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South End yacht club’s smooth sailors cruise Lone Lake

Camille Sasson and Bill Brown watch the horizon as they sail on Lone Lake. They check the wind and prepare for the weekly Pelican sailboat races sponsored by the South Whidbey Yacht Club.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Camille Sasson and Bill Brown watch the horizon as they sail on Lone Lake. They check the wind and prepare for the weekly Pelican sailboat races sponsored by the South Whidbey Yacht Club.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LONE LAKE — Sailing during sun-filled afternoons on South Whidbey is hard to beat.

There’s a heavy dose of vitamin D from the sun and smooth waters for the South Whidbey Yacht Club. The tan isn’t bad, either. Every Wednesday afternoon, an assortment of 12-foot Pelican sailboats tack on Lone Lake as part of a weekly race during the summer. On a recent Wednesday, nine boats competed and like the lazy waves that lapped the lakeshore, began a bit late.

Young sailor Camille Sasson and Bill Brown won the first race, with a few moreº ahead of them before sundown.

“He always wins,” said John Johnson, a club member and Greenbank resident.

“He is glowing from winning.”

The Pelicans putted around the lake, cruising at 7 or 8 knots tops. With main sail raised and the jib up, the here-then-gone winds at Lone Lake require lots of attention in order for racers to stay ahead of the pack. Brown’s key to winning the race?

“Making the wind shifts,” he said.

Lots of the sailing participants keep their boats on land so the wooden hulls stay dry and light. None had loose ropes in the water. Everything is done to limit the boat’s weight and drag, including leaning hard to one side to lift part of the bottom out of the water.

Then there’s the strategy. Like a NASCAR race, some sailors draft, cut off their competition or steal the wind on the outside, then swing in front.

The yacht club finished its final youth sailing class through the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District on Friday. For several years, the club has offered the classes and expanded the number of sessions. The summer sailing was so popular that the club added an intermediate youth sailing class for the returning sailors to hone their nautical talents.

“They just grow up so fast,” Johnson said. “They come in and can’t control the sail, then by the end they can.”

There also were two adult sailing sessions this summer.

Pelican races offer students a chance to practice their class skills. Lone Lake, Johnson said, provides a safe arena for sailing lessons. The water stays fairly warm, although it’s not swimmable because of algae, and the winds rarely whip up wild waves.

Come August, the races venture to the not-high seas of Holmes Harbor. The winds there are faster and a bit more predictable, but the water is much colder.

Annual membership in the South Whidbey Yacht Club costs between $75 for an individual and $100 for a family of three. Much of the cost supports the sailing classes, though it does include two club decals (a red and white pennant flag with an orca).

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