Oak Harbor Race Week sets sail

Spinnakers furled, racers from around the Pacific Northwest and Canada set sail Monday for the 26th edition of Whidbey Island Race Week. - File photo
Spinnakers furled, racers from around the Pacific Northwest and Canada set sail Monday for the 26th edition of Whidbey Island Race Week.
— image credit: File photo

More boats, more fun expected this year

Beginning tomorrow, the waters surrounding Oak Harbor will ring with voices of sailboat captains from around the United States and Canada shouting to their crews: “Clear away the running gear,” and “furl the spinnaker,” as the 2008 version of Whidbey Island Race Week begins.

Now in its 26th year as the Pacific Northwest’s premier “Adult Summer Camp,” 2008 promises to be another big year.

Whidbey Island Race Week is one of the five biggest regattas on the West Coast. Sailing magazine lists it as one of the top regattas in the country.

Oak Harbor Marina Harbormaster Mack Funk said they have 120 boats registered plus several other captains who haven’t turned in all the paperwork yet, along with 39 tender boats.

“Last year we had 95 boats registered so we have about 25 more already. That’s good,” he said.

Funk said the out-of-town boats began arriving Friday, and the festivities start at noon Sunday with one-design crew and boat weigh ins, along with boat inspections.

The skippers meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club, followed by a welcoming reception.

Racing begins with a harbor start at 11 a.m. Monday, with approximate racing times in Saratoga Passage and Penn Cove slated to begin around noon. Watching the colorful sails billow on the water is a popular pastime for islanders during Race Week.

The six-day event runs through Saturday, July 26, and is capped off by the final awards presentation and evening party at the yacht club.

Race Week has a few changes this year including a new director, Gary Stuntz, who takes over the helm from Bob Ross, who retired in 2007. Ross had been race director for the last 14 seasons.

Stuntz, who is the owner of Clear Ahead Sailmakers in Kirkland, is also a racer and has competed in 23 Whidbey Island events.

“Gary has been working very hard getting a lot done. We’re excited about all the new energy,” Funk said.

Also this year, camping will be allowed on the Navy base adjacent to the marina.

“Last year, they had camping downtown which all the merchants liked,” Funk said. “This year they will be allowed to camp at the Navy base, something that hasn’t been done since 9/11.”

Funk said the Navy has been working very closely with Stuntz and helping get everything organized.

The Navy also will be hosting the only Race Week party open to the public on Thursday, July 24, at Crescent Harbor Adventures on the Seaplane Base.

The Marina Boathouse Deck party begins at 7 p.m. on the base at a cost of $15 per person for a barbecued chicken and ribs dinner. Beverages will be available for purchase and reggae music by Andy O will be from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Every evening party at the yacht club has a different theme. Monday is “Come As You Are Night” and Tuesday is “Oldest Whidbey Island Race Week T-shirt Night.” On Wednesday it’s “Crew Team Wear Night” and Thursday is “Navy Appreciation/Reggae Night.”

There are several good places for spectators to view the races, including Penn Cove Road, the Coupeville Wharf and Long Point.

Island Transit has buses running between Oak Harbor and Coupeville, and riders can get off at the Coupeville library and walk down to the wharf to view the boats.

Whidbey Island’s 2008 Adult Summer Camp is about ready to begin and promises a lot of fun for everyone, along with some exciting amateur sailboat racing.

See you there.

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