Strong winds greet racers

It is not often that a wind speed of more than 20 knots is referred to as a breeze, but when it is a seasoned sailor making that remark, it is second nature.

“It’s wet, it’s fast and it’s fun,” said Kim Alfreds, skipper of the Cheekee Monkee. “The faster we can go, the better it is.”

Alfreds’ boat leads the multihull division after it rode the gusty wins to two first-place finishes following the first day of racing at the 22nd annual Whidbey Island Race Week.

Co-Event Producer Bob Ross said the week is shaping up to be even better than the stellar week it had last year.

“To get two good races in the first day is really good for us,” Ross said.

After parading out to Saratoga passage, racers faced South winds at more than 20 knots. The winds made for an exciting ride on a catamaran, Alfreds said.

His boat reached a speed of 23 knots, or approximately 26 mph.

“It’s like being on a jet ski,” he said. “You have to move at three times faster than a normal human. It gets your heart rate going.”

The conditions are perfect for sailboat racing this time of year, said Darrin Towe, who owns Storyville. The boat is named after the red-light district in New Orleans, he said.

This is Towe’s 15th time at race week, but only his second time with Storyville. The conditions are what brings sailors to Oak Harbor, he said.

“It was fun,” Towe said. “It’s what we like. It’s what sailors come up here for.”

Alfreds said the atmosphere off the course is different than the tight racing on the water. Race week has been described as an adult summer camp.

“Five days of racing is kind of unusual, usually it is only a weekend,” Alfreds said. “Being able to do five days of racing in a well organized event is pretty good.”

The day was not without incident, however. Shoot The Moon was hit by a passing boat before the start of the second race of the day.

Larry Senn, a crewmember of Shoot The Moon, said the other boat was unable to figure out which way to go before the start of the race. The boat suffered damage to the support to the mast and Senn said he expected the boat to finish racing this week.

Other casualties of the day was a boat named Goose. Low tides left a sandbar exposed for a hull to find, which Goose’s did. The boat rested on the sand bar for four hours until the tide came in enough to float the boat back to the docks.

Racing continues through the week on various courses depending on the winds of the day. Ross said he expects the week to produce solid racing.

“It’s shaping up to be a good week,” he said.

Ahoy maties, wondering what the sailors are saying? Here are some key terms:

Aboard - On or within the boat.

Aft - Toward the stern of the boat.

Avast- Command meaning "stop what you're doing"

Backstay - A wire support for the mast, usually running from the stern to the head of the mast.

Bow - The forward part of a boat.

Bridge - The location from which a vessel is steered and its speed controlled. "Control Station" is really a more appropriate term for small craft.

Catamaran - A twin-hulled boat, with hulls side by side.

Coxswain - Sailor in charge of and steering a small boat.

Gangway - The area of a ship's side where people board and disembark.

Jib - A triangular foresail in front of the foremast.

Keel - The timber at the very bottom of the hull to which frames are attached.

Knot - A measure of speed equal to one nautical mile (6076 feet) per hour.

Landlubber - 1) Anyone on board who wishes he or she were not. 2) Anyone on board who shouldn’t be.

Leeward - The direction away from the wind. Opposite of Windward.

Monkey Deck - A false deck built over a permanent deck.  Often used in the bow of larger sailing ships, foreward of the anchor windlass and provides a working platform around the portion of the bowsprit as it attaches to the ship.

Widow-maker - a term for the bowsprit (many sailors lost their lives falling off the bowsprit while tending sails).

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