Whidbey Cup Regatta: sailors enjoy more than a breeze

The frontrunners turn in a race to the finish line in the Lasers/Vanguard 15 class.

With winds swirling left and right on Lone Lake, sailors were doing their best to use their sails to harness the erratic gusts, in order to be the first boat in their class to cross the finish line. Despite the patchy wind, which usually separates competitors, the boats raced neck and neck to the finish line and produced some photo finishes.

The race was the first ever Whidbey Cup Regatta held this past Saturday and Sunday afternoon by the South Whidbey Yacht Club. Nineteen boats in total raced for at least one day, with a few competitors dropping out on the second day for a variety of reasons. The tricky wind conditions made a day’s-worth of sailing more strenuous, and was a factor behind the smaller attendance on Sunday, Regatta Chairman Bill Brown said.

There weren’t enough participating boats for one-design classes — races where all the vessels competing are exactly the same — so regatta organizers divided racers into three groups based on speed capabilities. The fastest group was composed of Lasers and Vanguard 15s. Those in the middle were Lido 14s and Force Fives, while Pelicans and El Toros took up the rear as the slowest competing class.

Former University of Washington sailor and Clinton resident Zak Malbin took first place in the Laser/Vanguard 15 class, while Langley’s Michael Hauser won the Lido 14/Force Five class and Ken Rasmussen of Bow, Wash. finished first in the Pelican/El Toro class.

“This was my first time out racing in about five years, and it was one of the more challenging places I’ve sailed,” Malbin said. “It’s impressive how the others dealt with the conditions.”

Sailing skill levels and age varied greatly, as the regatta was open to whoever wanted to race. The races included former collegiate sailors like Malbin, retirees and teenagers.

“There were a lot of boats and a good amount of new people that came out to race, so it was fun to see,” Bob Rodgers, Commodore of South Whidbey Yacht Club, said. “The wind was all over the map, but that’s just how sailing on Lone Lake is.”

The less-than-ideal wind conditions are a regular hurdle for Lone Lake sailors, Rodgers and Malbin said. The wind often blows in multiple directions as it comes over the trees and spirals around on the water. The surrounding hillsides also funnel the wind in varying directions.

“There were a couple of 180 degree shifts in wind, which is really unusual to have that big of a shift,” said Rodgers. “Regardless, everyone sailed pretty well. That includes the experienced sailors and those who were near the beginner level.”

Brown spoke highly of the young sailors who participated in the regatta, as they were up against sailors who were 50 years their senior in the Laser/Vanguard 15 class.

“The younger sailors did well considering they were sailing against some fairly experienced sailors in the laser fleet,” Brown said. “One of them was 12 years old, so it’s something to be proud of.”

There will be more opportunities to sail with the South Whidbey Yacht Club throughout the summer, with the upcoming Sail-What-You-Gotta-Regatta, which is slated for July 30. Sailors and boat enthusiasts of all skill levels are invited, as the event is more of a celebration on the water than a series of races like the Whidbey Cup Regatta.

There are also multiple opportunities to take beginner sailing lessons with the South Whidbey Yacht Club in collaboration with South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District. Classes are scheduled for June 20-23, June 25-26 and June 27-30. Classes will be held every day during those dates on Lone Lake. Registration costs $200. More information at www.swyachtclub.org/programs.