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Race Week arrives

"There's a saying among veteran organizers of Whidbey Island's Race Week that the five-day event marks the true beginning of summer on the island.And so it seemed Monday as 110 sailboats and some 1,000 sailboat racers gathered at the west end of Penn Cove for the start of the18th annual sailing competition, Race Week 2000.Blue skies, bright sun and 80-degree heat had racers slathering on sun screen as they jogged for position at the start mark. All that was lacking was a good breeze, but that would come later.In all, 10 classes of sailboats - delineated by length, weight, sail area and speed potential - set out in staggered starts into a light, 3-knot breeze in the first race.With just enough wind to fill their sails, racers jockeyed to get upwind of each other, thereby gaining a clean shot at the wind and a strategic position from which to blanket an oppenent's sails.The light air left little room for error on most boats. Slow or tentative hands on jib and spinnaker sails, or imprecise tacks and turns 'round the mark,' usually meant slow finishes.By the mid-afternoon start of race two however, a 9-knot westerly was steadily blowing over a flood tide headed east and boats and crews responded eagerly.A little too eagerly in some cases, considering the tide. Boats from five of the 10 classes crossed the start early and had to go back and do it again. And the entire P-5 class was called back in a general recall.In one of the more exciting starts in race two, Nikita (P07 Class) seemed destined for last place five minutes before the start because of a faulty headsail halyard. But quick as a shot, skipper Paul Arnston shimmied up the mast - sans steps or boatswain's chair - fixed the problem and was back in the race with only a two-minute delay, finishing sixth out of 10.Overall, except for some sloppy sail changes - one where headsail sheets were led inside the shrouds and another where most of a new spinnaker was dunked in Penn Cove - the first day of Race Week was memorable mostly for the summer weather and the sight of dozens of spinnakers billowing out over the waters of Penn Cove, set against a backdrop of Mount Baker.Summer's here and the race has begun."

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