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Glorious Whidbey Island Race Week

by J/Boats 5 Aug 2019 07:37 PDT 23-28 July 2019
Whidbey Island Race Week 2019 © Event Media

After nearly four decades, Whidbey Island Race Week delivered one of the nicest three days of sailing the Pacific Northwest has seen for awhile, three straight days of sun and breeze.

This year's event has attracted a fleet of sixty-one boats; twenty-eight of them are J/Crews - 46% of the regatta! There were one-design classes for J/80s and J/105s, with the rest sailing in various PHRF handicap classes. Here are the reports from those three glorious days of sailing.

Day One

Just two days before "the Whidbey" started, the weather did not look so promising. However, the first day of the 37th edition off Oak Harbor made for many happy memories before the fleet moves over to Point Roberts for the 2020 race week edition.

After an opening evening of renewing cross-border friendships, while dancing to live music on the lawn of the Oak Harbor Yacht Club, and a night of crispy winds and an unexpected rainfall, Charley Rathkopf's Race Committee led the fleet of 61 US and Canadian boats south into what most sailors were hoping was the last day of an unusually cool and cloudy July.

The two one-design classes of J/105s and J/80s and J/PHRF sailors enjoyed the day's courses that tested the crews' fortitude and patience thanks to dying breezes and a 10-foot tidal exchange. Wednesday's uncertain waters and wind caused skippers to greet the week with conservative starts and no "over-earlies". The J/109 Lodos reveled in Wednesday's southerly breeze though rued the calm waters that ensued as the wind slowly achingly and shifted to the west before finally evaporating for the day.

Day Two

What better way to stave off Saturday's inevitable tears with a fun-filled blast from the past. Thursday's 1980's Reggae theme brought out a colorful cacophony of garb, from retro polo's to tie-dye tees, plus boom boxes and wigs galore, including mullets, fro's and dreadlocks. Even the weather seemed to join in and add to the light-hearted mood of the day.

Under intensely blue and cloudless skies, the cool morning soon grew into a warm afternoon. And right on schedule, Penn Cove's forecasted westerly filled in by the "noon o'clock" first gun.

With a waning flood, most of the day's first of three starts had at least one OCS. But, that minor inconvenience didn't seem to deter some of those who were a bit too hasty to take a bite out of the on-course side.

Stuart Burnell's J/109 TANTIVY, for example, turned their OCS, and a subsequent foul plus 360, into a tactical advantage and maneuvered to a third place finish, showing that a solid background of hard-earned experience can turn a negative into a positive.

Others weren't as fortunate. For example, Buckey's J/105 INSUBORDINATION managed to make contact with the committee boat's fenders at the start. After that, and a series of other unfortunate events, they retired from the day's third and final race, skulking back to the Oak Harbor marina with their tail between their legs and a whopping 12 points added to their score card.

Regardless, if Charley and his committee can pull out more multiple-race days like Thursday's, INSUBORDINATION may be able to throw out that last-place finish. It's not inconceivable that they'll make a comeback, as they have several race week veterans, and winners, aboard, including Pat Denny (owner) and Gary Harr (skipper) of that infamous black boat- the J/29 HERE & NOW.

Mike Kalahar's Port Angeles-based LITONYA darted around the course on Thursday to earn another bullet in the wily J/80 class.

No strangers to race week, John Aitcheson and his veteran crew aboard the J/105 MOOSE UNKNOWN took home first place honors for Thursday's three races with two bullets and a second. With just five points going into Friday's racing, they are poised to take home the overall trophy. It's just the halfway point of the regatta. However, the J/105 fleet is one of the most hotly contested one-design classes on the Salish Sea, so they'll have to fight hard to keep their lead.

Day Three

The bovine aroma off Blowers Bluff signaled the arrival of a solid westerly breeze (a bit like Mackinac Island's famous aroma of fudge and horse manure wafting across the Straits!). On such a day, the air becomes very clear with no haze on the horizon. One crew excitedly announced, "the mountain is out!" While passing through the channel from Oak Harbor into Saratoga Passage, she was exclaiming that Mt. Baker had emerged over the eastern horizon.

Knowing with confidence that if that marine layer burns off over the Straits beyond Penn Cove's west head, the breeze will indeed fill in nicely. As a result, that meant the smart money would try port tacking the fleet to hitch the elevator ride up the cove to finish line at North Beach. For that final leg, sailors were salivating, anticipating getting to Coupeville's Red Barn, the garlic shrimp, and ice cream at Kapaw's. Others, of course, were wishing there was more time for beer and fish'n' chips at Toby's.

Jerry Diercks' crew on DELIRIUM was maybe a bit delirious in the beginning of the regatta, starting off quite slowly with a 3-4-8 tally in the eleven-boat J/105 class. However, in the next six races they came on strong like a locomotive gathering steam downhill, smoking the closely-fought class with three 1sts, two seconds and a third to win with 17 net pts after a single discard. Second was Chris Phoenix's JADED with 20 pts. Then, just two points back doing the "reverse fade" of the DELIRIUM tally was John Aitchison's MOOSE UNKNOWN, a fun-loving Canadian crew. While the "Mooser's" opened up with a stunning three bullets in a row, they slowly faded to black, closing the regatta with a 5-3-5-8 in their last four races to drop down to the bronze medal. The balance of the top five included Erik Kristen's MORE JUBILEE in fourth and Buckey's INSUBORDINATION in fifth place.

Never looking back after day one in the seven-boat J/80 class was David Schutte's TAJ MAHAL. After leading day one, Schutte's crew keep up the pressure on the fleet and won with just 12 pts net, counting only podium finishes in their scoreline that included five 1sts! Second was Bryan Rhodes' CRAZY IVAN and third place was earned by Mike Kalahar's LITONYA.

The six-boat PHRF 1 Class saw Bruce Chan's J/111 65 RED ROSES II take the silver, missing the gold by a mere point. Then, in PHRF 2 class, David & Vernice Cohen's J/90 EYE EYE took the bronze. Rounding out the top five were Stu Burnell's J/109 TANTIVY in fourth an Brian White's J/35 GRACE E in fifth position. Two other J/109s finished behind them, with Tolga Cezik's LODOS in sixth and Mike Campbell's LAPA in seventh. In PHRF 3 class, it was Stephanie Arnold's J/33 DASH that took fourth place. Finally, in PHRF 5 class, Christine Nelson's J/29 SLICK took the silver.

More information at whidbeyislandraceweek.com

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