Late Summer New England Tradition
Published on August 13th, 2018
Over 50 teams are counting down the day for the 14th annual Ida Lewis Distance Race which gets underway August 17 between Fort Adams and Rose Island in Newport, RI. Prior to the gun, Ida Lewis Yacht Club’s Race Committee will decide – based on weather forecasts and sea conditions – which of four courses will be used in this 2018 edition of the yearly round-trip offshore adventure.
“The courses range from 112 to 169 nautical miles and incorporate such iconic waypoints as Castle Hill, Brenton Reef, Block Island, Montauk Point, Martha’s Vineyard, and Buzzards Tower,” said Race Chairman Pat Kennedy. “They are chosen with the best intention of having the fleet finish within 18-24 hours.”
Twenty teams on the roster show as hailing from Rhode Island along with out-of-town entries from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and as far away as Ohio, Florida, and Louisiana.
“It’s one of my favorites,” said Steve Benjamin who will be on his TP52 Spookie and seeking to repeat their 2016 victory. “I particularly like the challenge of deciding which side to take Block Island on the leg from Vineyard Tower to Montauk.” Benjamin will be assisted by a stacked team that includes Ken Read, Jeremy Wilmot, and Jesse Fielding.
Dreamcatcher is a Swan 48 sailed by Stonington Connecticut’s Mudratz Offshore Program. The team won its class in the Newport to Bermuda Race and has joined the Ida Lewis Distance Race roster as a Youth Entry, which requires at least 40% of a crew to be within a certain age range to qualify.
Middletown, R.I.’s Andy Burton will also field a Youth Entry in the five-boat PHRF Cruising Spinnaker class aboard his newly obtained Baltic 47 Masquerade, while the J/105 Young American YCC will represent the Young American Sailing Academy of Rye, N.Y. as a Youth Entry in the 27-boat PHRF division. The team won its class here last year.
“We had a great time despite the fact it was really windy,” said Young American YCC’s coach Peter Becker. “The kids loved it and have sea stories to tell about surfing right through the lee of boats significantly larger than us.”
The Academy has also entered Gambler, a Reichel/Pugh 63 provided by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation. The team, entered in IRC division, is preparing for next year’s Transatlantic Race and qualifies as both a Youth and Collegiate Entry, the latter of which also has an age requirement for 40% of the crew.
Oakcliff Racing of Oyster Bay, N.Y. will send no less than three collegiate teams on Farr 40s the organization uses for its sailing training programs. “Offshore racing is definitely what I came to do at Oakcliff,” said 24-year-old Brian Reilly (Mahopat, N.Y.) who will skipper Oakcliff Farr 40 Black. “I heard this race is a good time and I should do it.”
The 17-year-old Joe Riley (Marion, Mass.), who will skipper Oakcliff Farr 40 Red, has sailed on a winning boat three times in the Ida Lewis Distance Race. “I definitely like it,” said Riley. “It’s a one-night sprint. You hunker down, go full throttle, and there’s no slacking off.”
Portsmouth, R.I.’s Paul Grimes, who has sailed the event four times on his J/35 Breakaway, hasn’t officially entered as a Collegiate Entry in PHRF division, but he’ll definitely be bringing along some local-area college sailing ringers, including his son Alden Grimes, who sails for Bodin College, Adrian van der Wal (Northeastern), Victoria Boatwright (Georgetown), and Collin Moffett (Princeton).
Newport’s Bill Kneller has skippered in the race every year since 2015 on his J/109 Vento Solare, with friends who sail with him regularly in the Tuesday night Jamestown Yacht Club race series. “We haven’t made the podium yet but are getting better each year,” he said. “Last year we were one of only 20 boats that endured the weather and finished the race.”
In the four-boat Doublehanded division, David Southwell (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) will be sailing the race for the first time in Alchemy, a J/121 that is new to him this year. His crew Stuart MacNeil has never sailed a doublehanded race before and this will only be Southwell’s second time to do so. “I’m preparing for the Bermuda One Two next year by doing shorthanded and solo races and deliveries. We’re really looking forward to this!”
Other defending champions are the father/son team of Stephen Murray Sr. and Stephen Murray Jr. (Metairie, Louisiana) aboard the Volvo 70 Warrior, the largest boat in the fleet, and Brian Cunha (Newport, R.I.) aboard the Ker 55 Irie 2.
Source: Media Pro Intl