Race Week launches Sunday

In one day the waters in and around Oak Harbor and Coupeville will be filled with a colorful array of boats as Whidbey Island Race Week 2005 sets sail.

The event, which is in its 23rd year of operation, runs Sunday, July 10 through Friday July, 15 with races starting Monday around noon.

Race Week, which is considered one of the top 20 yachting regattas in the world, is expected to draw a large crowd again this year, although there will be less participants than in the past.

“It’s down a bit from last year and previous years,” organizer Bob Ross said.

There are just shy of 100 entrants in the regatta, which allows up to as many as 150 one-design keelboats.

Given a reason for a lower turnout, Ross said it’s likely with an earlier than normal start, people ran into conflicts with other races going on around the same time.

“People’s time is just too valuable these days,” he said.

Even with a lower turnout, Ross is still happy with the numbers.

“One hundred boats is a pretty darn good turnout for any regatta,” he said.

There are 11 different classifications of boats this year and there will be 11 different starts.

With the weather anticipated to clear up around the beginning of the week, viewing the boats from shore should be prime. Of course, where the boats end up and if there is just one race or two races depend on the wind.

Ross said a westerly wind offers the best chance to see the colorful sails, as boats will race through Penn Cove and past Coupeville. The best spots to view boats are right off the Coupeville dock and Long Point.

The week-long sailing event also features several other activities, including live music, a golf tournament, volleyball and bowling.

The public is invited down to the Oak Harbor Yacht Club for all events except for the nightly award ceremonies.

Things are slightly different this year as far as race management goes.

Ross, who heads Northwest Marine Productions in Seattle, is organizing Race Week by himself for the first time. His partner of 11 years and original race organizer, Stan Stanley, opted to step down from the position this year for personal reasons.

“He’s really instrumental in making the success it is today,” Ross said of Stanley.

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