Whidbey Island Race Week celebrates its 34th anniversary this summer, and one of the primary goals of the regatta’s owners is to ensure there will be many more.
Race Week will send boats skimming across the waters of Penn Cove and Saratoga Passage from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday July 11-15.
When Charley and Schelleen Rathkopf took over ownership last summer, they said they “have a love for the sport of sailboat racing” and one of their primary goals is to develop the next generation of sailors.
“In order to maintain the vitality of this sport, regattas nationwide are recognizing the importance of youth sailing programs as well as entry level or cruising classes at the event for those persons who have just learned to sail but want to increase their skills,” Schelleen Rathkopf said. “Racing builds sailing skills, so in the future Race Week will approach sailing clubs and sailing schools in an effort to attract new participants in the sport.”
The Rathkopfs also introduced Kids Camp to the Race Week activities in 2015, drawing youngsters to the sport.
In addition to fun activities such as trips to Camp Casey and crafts, children 8-and-above will be offered sailing instruction by U.S. Sailing certified instructors using Opti sailboats.
The camp was such a hit last year, Schelleen Rathkopf said, that every child who participated signed up again for 2016.
Last year’s Race Week “was a success,” Schelleen Rathkopf said.
“We put a lot of focus on the post-race experience and brought in well-known regional bands, offered wonderful dinners at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club and brought in national sponsors, including Tesla Motors, Bacardi, Helly Hansen and Ullman Sails.”
The nightly post-race parties will continue this year, beginning Sunday, and movies will be shown on Monday and Tuesday.
Small boat racing was eliminated because of management costs, Schelleen Rathkopf said. Also, the hoist at the Oak Harbor Marina is broken, so boats that travel on trailers will not be able to participate this year.
An addition to Race Week will be an RV and tent camping site near downtown Oak Harbor. The area was secured with the help of Mayor Bob Severns and his wife Rhonda, Rathkopf said.
The main event of the week, of course, is the boat racing, and the best places to watch are the Coupeville Wharf and along Penn Cove, Rathkopf said.
However, the course is sometimes set up in Saratoga Passage because of the winds, but this is rare, she said.
“Race Week would not be possible without the support of our sponsors,” Rathkopf said, “and the generosity and volunteer support of the good folks at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club.”