Islander and his small crew prepare for Ida Lewis Distance Race
On Friday, Aug. 19, at 1 p.m., a fleet of sailboats will set off from a point off Fort Adams for the seventh edition of the Ida Lewis Distance Race. The course will take racers to turning points as far off as Montauk Point on Long Island before returning home.
The race is open to sailboats 28 feet and longer. Nearly 20 boats have entered to this point, and more are on the way.
Among the entries is John Wayt’s S&S Swan 44, which is named Vixen. Wayt, a Jamestown resident, will be sailing in his second Ida Lewis Distance Race. He finished second in the cruising spinnaker class when he entered the race for the first time in 2009.
“In the past we’ve done a lot more buoy racing, but after a friend of ours requested we do the Ida Lewis Distance Race back in 2009, we decided to try it out and ended up having a great time,” Wayt said. “We did the race that year with four crew members, including my wife. It was a really relaxing sail but also competitive.”
Everyone who participated in the 2009 race will recall that a hurricane was forecast to hit the area around the time of the start. “The race was to start on a Friday, and the hurricane was supposed to hit on a Sunday,” Wayt said. “They wanted to do the race, and we did it just before the hurricane was supposed to hit. The hurricane never hit so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was a pretty interesting time. We had a great time.”
Wayt said the course was shorted a bit in 2009. He said that normally the boats sail 125 miles, but they wound up doing about 100 miles. “We left about 3:30 in the afternoon, and we finished about 10:30 the next morning. So it was about 19 hours,” he said.
Wayt’s second-place finish was remarkable given that he sailed with a crew of only four, so this year he will be sailing with a bigger crew – of five.
“It will only be five, but the guys are a bit more experienced,” Wayt said.
Vixen is part of the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet cruising class, and that’s exactly where Wayt wants to be.
“If we had to go all out, I’d have to get nine or 10 guys,” he said. “We just enjoy doing it this way. We’re still competitive, but nobody is running into each other. It’s just easier, it’s safer, and we have a better time. Safety is huge in these offshore races.”
According to Wayt’s velocity prediction program – which is a program that solves for the performance of a yacht in different wind conditions by balancing hull and sail forces – this year’s race should take them 22 or 23 hours, but nature doesn’t always cooperate with modern technology. “It could take less, it could take a whole lot more,” Wayt said.
Wayt has lived in Jamestown for 15 years and has owed Vixen since 1993. “Our racing has kind of tailed off in the last few years, mainly because some of the regattas that we used to do aren’t done anymore. I’ve got crew that has other obligations and my wife and I have been more focused on cruising.”
Wayt said that he raced in the New York Yacht Club Regatta in June. The New York regatta is the oldest in the country. But Wayt said that him and his wife had recently been involved with their house.
“My wife and I just built a new house in Jamestown, so we’re into that. We still do a lot of sailing on the weekends. We’ve kept the boat at the Jamestown Boat Yard since we’ve owned it. I have a long relationship with those guys.”
This year’s entries include skippers from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. There is also a youth challenge for the event. To qualify more than 40 percent of the crew must have reached the age of 14 but not turned 20 years old by the day of the race.
The race committee will choose separate courses that are longer for IRC boats, and shorter for PHRF, youth teams, one-design and double handed sailing teams. The courses range in length from the 104-nautical-mile Buzzard’s Bay Tower course, to the 177-nauticalmile Montauk course.
The Ida Lewis Distance Race begins in the area of Goat Island. From there it proceeds to a buoy that marks the entrance to Narragansett Bay. A left turn there takes the fleet toward Little Compton, where they turn the buoy marking the Sakonnet River.
From there it’s on to Montauk Point on Long Island and then Noman’s Island, which is off Martha’s Vineyard. After passing the Buzzard’s Bay Entrance Light, the fleet turns toward home, traveling around Fort Adams and up Narragansett Bay to a finish in Newport Harbor, close to the sponsoring Ida Lewis Yacht Club.
Wayt, who has sailed at venues around the world including Bermuda, the Caribbean and Asia, has little doubt about his favorite sailing area. “I think that Jamestown and this area is the best sailing ground on the East Coast, and possibly in the United States,” he said. “All you to do is look at all the boats that are out there, and all the boats that come here. I used to live in Connecticut but I still kept the boat here.”
Race organizers are encouraging competitors to enter by the earlybird deadline, which is tomorrow – Friday, Aug. 5. For more information, visit the Ida Lewis Distance Race website.