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Race Week off to an ideal start

Sailboats flank views of Mount Baker Monday. - Kevin Endejan
Sailboats flank views of Mount Baker Monday.
— image credit: Kevin Endejan

Ernie Richau, co-owner of the J-Bird III, and his crew made their way all the way from Newport Beach, Calif., to Oak Harbor for a new experience.

“We just wanted to come up to the Pacific Northwest and check it out,” Richau said. “It’s really beautiful out here, the setting that we’re sailing.”

In their five days spent in Oak Harbor prior to the start of Race Week, Richau and his crew were a little worried. Not worried because the weather and the scenery weren’t beautiful, but because there was virtually no wind.

“We’ve been up here for five days now and haven’t had a wind,” crew member Artie Means said.

That all changed Monday morning on the first official day of racing.

Not only was the cloudless sky crystal blue, but a 10-knot wind began to swirl as the morning neared the scheduled noon start.

“It’s ideal conditions for Race Week today, absolutely ideal,” event co-organizer Bob Ross said.

The increasing wind for the first day of racing generated an obvious excitement on the docks as the boats set to leave Oak Harbor Marina. In a festive frame of mind, crew members from the 113 registered boats hurried around making last minute adjustments. After gathering their final provisions, including squirt guns for some light hearted fun, the majority of the boats set out at 11 a.m. for the day-long event.

Those in Coupeville hoping to catch a glimpse of the boats received an excellent treat. With a westlery wind blowing, onlookers from the wharf had an up close and personal view of the regatta.

“The hot air rises and sucks the cold air in, it’s called a thermal,” Ross said. “What we want is either to have a thermal or have it raining and have a big southerly wind.”

In the event of a southerly wind, racing would be a little more difficult for people to view. Fortunately, the hot weather predicted through the remainder of the week, should make for continued westerly winds and great scenery for those hoping to catch a glimpse of the sails.

“As far as the wind goes, we’re really optimistic in comparison to what it was last year,” Ross said. “Last year it was light, this year with it staying this hot we should be able to get this kind of wind all the time.”

Hailed one of the top sailing events on the West Coast, Race Week will continue through Friday. The full week of racing and celebrating is rare in the Northwest and a major draw for boaters throughout the area.

“It’s a good week of racing,” Larry Clark of the Seattle based Antares said. “Anytime you get a chance to race five days in a row that’s a good thing.”

The public is invited down to the docks all week to check out the boats and all other events except the daily award ceremonies. Sponsors have booths open from 9 to 11 a.m. daily.

For nightly race results log on to the Race Week Web site at www.whidbey.com/raceweek.

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