Friday, August 6, 2010

A Unique Competition-Idem Racing

As a self-described Sportsman, I am fascinated and intrigued by unusual and unique sporting events and competitions that one can sometimes witness. It is particularly rare to be a spectator watching a contest that is unique in all the world. Idem racing is such a contest.
Idems are a sailing craft peculiar to the St. Regis Yacht Club on Upper St. Regis Lake in the Adirondack chain. These vessels were designed by a Naval Architect, Clinton Crane, as a sailing sloop particularly suited to the winds and confines of Upper St. Regis lake. Shortly after the first Idems were designed and built in 1899, several members of the Yacht Club lined up to by one . A yearly competition was promptly organized to race these sloops in pursuit of silver trophies and bragging rights.Eventually, 12 such Idems were built. These gaff rigged boats are 32 feet long, constructed of wood, and are crewed by 5 people. The Idems were designed in 1899 and the originals still sail the lake today. One can scarcely fathom the cost and diligence required to maintain these wooden boats...literally hundreds of gallons of spar varnish and a set of skilled hands. There are only 3 or 4 men in the Adirondack region who are trusted by the descendants of the original owners to attend to these beautiful craft.

The Idem races take place on Saturdays between mid-July and the Labor day. The course on Upper St. Regis is intricately laid out and it takes considerable sailing skill to pilot these boats to the finish line. A typical race is completed in about one and a half hours and the times between finishers and the winner is usually only minutes apart.
The Families on this lake who own these 12 Idems, and who form the membership rolls of the St. Regis Yacht Club, have generally been Summering in the region since the 1880's. Hence, the rivalries amongst the Idem racers cross generations and fuel many a heated boast and challenge over G&T's at Club functions and cocktail parties hosted at Upper St. Regis boathouses and Great Camps.
Two such spectacular Boathouses are featured above: one from Camp Cobblestone and one from well as a shot of a beautiful Chris Craft classic cocktail cruiser...the type of pleasure craft which acts as the perfect spectator platform for watching the races.
My Wife and I have watched these races on ocassion when when we spend our usual time in the Adirondacks. From the first time I saw the races I was fascinated by the grace and speed of these boats and I was likewise fascinated by the fact that only 12 of these boats exist and are unique in all the world to this Lake.
Personally, I am not competent to sail a matchbox in a gutter of rainwater let alone even a Sunfish on a calm pond...I have crewed on boats in the B.V.I. and the Chesapeake only because I can follow the directions screamed at me by a knowledgable Skipper. Perhaps the lack of this skill-set is another reason I find these races so appealing.


The Enthusiast said...

These boats are really neat. It's awesome to see boats still on the lake that they were specifically built for. This is a cool cultural find and I think it would be awesome to find out more.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Enthus'd: Not much more to find out really...except the race results..maybe there is more info about the guy who desigend..

Tish Jett said...

How absolutely divine.

Silk Regimental said...

Those boathouses are similar to the ones I've seen in the Thousand Islands area of Norther New York. The unique architecture is a treasure.

Great post.

Keith said...

Those are all so amazing. Some really great photos.

Joann said...

Great post. Your photographs capture the complementary artistry of Mother Nature and man.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me how to go about watching the Idem races? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys! I sail on one of the Idems- If you do come out and watch, the most important thing to keep in mind is to stay clear of the course when spectating (safest way is to stay clase to shore), and if you are in a motor boat PLEASE keep wakes not only to a to a minimum but nonexistant, ESPECIALLY in light winds. Wakes slow us down and errant kayaks are obstacles, and both could effect results.