Islanders enjoy their day on the bay – aside from one little crash
The Ida Lewis Distance Race was started in 2004 and was originally planned as a biennial event. It soon proved so popular that it became an annual race. It is the only round-trip distance race that begins and ends in Newport.
This year, a fleet of 35 boats set sail on a breezy Friday afternoon. The competitors were divided into four classes, and there were three separate starts. At the top of the scale were the eight hardcore race boats in the Class 1 IRC division. The Performance Handicap Racing Fleet group was the most popular, with 20 boats entered. There was also a PHRF double-handed class and a PHRF cruising spinnaker division.
The fleet was spread out over three courses that ranged in length from 104 nautical miles to 177 nautical miles. Depending on their course, racers passed by landmarks that included Block Island, Montauk, Noman’s Island and the Buzzard’s Bay Tower.
Jamestown was well represented in the race. Local residents Patti Young and Paul Hamilton entered their Frers 41 named Sarabande. It was quite a change of pace for the two experienced sailors who were recently crew members on the 289-foot super yacht Maltese Falcon in the Transatlantic Race 2011. Sarabande sailed with a crew of six in the 122-nautical-mile Noman’s course.
“It was the first time we’ve raced the boat in years because we’ve been busy racing other people’s boats,” Young said. Despite Sarabande’s mid-pack finish, there were more than ample rewards for Young and her crew. “It was the most beautiful night sailing I think I’ve ever done,” she said. “Montauk to Noman’s was in the moonlight. It was gorgeous.”
“There were dolphins chasing us the whole time,” Young added. “When we rounded the buoy in Montauk, I was at the helm. We heard this weird noise and there were dolphins running and jumping right under the water next to us. They stayed there for hours. That was the highlight for us.”
Young was happy with the effort her crew made in catching up after a less-than-perfect start. “We could have gotten a better start, but we did awesome at night,” she said. “We made up a lot of ground. We have a bunch of young people on the boat who are really accomplished sailors. Everybody’s focus at night was phenomenal, and that’s where I always think you can make up the most difference because people get tired.”
The second start of the afternoon was for the double-handed and cruising spinnaker classes. It was that race that almost brought disaster. Jamestown’s John Wayt was heading toward the line on starboard tack when his S&S Swan 42 named Vixen encountered Lark, Ed Flynn’s double-handed Beneteau First 40.7. As Lark was trying to squeeze between Vixen and the committee boat, it was soon realized that there wasn’t enough room for both boats, and a collision resulted.
Both skippers were magnanimous following the frightening moment. “The only comment that I would make is that I always dislike protests,” Wayt said. “I was unhappy with myself for being involved. I’m not going to say it was anybody’s fault. I’m just disappointed when I’m involved in protests.”
A protest was filed but disallowed by the race committee for technical reasons.
Wayt sailed the 104-nautical-mile Buzzard’s Bay course with a crew of six that included his wife Carolyn and Jamestown resident Blake Dickinson. “We had a great time,” Wayt said. “It was safe. We got second. Everybody had a great time.”
Wayt also remarked on the beauty of the night sailing portion of the race, and the appearance of dolphins beside his boat. “The run from Montauk up to Buzzard’s Bay was a beautiful run. We really thank Ida Lewis Yacht Club for putting it on. It was really well done. We just enjoyed it. And my wife is a great cook.”
Flynn, a veteran of the Tuesday night races in Jamestown, also took the high road regarding the collision. “It was a contentious start,” Flynn said. “We appeared to have a lane, but we were the give-way boat. We had a very tight space between the committee boat and the other vessel. We made light contact.”
From that point forward, Lark performed nicely. Flynn said that he had good boat speed and he regained what he had lost at the start.
“We had a wonderful sail over to Montauk,” he said.
After rounding the Montauk mark, Flynn had a decision to make based on the fact that he was doublehanding. “We were seeing that there were strong thunderstorms coming through,” he said. “We opted not to put up the spinnaker until we could assess the weather. Our greatest concern was that if we had 30-plus knots of breeze coming down on us with the spinnaker up we would have sail handling issues in getting the spinnaker down.”
Eventually, Flynn raised the spinnaker.
Flynn, in his fourth Ida Lewis Distance Race, also reported dolphin encounters and beautiful overnight sailing. Lark finished third in the double handed class and Flynn plans to return next year.
“It’s just a beautiful race,” he said.