Fair winds greet Race Week sailors

It was fair winds and calm seas for the opening races of Whidbey Island Race Week Monday. Oak Harbor welcomed 150 yacht crews for a week of sailing, and competitive fun, through July 19.

Two races were held Monday, and organizers hope the pace continues for the regatta that began with “good winds,” according to crews.

On the water, crews were heard as they shouted out commands to each other to orchestrate the switch between the main sail and spinnaker at just the right moment, so they could round the buoy in what could be at times an unaccommodating space. All the while attempts were made to catch the wind just right for that burst of speed and to not end up in the dreaded “hour glass.” If the timing was off that perfect catch of wind was lost, and your competitor sailed past with a smile.

And don’t forget that little worry of not bumping into other boats in a space really meant for three or four boats but seven are making the attempt.

Welcome to the action of Race Week. From the shore its all fun and games, but these crews are in it to win. There are no cash prizes in this Corinthian-style racing, just bragging rights, but they’re more than enough.

Slightly Naughty, a Santana 22 out of Portland, Ore., skippered by Eric Rimkus, fared better in the second race versus the first because “we just do better in heavier winds,” said Rimkus.

The second start on Monday was rough for the Slightly Naughty crew, as a Santana 22 was dead in the water at the start line and “six boats had to scramble to go around, and ended up using a space that was functionally only supposed to fit two.”

Naughty has a crew on the smaller scale of things for race week. Slightly Naughty crew members include J.P. Goodyear and Christopher Stoeckler, who along with the skipper all hail from Portland.

Crew sizes can vary from small to those that can man 17 to the rail. While there is no set size limit or maximum for a crew, the one worry for racing is always the weight issue. The more weight you have, the less speed, and in racing speed is everything.

Stan Stanley of Northwest Marine Productions loves to talk sailing. Mention you don’t know a thing about the sport, and you’ll get the lowdown.

“See that boat over there tipped so you can see most of its hull? In order to go faster and get the maximum sail exposure a boat needs to be upright. People who don’t sail think it looks cool, but don’t know that it’s slowing them down,” said Stanley as he educates a group aboard the Race Week VIP boat.

Racers come to have fun on and off the water. During the second race Monday, the crew of Caught on Tape did a synchronized jibe as they all together slid under their boom, spinning into position. This drew applause from nearby boats. But sometimes the fun is misunderstood.

The crew of Here and Now were scolded in the Tuesday morning edition of the Race Week News for “slinging epithets into the air behind them” at the start of the second race. This wasn’t to harass the other boats. As the crew offered their “perfectly good explanation” — it’s a tradition.

“We always holler out ‘nice start (blip) to our skipper Garey Harr,” explained Here and Now crewmember Burl Nolte, from Snohomish. “People who race with us all the time get it and laugh.”

Mind you, this is the same crew that wears shirts that bear the slogan, “My body isn’t a temple, its an amusement park,” and they rub the head of little “Homiez” dolls for good luck before each start.

On the water or off, these crews are here to sail and have fun.

Stanley told of Pangea skipper Mac Madeneald claiming, “I’ve found that when I go to race week I pay half as much and have twice the fun.”

Tuesday morning crews were readying their boats for the day’s races. Walking down the docks of the Oak Harbor Marina in the morning, its a usual Race Week sight to see someone brushing their teeth as they organize the lines for the day’s races. The smell of Coppertone wafts through the air, and the crews buzz about as they search for tools, lines, and even those elusive perfect additions to their crew.

Jared Hickman of Mukilteo couldn’t make it to the first day of sailing, but Tuesday he was getting ready to hit the waters with the crew of Shonto, a Ranger 32 out of New Mexico skippered by Sue Strasia.

“It looks like we’re going to have medium winds and a good time today,” Hickman said.

A good time indeed. Whidbey Island Race Week will continue through Friday.

Spectators can watch the races from shore, with some of the best spots being along Penn Cove Road, downtown Coupeville and Long Point. Each night an awards ceremony is held to honor the first, second, and third place winners for the day in each racing class. At the end of the week overall winners will be awarded based on their cumulative scores for the week’s sailing. The results of Tuesday’s racing were not available at press time. For information, including a diagram of the race course, visit the Race Week website at

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