(Newport, RI)- This year’s Ida Lewis Distance Race was blessed by amazingly beautiful sailing conditions. Starting out in a strong southwester blowing 15-22 kts, the fleet took off at noon and into the sunset far offshore, seeking their first “mark” of the course— a “virtual mark” they had to navigate around using the GPS (hopefully accurate).
The “virtual mark” added an intriguing new twist to the 10th Annual Ida Lewis Distance Race (ILDR). The popular overnight race took the fleet of PHRF, IRC, One-Design, Double-handed and “Youth Challenge” boats on one of four courses – between 104nm and 177nm – that trace the New England coastline. First boats in the fleet were finishing by Saturday morning and most everyone finished by the evening— a fast, fun race for all with many J/teams reporting surfing or planing into the mid-teens on at least two of the legs!
Awarded the Kits van Heyningen Trophy for winning the Youth Challenge was Fred Van Liew’s team on the J/111 ODYSSEY (to qualify for the Youth Challenge, more than 40% of the crew had reached their 14th birthday but not turned 20 prior to August 15). When asked what he thought were the determining factors in ODYSSEY’s win, 17-year-old Trevor Davidson said, “Team chemistry and the fact that we were so comfortable and trusting in each other’s judgment.” Davidson was one of seven youth sailors onboard. “We also sailed really well at night. Between 1am and 4am in the morning is when everyone starts to drop off, but that was when we were at our best. We had four guys out on deck and we were doing ten knots with the kite up in 15 knots of breeze.”
Van Liew and his friend Bob Goss made up the “adult” portion of the team. “The youth sailors we had with us were very competent,” said Van Liew who has a number of offshore races under his belt. “Offshore racing calls for a different kind of sailing and teamwork than buoy racing. It’s a matter of pacing yourself and trying to take care of yourself and your team. Everybody has multiple responsibilities, because you move around for watches.” Van Liew added that the Ida Lewis Distance Race is a fantastic stepping stone for the next generation of sailors interested in transitioning into longer offshore courses. “This is a star event and one I am going to put it on the schedule for next year!”
The report from the J/88 was equally enthusiastic. In this case, the J/88 offshore experience was a “family affair”! Here is the commentary from skipper Rick Fleig, “the race turned out to be a spectacular Ida Distance Race on the 88! What a terrific boat. I had gone on out on the 88 last summer on a few demo sails for some prospective clients, but putting her through her paces in the ILDR was fantastic. We had a great start, though in retrospect both Steve & I said we should have tacked onto port right after the committee boat’s anchor line to keep our air clear as we stayed on the starboard board a little too long and got run over by a 45+ footer and then sat in some bad air for a while. We also should have sailed with the 95% heavy blade jib - we didn't and we were on our ear most of the time upwind for the first few hours. Certainly a mistake in those conditions with only four aboard, two of which were teenagers. Regardless, we had so much fun and the boat was really a joy to sail.
We hit 17.5 knots on the first long run to Buzzards Bay Tower with my son Tyler notching the high speed for the race!! Awesome stuff! All that downwind Laser practice pays off even in big boats! We did a few round ups on that leg with Steve, myself and Tyler all contributing, as it takes a little getting used to feeling the rudder load up as you come across the wave face, heating it up, and then running back down. We learned that you have to feel the load and then carve down slowly to get the best performance. Steve was turning hard down the wave face Laser style and it wasn't as effective as carving a slow turn down and holding onto the wave and plane. Fun stuff!!
All that in only 15-18 knots TWS, simply an amazing boat!! Just a little more breeze and time on the stick and surely we would have hit 20 kts boatspeed easy downwind!
To sum up - we missed first place in the division by 11 seconds to the J/111 ODYSSEY! And, when I suggested to Steve, his son John, and my son Tyler that we should do it again next year in a bigger boat, they all said in unison, ‘No way - this boat is awesome!’ And, I have to say, I agree!
Thanks again for allowing both Steve and I the opportunity to sail with our sons in a great event on the J/88, making some memories that will never be forgotten. Everything worked very well and even in that breeze, the boat was totally manageable by two adults and two teenagers. Talk about great family sailing!”
In addition to the 88 and 111 sailing the Youth Challenge, there was quite a line-up of eleven other J/Teams that participated in the event (30.0% of 53 keelboats)! In the IRC Division, Paul Milo’s J/122 ORION took a 7th in their 14 boat class. Then in PHRF Division, Bob Manchester’s J/120 VAMOOSE took 3rd, followed by Paul Grimes family crew on their J/35 BREAKAWAY in fourth.
The PHRF Double-handed Class saw Mike Piper’s J/111 EAGLES DARE from Eastern YC in Marblehead, MA sailing against three fast Class 40s and managing to take 4th— as Mike described the experience, “it’s hard to hold back the Class 40s when 75% of the race was reaching! A mixture of wind strength and direction is much better for us.”
Finally, in the PHRF Cruising Spinnaker class, five J/Teams dominated overall. Taking second was EC Helme’s J/92s SPIRIT, followed by Brooke Mastrorio’s J/109 URSA in 3rd, Bob Anderson’s J/46 ARIEL in 4th, Brendan Kelley’s J/133 EXILE in 5th and Chris Oliver’s University of Michigan college team sailing the J/40 COVENANT took 6th. For more Ida Lewis Distance Race sailing information