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New teams join the mix for Ida Lewis Distance Race 2015

by Barby MacGowan 8 Aug 2015 11:23 BST 14 August 2015
Historic Ida Lewis Yacht Club is the host of the Ida Lewis Distance Race © Meghan Sepe

Word is out that the Ida Lewis Distance Race (ILDR) is one for the sailing bucket list, and a slew of event newcomers have registered for the popular overnighter's 11th edition, which kicks off Friday, August 14 at 12:30 p.m. The annual summer favourite starts and finishes off Fort Adams in Newport, R.I. taking its fleet of IRC, PHRF, Doublehanded and Multihull boats on one of four courses (determined prior to the start by the Race Committee), which range between 104 and 177 nautical miles, tracing parts of the New England coastline and making their way past iconic way points such as Castle Hill, Brenton Reef, Block Island, Montauk Point and Martha's Vineyard.

"Most competitors are able to complete the race in less than 24 hours but still indulge in the offshore experience: golden sunset, steering by the light of the moon, inspiring get the idea," said Co-Chair Skip Helme, explaining that a skipper's meeting and social will be held on Thursday, August 13, at host Ida Lewis Yacht Club, with a Sunset Awards Party bringing things to a close on Saturday August 15.

Skippers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York dominate the entry list (37 at press time), but it is a West Palm Beach resident Llwyd Ecclestone who has signed up the largest boat, the 66-foot racing sloop Kodiak. "There is a lot of enthusiasm about this race from the crew and we're excited to try it out," said Ecclestone, who will race in IRC Class and is no stranger to Newport. A veteran distance racer, Ecclestone has 25 Newport Bermuda Races and a number of other legendary offshore races under his sailing belt. "I've raced for about 60 years and built eight sailboats from 60 to 100 feet. We sail with a predominantly amateur crew, six of whom have been racing with me for upwards of 30 years."

Other boats to watch in IRC are three Oakcliff Sailing Center (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) entries: two Farr 40s and the Ker 50 Temptation Oakcliff, which skipper Arthur Santry (Newport, R.I./Washington, D.C.) has made very well known on the local racing scene here with consistently solid if not stellar performances. These teams will have their hands full with last year's line honours and IRC winner Spookie, the Carkeek 40 owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin (Norwalk, Conn./Jamestown, R.I.), returning to protect its turf.

New to not only the Ida Lewis Distance Race but also the U.S. racing scene is the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 Invictus, which will be competing in the event's PHRF Class. Designed by Daniel Andrieu of France, the Sun Fast 3600 debuted in Europe last year and in the U.S. a few months ago, with Invictus being one of only three Sun Fast 3600s in the country to-date.

"The Sun Fast 3600 is much like a miniature Volvo 60, making it ideal for distance racing," said Paul Fenn (Annapolis, Md.) of Jeanneau America, who will serve as the team's navigator. "We are using the Ida Lewis Distance Race as our shakedown event in New England. It is the perfect distance for the boat and the perfect time for us to compare it against a number of different designs and ratings."

A second Sun Fast 3600, Helios, with Adrian Little (Westport, Conn.) at the helm, will compete in the Doublehanded Class, while other new talent in that class includes Greg Imbruce (New Canaan, Conn.) with his J/109 Joyride and Murray Beach (Westwood, Mass.) with his Tartan 4600 Meridian.

"I've heard great things about this year's teams, so I have no doubt it is going to be a challenging race," said Jonathan Green (Wakefield, Mass.) who will be sailing doublehanded aboard the J/111 Eagles Dare. Green won this event's Doublehanded Class in 2009 with his Beneteau 351 Jeroboam and went on to win IRC Overall at the 2013 OSTAR (singlehanded transatlantic race), also on Jeroboam. "I've done a lot of races shorthanded, many of them much longer than the Ida Lewis Distance Race (he mentioned the Bermuda One-Two: singlehanded from Newport to Bermuda, then doublehanded back), but the reason we're coming back down for the Ida Lewis Distance Race is because it always attracts teams that are extremely competitive."

Other Rhode Island boats competing are the J/111 Manitou, skippered by Greg Slamowitz (Block Island); the Taylor 41 Temptress, skippered by John Gowell (East. Greenwich); the J/111 Odyssey, skippered Alfred Van Liew/David Brodsky (Middletown); an HH42, skippered by Glenn Walters (Newport), the Ker 55 Irie 2, skippered by Brian Cunha (Newport); the J/109 Vento Solare, skippered by Bill Kneller (Newport); the J/92S Spirit, skippered by E.C. Helme; the Swan 36 COCO, skippered by Ian Scott (Newport); the J/120 Second Hand Lions, skippered by Robert Kits van Heyningen (Portsmouth); the J/35 Breakaway, skippered by Paul Grimes (Portsmouth), the Sydney 36 Shearwater, skippered by Joe Whelan/Chris Bejjeregaard (Bristol), and the C&C 37 Duck Soup, skippered by Bill Clavin (Warwick).

Ripple Effect Contest

The Ripple Effect Short Video Contest, which was introduced last year for teams with youth sailors, will be expanded this year to include entries from any team that chooses to participate. The winning video will best capture the spirit of the Ida Lewis Distance Race in five minutes or less.

Race for All Ages

The Ida Lewis Yacht Club Youth and Collegiate Challenges invite the next generation of sailors to try distance racing on for size. To qualify for the Youth Challenge, more than 40% of the crew must have reached their 14th birthday but not turn 20 prior to August 15, 2014. For the Collegiate Challenge, more than 40% of the crew must not have reached the age of 26 by August 15, 2014.

Staying Green

For a second year in a row, the Ida Lewis Distance Race has been certified at the silver level for Sailors for the Sea's Clean Regattas program. The certification system helps sailing events create and manage environmentally responsible events in an effort to educate and motivate boaters to reduce marine debris and preserve the waters upon which they sail.


Starting Line sponsors for the 2015 Ida Lewis Distance Race include Bluewater Technologies, the City of Newport, Helly Hansen, New England Boatworks and Newport Shipyard; Contributing Sponsors are DYT Yacht Transport, Flint Audio & Video, Gosling's Rum, Mac Designs, Toni Mills Graphic Design, Triton Insurance, North Sails, Rig Pro Southern Spars and Stella Artois.

The Ida Lewis Distance Race is a qualifier for the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF); the Northern and Double-Handed Ocean Racing Trophies (IRC); and the Rhode Island Offshore Challenge Trophy.

For more information or to register, visit or contact Race Co-Chair Skip Helme, .

Follow the race on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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