This summer, teens in New England will have a unique opportunity to take their sailing offshore. The Ida Lewis Distance Race, now in its sixth year, is introducing a new component to the event in which teams of 14- to 19-year-olds can compete in a “youth challenge.” The race will begin on August 20, and race organizers are optimistic that regional junior programs will be excited to get on board.
The young crews will follow a 150-mile PHRF course mirroring that of the rest of the fleet, starting and ending in Newport with turning marks at Castle Hill, Brenton Reef, Block Island, Mantauk Point, Martha's Vineyard and Buzzards Tower. Onboard, more than half of the crew must have reached their 14th, but not their 19th birthday, prior to the day of the start. Each boat will also have at least two adults on board, one of whom will be considered "captain." However, both are only to act in a supervisory role, allowing the teens to do all of the sailing.
"The goal of the Ida Lewis Distance Race Youth Challenge is to introduce junior sailors to the disciplines of seamanship: navigating, night sailing, safety related issues, coordination of larger crews, sail handling and related areas of big boat sailing that are not required in typical dinghy-base programs, "said committee member Joe Cooper, who is spearheading the effort. Cooper says he first considered adding a junior element a few years ago when several teams sailed with crews of teenagers.
If enough Youth Challenge boats sign up, the junior sailors' fleet will get its own start. Otherwise, each boat will start within its individual handicap class.