Race Week owner turning over wheel

Sailboats race in Penn Cove during last year’s Whidbey Island Race week.   - Contributed photo
Sailboats race in Penn Cove during last year’s Whidbey Island Race week.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Gary Stuntz said he loves sailing both because of the freedom he feels on the water and the thrill of racing against other seasoned sailors.

“The competition part is very good. … It takes a lot to win,” he explained.

Stuntz, organizer of Whidbey Island Race Week for the past seven years, will hand the rudder over to a new skipper after this year’s event, slated for July 20-25.

Charley and Schelleen Rathkopf, of Seattle, announced in April that they are purchasing Whidbey Island Race Week from Stuntz, of Clear Ahead Marine Production.

The couple assumes ownership of the event after this summer’s Race Week.

“It’s been a great experience,” Stuntz said. “It’s been a pleasure to put on the event.”

Stuntz, an Oak Harbor resident, said he sold the event so he could focus more time on his first love — sailing.

Promoting and running the weeklong sailboat-racing event is a year-round job, he said.

“I’m looking forward to sailing in the event and get back to my passion for sailing,” Stuntz said.

The nationally recognized sailboat regatta, now in its 32nd year, draws competitive sailors from all over the world.

Last year, sailors experienced breezes 12-17 knots and Orca whales were spotted.

Stuntz said he believes the event has maintained a very loyal following because of its location on Whidbey Island.

“It’s a beautiful area to sail,” Stuntz said. “It’s a week’s worth of sailing, and how can you beat a party every night and sailing every day.”

“Overall, the fun factor is pretty high.”

The event features a week of races and events, kicked off the weekend before, July 19-20, with Dinghys Whidbey Island events for smaller boats.

Now in its fourth year, the dinghies event is open to any sailing vessel smaller than 24 feet long.

The event also features live music each night next to the Oak Harbor Yacht Club, and plenty of rum and libations flow.

The evening events are open to sailors and non-sailors alike.

“The event has had its ups and downs, but overall it’s been very positive,” Stuntz said.

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