sound.
Depending on weather and wind conditions, organizers can choose to send IRC, PHRF, One Design, Multihull and Double-Handed boats of 28 feet or longer on one of four coastal round-trip race courses, ranging from between 104 and 177 nautical miles in distance.
“It is an extraordinary event,” said Steve Benjamin (Norwalk, Conn.) who won IRC and claimed line honors at the race last year with his Carkeek 40 Spookie. “The race is exhilarating, and last year the breezy conditions had us flying around the course. We started shortly after noon (off Fort Adams State Park) and finished at dawn in front of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, which was a great way to see the sunrise.”
Co-Chair Skip Helme said the race is popular because “it’s not too long, not too short.” This is especially important for teams that might be trying offshore sailing for the first time. “It’s a way to experience world-class offshore racing without having to beat yourself up, and for many teams, it’s a matter of navigating mostly-familiar waters.”
Video from the 2014 Ida Lewis Distance Race (Video Credit: Kate Nota
Organizers have also encouraged a new generation of sailors to try distance racing on for size through the separately scored Youth and Collegiate Challenges. Seven teams in last year’s record 47-boat fleet participated in one or the other of these challenges last year.
“I focus my whole summer on preparing for the Ida Lewis Distance Race,” said 17-year-old Kate Nota, who has been competing in the race for the past four years and won the Youth Challenge last year with her team on the J/111 Odyssey. “I’ve been racing dinghies since I was a kid, but got my first opportunity to try offshore racing at the Ida Lewis Distance Race. It completely opened my eyes to a whole new side of the sailing world, and I automatically fell in love with it.”
To qualify for the Youth Challenge, more than 40% of the crew must have reached their 14th birthday but not turned 20 prior to August 14, 2015. Teams are encouraged to register under the burgee of a US Sailing yacht club or community sailing program.
“The youth component is great because you are sharing the race experience with your peers,” added Nota, “but the race itself is fantastic, and it is such a great event for connecting with adults who are renowned sailors.”
Last year, Kevin McLaughlin’s Farr 47 Crazy Horse (representing Duquesne University) won the Collegiate Challenge, which similarly requires that more than 40% of the crew must not have reached the age of 26 by August 15, 2014. Collegiate teams also are encouraged to register under the burgee of a college sailing program, a US Sailing yacht club or community sailing program.
The Rhode Island Offshore Challenge Trophy
For the first time this year, the Ida Lewis Yacht Club and Bristol Yacht Club have joined forces to create the Rhode Island Offshore Challenge Trophy. This perpetual trophy (to be crafted and donated by GMT Composites), will be presented to the boat with the best combined score in the Ida Lewis Distance Race and the Sid Clark Offshore Race, scheduled for July 10 and featuring a variety of courses ranging in length from 75 to 160 miles.
The Ida Lewis Distance Race also is a qualifier for the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF); the Northern and Double-Handed Ocean Racing Trophies (IRC); and the US-IRC Gulf Stream Series.
Race website: http://www.ildistancerace.org
Report by event media. Top photo by Meghan Sepe.