With this summer’s Newport to Bermuda Race now in the history books, veteran sailors such as Arthur Santry (Newport, R.I./Washington, D.C.) and Brian Cunha (Newport) are looking toward their next offshore adventure: the Ida Lewis Distance Race. Scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. start off Fort Adams on Friday, August 17, the late-summer sailing tradition is now in its 14th year, and by design it’s not just for experienced ocean racers but for newcomers as well.
“The Ida Lewis is the perfect event for giving cruising or ‘round-the-buoys sailors their first taste of open water sailing,” said Santry, who has 15 Bermuda races under his sailing belt and will count this as his fifth year sailing the Ida Lewis with his Ker 50 Temptation Oakcliff. “This year I plan to bring two to three young sailors, ages 15 and under, from Ida Lewis Yacht Club and Oakcliff Sailing. I was lucky enough to have that opportunity when I was younger, so I think it’s important…how else are they going to learn?”
Santry also explained that skippers who have never taken their boats offshore can prepare for and compete in the Ida Lewis Distance Race without a time commitment like what is needed for Newport to Bermuda. “The beauty of the race is that the Ida Lewis Race Committee members can pick any one of four courses from 112 to 169 miles. They look at the weather forecast before the race and say, ‘here’s what will work best for getting teams back to the dock within 18-24 hours.’”
The courses, which in each case send the fleet past Castle Hill on the way out of Narragansett Bay’s East Passage to Block Island and Long Island Sounds, are “The Montauk”, “The Block Island”, “The Point Judith”, and “The Buzzards Bay Tower”. As the names imply, the courses incorporate some of the most iconic cruising grounds in New England. Classes for IRC, PHRF, One Design, Multihull and Double-Handed insure that everyone (with a qualifying boat of 28 feet or longer) has a place to fit in, and there are youth and collegiate team categories.
“For someone’s first shot at it, it’s perfect,” said Santry. “You are in open water almost immediately because it’s right there off Newport, and there are plenty of challenges such as changing tides and winds. The different legs are never over 40 miles or so, which means there is some kind of maneuver happening at least every four hours. Last year I took a young lacrosse player who had never been sailing before, and he loved it!”
Brian Cunha will shoot for his fourth consecutive win at the Ida Lewis Distance Race with his Ker 55 Irie. “Absolutely do the Ida Lewis!,” said Cunha whose crew is comprised of sailors from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. “It’s one night; you can be back first thing in morning; there’s always plenty of breeze; and it’s not overwhelming as far as the courses are concerned. You can’t get better than going past Block Island to Montauk and coming back in the moonlight, with dolphins swimming around you.”