Islander hopes for good start to tomorrow’s Ida Lewis race
Ed Flynn would rather forget the start of last year’s Ida Lewis Distance Race. The Jamestown resident was involved in a frightening collision as the boats vied for position on the starting line. Despite the bad start, Flynn managed to finish third in his class aboard his Beneteau 40.7.
The eighth edition of the Ida Lewis Distance Race will set sail Friday, Aug. 17. A fleet of approximately 40 boats – divided into four classes – is expected at the starting line. The boats will sail one of four courses that range in distance from 113 to 171 miles. Courses are assigned to classes based on boat speed and weather. The goal is to have everyone back in port by Saturday afternoon.
For the third year, race organizers are offering a youth challenge as a part of the race. To qualify for the trophy, 40 percent of a boat’s crew members need to be between 14 and 19 years old.
According to Jerry Kirby, a veteran of the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, “Without the kids, there is no future for the sport of sailing. Something like the youth challenge is an important thing that every sailing club or group should have to get young people excited about the sport.”
The race’s four classes include IRC, PHRF, cruising spinnaker and double-handed. Flynn, who sails in the Jamestown Yacht Club’s summer racing series, will be part of the double-handed class. He hopes that there will be at least three other boats in his class. His teammate for the event will be Tim Brownell of Wickford, who was not available for last year’s effort.
“I’m really excited about the race because we will be at full strength,” Flynn said. “This is my fifth year in the Ida Lewis race, so we’re becoming one of the old veterans in it.”
According to Flynn, who captains Lark, racecourses are usually not assigned until the skipper’s meeting on the night before the race. Although it depends to an extent on how much wind is predicted over the area, typically the faster IRC boats are sent on the longest course, which takes them to Montauk Point and back. Other boats head for points that include Martha’s Vineyard, Buzzard’s Bay and Block Island, before returning to Narragansett Bay.
Dirk Johnson is the race director for the Ida Lewis Distance Race this year. According to Johnson, he is looking forward to another in a tradition of the classic summer races that have characterized this event over the years.
“We have beautiful summer conditions,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to go out and race in these waters, to be able to go out to Block Island Sound, and then Montauk Point, and Martha’s Vineyard in August. It’s a beautiful time of the year. The boats enjoy it.”
Johnson said that the fleet is shaping up to be exactly what the race committee expected, which means 40 boats or more. Although only 20 boats are registered so far, historically a number of owners wait until the last minute to sign up, and this year the registrations are ahead of last year’s pace already.
“We’re trying to get some of the families and kids out,” Johnson said. “It is such a great time of the year to be out sailing, and it’s great for people who might not have done an overnight race before. They can go out and enjoy being on the water at night and getting established in the sport. It’s been successful in the past in giving people that experience.”
The cruising-spinnaker class is the one that Johnson hopes will attract families to the race. Class rules allow for roller furling jibs and spinnakers, which means that racers don’t need an extended crew on the boat.
“I see it as a step in the right direction before someone commits to going out, buying racing sails and entering that next level,” he said. According to Johnson, the committee will try to assign courses that allow everyone to return by Saturday afternoon. “It’s a 24-hour race. We’re not trying to do more than that. Plus we have a great party lined up Saturday night at the yacht club, which we want everybody to be at.”
Another entrant with a Jamestown affiliation is Paul Grimes, who lives in Portsmouth. He is a member of the Conanicut Yacht Club. Grimes’ boat is a J35 named Breakaway, which will compete against Flynn in the double-handed class.
Other top entrants in the Ida Lewis Distance Race include the grand prix racer Rima2, a Reichel Pugh 55 skippered by John Brim, Tristan Mouligne’s Quest 30 Samba, and its archrival Wazimo, an Aerodyne 38 owned by Bob Manchester and Barrett Holby.