Brian Cunha’s “Irie 2” Wins Ida Lewis Distance Race

Fully expecting light and variable breezes overnight, 43 sailing teams started the 2022 Ida Lewis Distance Race on Friday, August 19 and returned throughout the day Saturday, August 20 to complete the event’s 17th edition. The wind conditions wound up ranging from 8-10 knots at the start to high teens and 20s out near Block Island to nearly nothing at points near the finish, making this one of the trickiest races in recent memory.

First to finish under cover of darkness at 4:01 a.m. was Brian Cunha’s (Newport, R.I.) Kerr 55 Irie 2, which won both the Lois J. Muessel Memorial Trophy for best elapsed time and the Lime Rock Trophy for best corrected time among the PHRF Coronet Class’s 12 entries. The performance also garnered Irie 2 overall honors for the entire PHRF division, comprised additionally of a PHRF Aloha Class, with 11 boats, and a Double Handed class, with 14 boats. An ORC class, with six boats, also competed.

“We hit every wind shift just right returning from the buoy off Montauk Point to the Buzzard’s Bay Tower,” said Cunha, who counts this as his seventh time competing in the event and his sixth time winning his class here. “The shifts were 20-30 degrees, so if you didn’t call them properly, you were in trouble. That, for us, was the critical part of the race.” Irie 2 also had a different wind and an incoming tide at Castle Hill (just before the finish) while some others finishing behind it were fighting an outgoing tide in a dying breeze. (James Phyfe’s J/44 Digger, which finished second overall in Coronet Class, finished at 9:36 a.m.)

Second over the finish line, at 4:22 a.m. was ORC winner Wizard, an R/P 69 skippered by David Greenstein (Stamford, Conn.). His class had sailed the longer “Block Island Course” of 153 nautical miles while the PHRF classes had sailed the 121 nm “Point Judith Course.”

“The longer course took us twice around Block Island: the first time to the same buoy off Montauk that the PHRF classes went to and the second time around Block Island without the

buoy rounding,” said Greenstein, who won both the Russell J. Hoyt Trophy and the Commodore’s Trophy for best elapsed and corrected time, respectively, in his class.

Greenstein described a tight match with Michael D’Amelio’s JV66 Denali, which corrected out approximately one minute and 16 seconds behind Wizard. “It took us just over 17 hours and we got in as the wind shut down, literally drifting over the finish line,” said Greenstein.

At the Awards Party on Saturday night at Ida Lewis Yacht Club, Rear Commodore Bill O’Hanley had figured out time differentials in each of the classes. “To illustrate the competitive nature of the four classes, we have to look at the corrected time sailed for each,” he said. “The separation of the second- and third-place finishers in ORC as well as the Aloha class was 24 seconds per mile…very impressive when you consider the average time for a mile sailed is 10 minutes. The separation of the second- and third-place finishers in the Double Handed class was even more impressive at three seconds per mile, and 1.5 seconds per mile for the Coronet Class. It doesn’t get more competitive than that.”

In PHRF Aloha class, the JPK 45 Take Two, with Gordon Fletcher at the helm, took home the Arthur Curtiss James Trophy for best corrected time. “We weren’t expecting anything because it’s a brand-new boat that we just sailed back from France in May and we are still learning it,” said Fletcher, who counted his wife Sharon and two sons Stephen (27) and Michael (24) among his crew. “We wanted to see how we stacked up against others and were pleasantly surprised.”

As many did, Fletcher indicated that choosing which way to round Block Island, either to the north or to the south, was critical in determining the outcome of the race. “We beat up to the mark off Montauk after going north around Block Island, because the tides favored that. Then we went south going back. The wind died out in Buzzard’s Bay, but we also saw high winds of 20-21 knots between Block Island and Point Judith.”

The Double Handed class winners Ken Read (Portsmouth, R.I.) and Sara Stone (Marion, Mass.), sailing their Sun Fast 3300 Alchemist, also rounded Block Island to the north with other leaders in their class after hitting the brisk winds that Take Two had encountered. “We spent the next three hours not having any idea if we had made the right choice or not,” said Read. “There were basically three parts to the race: the first part was straightforward as we headed to Block Island; the second part was which side do you round Block Island; and the third part was mentally staying in the game after Block Island because of a big ‘drift out’ where the wind died, and we basically started the race all over again.”

“It was good to get back in the groove of the Ida Lewis Distance Race,” said Race Chair Anselm Richards after noting that last year’s event was cancelled due to the approach of Hurricane Henri. “It was fun and challenging and came down to making lots of decisions, and those had to be the right ones for the winners.”

Winning the Arnt H. Kitts Trophy as top Youth Challenge team was Bill Kneller’s (Newport, R.I.) J/109 Vento Solare, while winning the William Tuthill Collegiate Trophy as top finisher in the Collegiate Challenge was Mudratz Racing’s (Stonington, Conn.) Corel 45 Spitfire. The teams finished fourth and 11th, respectively, in Aloha and Coronet classes.

“I’ve been sailing for five years and have never done something like this,” said Zachary Amalotte, an East Greenwich (R.I.) High School student who served as bow man on Vento Solare. “This race added the element of endurance and sailing overnight, which really tested how well I know boats, especially at 2 a.m. in the morning!”

Said Glenn Walters, founder and managing partner of presenting sponsor Bluenose Yacht Sales: “It’s a privilege to support not only the Ida Lewis Distance Race but also the great community and culture of sailing we have here in Newport. We appreciate that this race ‘gives back’ by helping to expand the involvement of youth, collegiate and women sailors in the sport.” Bluenose Yacht Sales directly supported four of the event’s entries, including Alchemist.



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