Whidbey Island Race Week is in full swing, and entering Thursday with nine races in the books. Sixty-two boats are racing, and from the photos there appear to be great conditions. Borrowing from Thursday’s edition of the Race Week News, which Liza Tewell and Vicky MacFeidh are putting out:
Can you feel it? Have you experienced that transcendent, middle-of-Race-Week feeling where you remember that you’ve forgotten about the world beyond the beautiful borders of Penn Cove? That decompression isn’t the marine layer dissipating in the late morning above Puget Sound, just over the fescued berm to the west, it’s Whidbey Island Race Week. And it’s why we come back every year. Hard to explain to coworkers, hard to let go of, it’s kept nonetheless in a treasured spot deep inside. When folks ask how you make it through yet another relentlessly gray PNW winter, you smile to yourself, reach down and think, Race Week is coming. Day three of WIRW 2017 was as magical as the past 11 and a half months that our our memory had glorified it to be: blue skies, 8 to 10 knots, 72 degrees (Fahrenheit, for you Canadians). The CYC race committee shot off three races, and when we crossed that finish line for the third time on Wednesday we were happy knowing that we’d get to do it all again the next day. Thursday evening the Oak Harbor Yacht Club is serving up bbq ribs for dinner. Yum. Sorry about that for you vegetarians, though they also offer field burgers at the grill. Thursday is also the CSR party featuring the reggae music of Yogoman, so break out your aloha shirts and stretch before and after racing—the dance floor will be standing dancing room only. Crabbing for the week is also open—enter your recipe in the Haggen Northwest Fresh Crab Cake Cook-off.
While I’m not on hand to check out the competition (or bands or ridiculous amounts of fun), from the results a few things are apparent. First off, the J/105s have a huge class, and the racing must be great. With the downwind angles on the asymmetrical chutes, playing Penn Cove must get really interesting. Kathy Kushner’s Melges 24 Cool Beans out of Canada is going very well. Wicked Wahine may topple the mighty Shrek in the “big boat” class. The two Farr 30s in class 3 are having a mighty battle and there’s a fascinating duel between the Beneteau 35s5 Bodacious and the Martin 242 Crazy I’s. The tightest class of all is the small/slow boat with the two J/24s Amuse Bouche and Roshambo and the San Juan 24 Ehu Kai all within two points.
Congratulations to Schelleen Rathkopf for successfully putting on the event once again! The event continues to evolve into much more than just racing, with a Kids Camp and other fun activities.
A fleet of 64 sailboats traveled to the Oak Harbor Marina July 11-15 for the 34th running of Whidbey Island Race Week (WIRW) hosted by the Oak Harbor Yacht Club. The nation’s only true race “week,” WIRW gives sailors from the United States, Canada and Europe the opportunity to test their racing skills on both short and long courses in Penn Cove and Saratoga Passage. The event, which includes nightly awards and live bands, kicked off Sunday night as sailors sized up competition and rekindle friendships at the traditional Sunday meet-and-greet.
Dictated by the tides, this year’s event was held mid-July in cooler than normal temperatures and lighter than average winds. Nonetheless, Race PRO Charley Rathkopf and his committee from Corinthian Yacht Club Seattle finished eight to nine races during the five-day regatta. Nine classes, including three one-design classes, vied for daily honors, class overalls, and the Tesla boat-of-the-week title. Not your usual pickle dishes, daily awards sponsored by Ullman Sails were useful beverage glasses. Class overalls were hand-blown glass trophies commissioned by Seattle artist, Veronica Margarito Lopez.
Short courses on Monday and Tuesday established front runners in all but the 13-boat J/105 class, which saw flip-flopping finishes and the week’s sole DSQ. Wednesday’s Z-course ping-ponged racers around Penn Cove like a pinball-machine, while treating spectators on the Coupeville dock to a colorful spinnaker parade across Penn Cove.
Unconventional courses continued Thursday with a marathon distance race sending most of the fleet off Saratoga’s southern horizon near the island town of Greenbank. The race scored doubled with only half of the day’s total qualifying for a throw-out, either damning some who found themselves on the wrong side of he 180 degree shift or cementing a win for those who landed on the right side of the roulette wheel when it stopped spinning. Dodging holes, boats created a confusing spectacle as they raced side by side, heading in the same direction, with some flying spinnakers while others held jibs. The larger the class, like the 13-boat J/105 class, the bigger the discrepancy of the day’s tally, with the week’s win for the one-design 105s going to David Cohen’s Inconceivable. Just two points separated the next three boats, with Delirium placing second and James Geros’ Last Tango winning the tie-breaker for third over More Jubilee. On Friday, the RC finally called uncle on an overly persistent easterly and set a windward-leeward, only to have it fade, abandoning the week’s final race for five of the nine classes.
Stalwart front runners managed to escape Thursday’s race wrath and held on to class overalls, including John Hoag and his 1D/35, Shrek, in PHRF Class 1, which, after a string of bullets, had to swallow one of their freak double-fifth-place points; Mike Goldfarb, with longtime crew Mark Brink, on War Canoe, in the one-design Farr 30 class; Kevin Welch’s one-design Melges 24, Mikey, helmed by Olympic medalist Jeff Madrigali; and Chris White and crew aboard his Martin 242 , Crazy I’s, which stayed atop PHRF Class 8 with just 7 points and took boat-of-the-week honors thanks to straight bullets.
Tight PHRC racing gave the Left Coast Dart, Ogopogo, a one point lead in Class 3 over Brad Butler’s Sierra 26x, Uno, who landed unusually near the back of the pack on Thursday, forcing them to keep one of the double 4s on their scorecard. Though they horizoned Class 4 during Wednesday’s racing, Stuart Burnell’s J/109, Tantivy, faced some fierce handicaps and fell by just two points for the week to the J/90, Eye Eye. Also missing the week’s overall by just two points, Pat Denney’s J/29, Here & Now, in Class 7 fell to sister-ship, Slick, who was able to throw-out one of the two 4-pointers from Thursday. Keeping with the two-point theme, the Wylie 25, Exodus, won the week in Class 9 with 11 points over the 13 points earned by Ron Ernst’s Martin 29, Ignitor.
Racers took advantage of the light air which tended to arrive later in the day by rafting up to the dock at Coupeville’s Red Barn and stroll the old-timey boardwalks of Whidbey Island’s historic and picturesque Penn Cove town. Racers ducked into establishments such as the newly remodeled Front Street Grill for lunch, or waited willingly in line for ice cream from Kapaw’s Iskreme Worldwide Headquarters, a few step away from the original Stewart brother’s Wet Whiskers ice cream shop which sparked America’s obsession for espresso in 1969.
Though the local breeze was less ample than desired, one indigenous delicacy was in abundant supply—Dungeness crab. Boats setting traps on the run out to the day’s course were rewarded after the day’s racings with overflowing traps stuffed with one of the Pacific Northwest’s favorite bounties. For the second year in a row, the Crab Cake Cook-Off, judged by Oak Harbor Yacht Club Vice Commodore, Avis Berney, Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns, among others, was won by the culinary crew of Rex Dupuis’s J/30, Gadzooks.
Shoreside, the bands Kickin’ Dust, Rabbit Wilde, Jones & Fischer, Gertrude’s Hearse, Maggy’s Fury and Original Jim rounded out this year’s live-music line-up. Princess Bride was the feature for movie night, and the Oak Harbor Yacht Club’s offered famous Penn Cove mussels Monday and Wednesday evening. For those not into the fresh bivalves, the OHYC grill fed hungry sailors all week with mouth-watering burgers and corn on the cob.
While mom and dad raced beyond the breakwater, children spent the week making memories at the Brenda Van Fossen, MD Kids Camp. Morning activities at Kids Camp headquarters on the yacht club lawn included learning knot-tying, how to craft a make-shift safety line, building model boats, and creating marine-themed jigsaw puzzles before heading out for the daily field trip which included exploring the Fidalgo tidepools, climbing the Fort Casey lighthouse, hiking down world-famous Deception Pass, painting pottery and making glass art. After a hearty lunch campers spent the afternoons racing Oak Harbor Youth Sailing’s fleet of Optimists at the entry to the harbor’s marina. A highlight of their summer, every camper from the inaugural year returned for 2016, plus some, and even more have committed to next year’s Kids Camp 2017.
New for 2016 was the presentation of a Sportsmanship Award honoring Phil Wise, WIRW board member and long-time racer in the Puget Sound sailing community who passed away in August 2015. The first recipient of the perpetual award was the alternate RC vessel, Gopher Baroque, who suffered some cosmetic damage while helping to pull Steve Johnson’s White Cloud off Oak Harbor’s mucky sea floor. Rather than accepting compensation for the repair, Gopher Baroque requested the amount instead be donated to Oak Harbor’s youth sailing program. Narrowly missing the callout for exemplary sportsmanship were the young men on Ryan Conner and Hendrick Reidel’s Melges 24 up from Tahoe, Blue Dream, who worked long and tirelessly to put together a junior sailing campaign based on elbow grease and hard work.
Mark your calendars for the 35th anniversary of Whidbey Island Race Week, scheduled for July 10-14, 2017.
Ed. Note: This looked like a great deal of fun. Thanks Liza for the report and Schelleen and Charley for all you do to make this regatta happen. They have really made it appealing for families as well as racers. Schelleen is putting a call out for fleets “who want to use the infrastructure of Race Week to conduct fleet local, regional or national championships.” I can think of several fleets that might use this event as a springboard to light a fire their fleets’ keels.