Sailors soak up sun, fun and rum at Race Week

Tambourine Sky provides live entertainment after Monday’s sailing for Whidbey Island Race Week, which runs through Friday, July 19. - Janis Reid / Whidbey News-Times
Tambourine Sky provides live entertainment after Monday’s sailing for Whidbey Island Race Week, which runs through Friday, July 19.
— image credit: Janis Reid / Whidbey News-Times

Serad Atakturk is famous for his dive.

After each hard day’s sailing, Atakturk dives into the water from the stern of his boat — no matter what the temperature.

“There have been places where the water has been too cold, I had to get out right away,” he said. “But today, the water is nice.”

On Monday, Atakturk took his traditional jump in the water after his first day at Whidbey Island Race Week, his ninth year participating in the regatta. A handful of sailors who know him gathered at the dock to watch the infamous jump.

A Turkish immigrant who moved to Seattle in the 1980s, Atakturk said he comes back each year because of “this whole sunshine, sailing and enjoying the Pacific Northwest summer.”

While his boat the Corvo, a J-33, did not place in Monday’s race, he remains optimistic that the week would yet bring some wins for them because a couple key crew members would be arriving for Tuesday’s races.

“Not today,” Atakturk said. “But it’s a week long, and we will be strong tomorrow.”

Atakturk’s dive is not the only tradition on the Corvo. Each day of sailing begins with “morning prayers” which comprises passing around a bottle of The Kraken black spiced rum.

Each team member sports matching temporary tattoos with the image of a crow (“corvo” in Italian), and paint their finger and toe nails a matching color — men and women alike. At the close of each race, they each treat themselves to a “dark and stormy,” a cocktail with rum, ginger beer, lemon “and some other stuff.”

During the races that began at noon in Penn Cove and Crescent Harbor, crews experienced breezes of 12-17 knots, according to organizers. In addition, as many as five Orca whales welcomed the fleet while the parade of boats exited the harbor. Event organizer Gary Stuntz said that while he has seen orcas during Race Week before, it is unusual and hasn’t happened for several years.

After ships had been docked, sailors received wristbands with which they could enjoy the various drinks offered in the rum tents. Live music was provided by Tambourine Sky, self described as “folkadelic roots and blues” and race participants danced singly and in couples as the sun set over Oak Harbor. The sailing, live music and rum tents are provided each night after sailing for the duration of the event which ends Friday, July 19 with an awards ceremony and a volleyball tournament.

It had been 30 years since commercial airline pilot Don Linrothe of Bainbridge Island has sailed at Whidbey Island Race Week. His boat’s name, Comfort Monkey, comes from the fact that people with flight anxiety are allowed to bring a designated “comfort animal” to fly with them, usually a dog.

On one flight, however, one passenger came with his very own comfort monkey, which Linrothe thought would make a perfect boat name.

Monday marked his first one-design race ever with a new, inexperienced crew. Notwithstanding, Linrothe’s crew on the Comfort Monkey placed second in the P5 Melges 24 division on Monday.

“It’s the most competitive division in this event,” Linrothe said. “So we did not bad.”

David Steffen’s boat, the Vitesse, came in third place in the P8 PHRF division at Monday’s race with the assistance of his son, Brock, who turned 21 that day. Brock, in high spirits after the week’s first race on his birthday, carried a bottle of Captain Morgan spiced rum and offered a slug to passersby like a true sailor.

Proud dad, Steffen, said the event is a must-see for anyone within sailing distance.

“The sun, the hospitality of Oak Harbor, the excellent race committee,” Steffen said. “This is the pinnacle event for racing in the Pacific Northwest.”


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