Race Week sets sail

Whidbey Island’s Race Week brings many firsts with it each year — a sailboat’s first race, the first time a team races together, a first win, the first ripped spinnaker, a team’s first accident .a..

For the past five years Oak Harbor resident Mike Schott has raced in Whidbey Island’s Race Week, but Race Week 2005 is the first Schott will compete in with a boat of his own.

The 23rd annual Whidbey Island Race Week started Sunday and will continue until Friday.

Seattle resident Bob Ross, who heads up Northwest Marine Productions and is in charge of Whidbey Island Race Week 2005, said 101 boats registered for the week long series of races.

With two races scheduled per day and a variation of courses throughout Puget Sound’s Saratoga Passage and Penn Cove, sailing teams race according to boat classification and size and speed classifications.

On the first race day, Schott said he would race with the last classification of boats because he has a small boat with only a three-man crew.

Schott’s attitude, however, was positive and jovial as he talked about racing out-of-town sailors in his home waters just before launching his boat, The Leapfrog, out of Oak Harbor Marina.

“Today is an awesome day for sailing,” he said.

Reading the weather signs, he said he thought some of the boats might reach 15 to 16 knots with the wind that blew from the south, a good racing speed. Any faster, however, and he said the wind and choppy water could cause some sailors to have trouble and possibly cause sailing havoc.

Jokingly, Schott said with the wind, his small boat and his three-man crew, he knew he was in for a challenge.

“We’re kind of thinking about calling it (The Leapfrog) “Out-of-Control” because we’ll be out of control today,” he said.

After Monday’s races, Ross said the winds had picked up during the first race and reached approximately 28 knots, weather perfect for speedy racing for those who know how to harness it, but tough weather for others.

Even without the high gusts, Schott said anything can happen during a regular sailboat race, from broken masts to people overboard, tipped boats to collisions.

Fortunately, for the first racing day of Race Week 2005, the worst race wreckage consisted of ripped sails and broken rudders.

But unfortunately, race mangers decided to cancel the second race of the day because the winds changed and the course was no longer conducive to racing.

“In the second race the wind got shifty,” Ross said.

For the rest of the week, however, Ross said he only foresaw pleasant sailing conditions off of a westerly wind that is predicted, which would bring the Race Week course into Penn Cove and allow viewers to watch the races from the Coupeville Wharf and shores.

“It’s going to be great,” said Oak Harbor resident Stan Stanley, the originator of the Whidbey Island Race Week.

He added that Whidbey Island’s Race Week is rated 10th best in the country and the in the top 20 for best sailboat race in the world.

Stanley said it is to Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island’s advantage to make this location a boating destination and said he is looking forward to the rest of Race Week 2005.

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