by Jan Harley
The 26 boats competing in the Ida Lewis Distance Race were allowed to power up on Friday, August 17th amid ideal sailing conditions, perfect starts and a 16-18 knot southwesterly breeze. The fleet was able to provide a great show for the spectators who turned out to see them off on their offshore adventure. The IRC, PHRF and PHRF Doublehanded fleets were sent on the 122 nautical mile Nomans course, while the two boats racing in the PHRF Cruising Spinnaker class took on the 103 nautical mile Buzzards Tower course.
Mark Glimcher’s Catapult passes Fort Adams on her way to winning the IRC Class of the 2012 Ida Lewis Distance Race
Weather conditions led to a prediction that the leaders in IRC would be at the finish line off the historic Ida Lewis Yacht Club sometime after sunrise on Saturday morning, where they would receive the traditional champagne welcome. That prophecy came true for the Ker 40 Catapult owned by Marc Glimcher (New York, N.Y.), which had passed the first mark of the course with about a minute lead on the rest of the IRC fleet and held on to take line honors just before 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.
'This race was fantastic,' said Geoff Ewenson (Annapolis, Md.) who was the navigator on Catapult. 'They made a very good decision in shortening the course to a 122 miler. It really allowed all of the IRC boats to race reasonably tightly and there was everything to the race without the extra 25 or 30 or 40 miles. In the end everybody on our team, and I’m sure on the 42s, felt like it was the perfect length race. We got all the conditions, all the angles, we had a bit of everything and we didn’t feel that the race drug on at all. For us it ended at the right time.'
Ewenson sailed the inaugural Ida Lewis Distance Race in 2004 and recalled that they finished that race in the wee hours of Sunday morning with the race taking what seemed like forever. This year after finishing the race in under 17 hours he explained that the challenge was whether to get into a watch system or tough it out and sail everybody up. 'We realized there would be short bits during the race when it wouldn’t be stability conditions and so we had to steal little naps then. The most anybody slept on our boat was probably an hour.'
For their efforts, Catapult collected the Ida Lewis Distance Race Commodore’s Trophy for the IRC class win, along with the perpetual Russell L. Hoyt Memorial Trophy for best elapsed time. For Ewenson, winning the Hoyt award had special meaning.
'When I was 10 years old I sailed home from Bermuda on Russell Hoyt’s boat Destination. I grew up in Newport and knew Russell and I considered him to be a friend even though he was quite a bit older than me. It really is quite nice to be able to be on the boat that comes back and wins the trophy that’s named after him.'
The 56’ Swan White Rhino captured the glory in the 14-strong PHRF class. Owner Todd Stuart (Key West, Fla.) almost pulled out of the race when he thought he wouldn’t have enough crew. It all came together with a number of his regular crew, including sailors he has twice done the Bermuda Race with, forming the core of this race’s team. 'We had a great race; it was a lot of fun,' said Stuart after collecting the Lime Rock Trophy for the class win.
'We started out fast and the wind held up for us and when it’s windy our boat’s pretty quick, and I think we got lucky. When we turned around, I think the winds were changing behind us a little bit. I think some of the slower boats that could have caught us on corrected time, if the winds had held up, I think the door just closed on them. For a brief period we were down to about four knots of breeze during the thunderstorms; we barely got wet and then the winds came back to being favorable for us. We made good time the whole way. We made a decision to leave Block Island to starboard and I think that was the right choice because a boat that was pretty much neck-and-neck with us left it to port and when we both got on the back side we had definitely gained a couple miles on them.'
Stuart raced the 2011 ILDR in the IRC class, and because he expected to have fewer crew kept White Rhino in PHRF for this year’s race. 'This was perfect as we had a bunch of new people on the boat so we thought we’d play it safe and make the boat a little less dramatic. Until the storms came through it was a perfect starlit night with little meteorites here and there. Nobody complained this year about the distance. It was a fast race and we finished in 17 hours. Seems perfect to me. We had an awesome time. This is actually our first win in a real race so my wife Lisa [the cook on all of White Rhino’s distance races] and I, we’re very excited about it.'
The win in the PHRF Doublehanded class was taken by Paul Cronin (Jamestown, R.I.) and Jim Anderson on the Quest 30 Kincora, with the PHRF Cruising Spinnaker prize going to the Nautor Swan 55 Haerlem owned by Hendrikus Wisker (Round Hill, Va.). Four boats had met the requirement that more than 40% of the crew must have reached their 14th birthday but not turn 20 prior to August 17, to compete for the Youth Challenge, and Chris Bjerregaard’s (Bristol, R.I.) Bashford Howlson 36 Shearwater earned that honor.
Spearheading a new challenge for college teams to compete in this late-summer distance race, SUNY Maritime College (Throggs Neck, N.Y.) reinstated the William E. Tuthill Trophy which was last presented in 1978 to the winner of the Eastern Inter-Collegiate Overnight Race. The trophy honors Tuthill, an avid sailor and member of the class of 1973, who met with accidental death at sea on the summer cruise in 1972. Massachusetts Maritime College (Buzzards Bay, Mass.) bested SUNY Maritime to receive the trophy in what is planned to be a continuing challenge.
The Ida Lewis Distance Race 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.
Ida Lewis Distance Race website