Please select your home edition
Edition
Ocean Safety 2023 - New Identity - LEADERBOARD

J/Crews love Whidbey Island Race Week

by J/Boats 29 Jul 2018 19:57 UTC 19-22 July 2018
Whidbey Island “Summer Camp” © Jan Anderson

Over the course of time, J/sailors from the Pacific Northwest have dreamed of sailing one of their favorite regattas of all time in Whidbey Island, the annual "race week" hosted by Oak Harbor YC.

From Canada and California, Oregon and Idaho, and even Hawaii, sixty-eight boats made the pilgrimage to sailing mecca for Whidbey Island Race Week (WIRW). What counts is a glorious opportunity to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, race hard, hone sailing skills, dance, eat and take deep gulps of fresh, clean Pacific Northwest air. New this year was a NFS cruising class, a J/80 one-design fleet, and for a fifth or so of the fleet, this is their first WIRW. There were twenty-eight J's racing, one-third of the fleet. Here is how it all went down, enjoy the daily reports.

Day one, Friday

The clock said 2:20pm when the westerly finally settled in Penn Cove, but who's counting? Race Week runs on island time. The wind's delay meant more time for making a run into Coupeville for a Bloody Caesar at the Front Street Grill, a hoppy IPA and fresh steamed mussels at Toby's, or a triple scoop from Kapaw's Ice Creamery. Or, perhaps a catnap on the bow, far away from the work world's worries, listening to the "chi-kee" of a Kingfisher diving for its meal, or the sneaky splish of a curious sea lion. Or maybe gazing at the fire-red trunks of the Madrona trees circling the west end of the cove like a ruby necklace. However, one chose to bide the time waiting for Charley Rathkopf's CYC race committee to signal the start of the first day's first race, after 36 years it's a wait that never gets old.

After a week or so of hottish temperatures, Thursday's cooler weather reminded the racers why they're pros at layering, bundling up in foulies only to strip down to shorts when blue finally appeared in the north sky later in the day. On the race course, a swift ebb tide, beach currents and flukey wind shifts combined to make leads swap like cards in a fast-paced game of Go Fish. The first hand has been dealt, three more to go!

Day two, Saturday

After 36 years you might think you've seen it all at WIRW. Charley Rathkopf's race committee set a bizarro course that sent the fleet into the mussel beds at the west end of Penn Cove, which they've done before, but for the first time ever, they finished the race. Sure there were a few classes that saw their courses shortened (the prudent thing to do) but it still qualifies as a WIRW first. Winds had been forecast oh, somewhere between 5 and 12, and with the RC calling for a start one hour later than usual, Friday was NOT a lay day. Yay! Adding to the challenge of playing chess with Mother Nature, the ebb tide saw nearly two knots at various places on the course, causing some boats to overrun their sails. Unfortunately, a couple of the classes did see some DNFs (so here's hoping for a throwout). Regardless, it was a fun day under the sun and on the water, with a stop at the Coupeville dock for a crew or three, so in the grand scheme of things, who's complaining?

Back at the marina, it was Pink Boat Regatta night, with donations gladly given for the chance to play Bra Pong next to the refreshment station, then dancing to crowd favorite Gertrude's Hearse. They get better each year, and it's always fun to see fellow sailors out of their foulies and into their top hats. After tucking into burgers or ribs (yours truly got the last of 'em), the good-natured revelers continued into the wee hours back at Tent City, though the laughter did eventually die down, only to be replaced by the constant clanging of the porta-pottie doors and the plaintive hoo, hoo-hoo of a lonely owl

Day three, Sunday

Sunday seemed more like the Mad Hatter's tea party. Too little wind, too much current, cold weather, free hot showers (what?!?), new faces picking up awards, old regulars wondering who tied cement blocks to their keels.

Saturday's weather wasn't as favorable for others, however. Plenty went from hero to zero, albeit it painfully slowly, as the pseudo-westerly clocked to a southerly, sending the fleet on a scavenger hunt for a river of anything in Saratoga Passage.

Courses were shortened, and some boats didn't finish, whimpering while limping back to the marina, hoping to nurse their unfulfilled racing needs with hefty doses of freshly caught and cooked Dungeness crabs. The ensuing scene was like some sort of primitive offering, the racers holding claws aloft, mouths full of juicy meat, bribing and begging the Northwest wind Gods for more breeze on Sunday. For all the frustrations that light air days bring, back on terra firma, where the laws of nature seemed at least a little less collusional, comments ranged from NSFW to "We had a blast!". A rich feast of memories was made regardless of the lack of a stiff breeze, and will get embellished with each re-telling.

The ten-boat J/105 Class saw Jerry Diercks's DELIRIUM take the class by just one point over Erik Kristen's MORE JUBILEE. Third was Chris Phoenix's JADED. The balance of the top five saw John Aitchison's MOOSE UNKNOWN take fourth and Jim Geros' LAST TANGO in fifth.

The J/80 class continued to expand and this year's fleet of six boats saw very competitive racing for the top three boats. Winning was David Schutte's TAJ MAHAL, second was Lek Dimarucot's UNDERDOG, third was Emre Sezer's RECKLESS.

In PHRF 2, it was Stu Burnell's J/109 TANTIVY that won class closing with three bullets. Then, David and Vernice Cohen's J/90 EYE EYE won PHRF 3 Sport Class. And, in PHRF 5 class, Pat Denney's J/29 HERE and NOW took an easy silver. Finally, in PHRF 9 Cruising enjoying the festivities was Steve Kirsch's J/35C WILDFLOWER, finishing in 4th.

Speaking of memories, be sure to check out all the photos of this year's Whidbey Island Race Week at janpix.smugmug.com — all proceeds benefit Kids Camp (thanks, Jan!).

More Whidbey Island Race Week sailing information

Hyde Sails 2022 One Design FOOTERNorth Sails Performance 2023 - FOOTERCyclops Marine 2023 November - FOOTER