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Race Week fleet arrives in Oak Harbor soon

Starting Friday, a fleet of 150 or so yachts of all sizes will start arriving at the Oak Harbor marina for one of the top regattas in the world.

Whidbey Island Race Week is always an exciting and lucrative time in Oak Harbor as 1,500 to 2,000 racers, guests and racing enthusiasts descend on the city for a week of fun in the sun and nights of camaraderie.

The race week runs July 14 to 19. The boats are expected to start arriving this week.

The event is known locally and aptly as Adult Summer Camp. But it also a very serious competition.

The Race Week Web site, www.whidbey.net/raceweek, boasts that the event is recognized by a major sailing magazine as one of the Top 20 regattas in the world and one of the Top 10 in the nation.

The racing fleet consists of racing yachts ranging in length from 24 to 50 feet. The competitors face five days of around-the-buoy racing with award ceremonies each night.

The event was started by Yachting Magazine in 1983. A local company, Stan Stanley’s Northwest Marine Productions, took over in 1994.

The major change in this year’s event is the camping. The Navy allowed racers and guests to camp on the Seaplane Base in the past, but has banned camping this year because of security concerns after Sept. 11.

So instead, the city is allowing camping on the private property downtown next to Mi Pueblo restaurant. Stanley says the downtown business owners are, not surprisingly, very happy about this arrangement.

On the down side, the Navy has also canceled its very popular Raggae Night party, which was open to the public in past years. The Chamber of Commerce tried to organize a replacement party on Bayshore Drive, but couldn’t get it organized in time.

A private Raggae Night will still be held at the Yacht Club. Stanley said there will still by plenty of partying and celebrating going on, though the general public can’t come because of state liquor laws.

But everyone can still watch the beautiful boats racing in the waters of Penn Cove and Saratoga Passage. Great places to watch the yachts are on Penn Cove Road, downtown Coupeville and Long Point. The boats usually leave the marina at between 10 and 11 a.m. and starting racing at noon — weather providing.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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