Ida Lewis: The Perfect Mini Distance Race

Many sailors dream of competing in offshore distance races, but the preparation, logistics and pure stamina required for it can be intimidating. That’s where the Ida Lewis Distance Race can serve as either a stepping stone for those wanting to graduate to longer offshore races or a portfolio enhancer for those simply wanting to experience – for the first time or once again – the beautiful overnight “sprint” that has become a popular late-summer racing tradition in New England. 
“For sailors who have hesitated to take on the 635 nautical mile Newport Bermuda Race (run in even years) or the roughly 470 nautical mile Annapolis to Newport Race (run in odd years), the Ida Lewis Distance Race is the way to, theoretically speaking, get your feet wet,” said Race Chair Skip Helme, who has competed in the race three times. “Depending on which of the coastal courses the Race Committee chooses (based on weather forecasts and sea conditions), you sail either 104 or 177 nautical miles, so even if you aren’t thinking about longer races down the road, it’s a relatively quick, really fun, and absolutely beautiful race to tackle.” The 2016 edition of the race was scheduled for August 19, The Ida Lewis Distance Race race starts and finishes off historic Ida Lewis Yacht Club, which sits on Lime Rock in Newport Harbor. The course takes competitors past Castle Hill Light (where the start of the Newport Bermuda Race takes place) and Beavertail Light (the third oldest light station in the U.S.) in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. Block Island, Montauk Point, Martha’s Vineyard and Buzzards Tower are other way points of the two different courses, which means competitors can add to their tally of lighthouses Point Judith Light, Watch Hill Light, Block Island Light, Cuttyhunk Light, Gay Head Light and Montauk Lighthouse. “Visual gratification aside, there is a congenial mix of grand prix racers and cruising sailors peppered with young sailors who are vying for special Youth and Collegiate Challenge trophies,” said Helme. “Experienced racers are able to share their knowledge with sailors new to distance racing while also exposing young sailors, who typically spend most of their time in dinghies, to the challenges inherent to distance racing.” The Ida Lewis Distance Race is a qualifier for the Rhode Island Offshore Challenge, New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF); and Northern and Double-Handed Ocean Racing Trophies (IRC).