Race Week sails into Oak Harbor

Brightly colored sailboats will race through Penn Cove all week for Race Week.

Whidbey Island’s sailors and sailboat lovers will have their eyes glued to the action in Penn Cove and northern Saratoga Passage as Oak Harbor celebrates its 30th annual Race Week, with 115 boats signed up to compete.

The excitement — and some adrenaline-pumping music — were blasting top-notch from the Oak Harbor marina Monday morning as sailors from around the world geared up for the first big contest of Race Week 2012.

The Peterson 40 “Shoot the Moon” sailboat is so well known that it was featured on this year’s Race Week poster. Its Seattle crew has been competing in Race Week all 30 years.

Don Wills, owner of “Shoot the Moon,” is well-known in the boating community for owning the “Grayling,” a one-of-a-kind Q Class boat built in 1923 by Nathanael Herreshoff. The boat was commissioned by finance titan J.P. Morgan because he wanted to start a class that would replace the old New York 30 class, said the “Grayling” current owner, Duke Phan.

The boat came to the Pacific Northwest in 1945 and stayed, Phan said. He bought the boat from Wills and this is his and his crew’s first time racing together in Race Week.

“And everybody recognized the boat,” Phan said, adding that it receives compliments and prompts stories from people whose parents have raced against it. “It’s an honor for me to be the caretaker of the boat,” Phan said.

“We took the boat out here to show him some support and have some fun,” Phan said, adding that the 30th anniversary of the race seemed like the perfect time to do so.

The tough — or thrilling — aspect of racing in Penn Cove is that once a sailor thinks he or she knows the currents, something changes and “you gotta think your way outta here,” said Ken Tuomi, one of some 1,000 sailors involved in Race Week.

Tuomi said he’s also eager for the moment a bunch of boats converge on the mark, as all the boats are moving at different speeds and waiting until the last second to take off the spinnaker and round the mark.

“You get some real chaos,” Tuomi said. “Sometimes, you get some contact.”

As sailboats pulled away from the marina one by one to sail toward the start line, the sun was warm, the tunes were blaring and the sailors were smiling.

“I’m mainly here for the racing,” Tuomi said as he finished preparations on “Tantivy.” “Any time you get a good westerly through Penn Cove, that’s exciting.”

Racers also enjoy a party each evening at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club.

Race Week continues through Friday, July 20. Popular viewpoints to watch the event include any high point in Oak Harbor, the Coupeville Wharf and Long Point.