Colorful sails dotted the sea under a sunny sky. To observers, whether they were relaxing on the Coupeville waterfront or on a distant boat, the show was almost deceivingly calm. In reality, Penn Cove was the scene of a fierce competition as crew members worked in tandem to execute complex maneuvers and pass their adversaries.
The third annual Whidbey Summer Classic Regatta took place Friday, July 28 through Sunday, July 30, bringing a record 26 boats, including 10 boats from six different yacht clubs that are not based on the island.
According to Aaron Hale, sail fleet captain at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club, past editions averaged an attendance of 18 boats.
“It was very exciting to see that many boats,” Hale said, expressing his gratitude to the sponsors, the volunteers and the race committee. “We should see many more boats next year.”
Many sailors in the Puget Sound area believe Penn Cove is one of the best areas for sailing, with wind conditions and views that make the experience magical.
Chad Saxton — a member of the Oak Harbor Yacht Club — and his team won every race in the San Juan 24 category on board Juan Solo, the boat he owns with sailing partner Gabe Hill.
“Penn Cove is one of the best sailing areas in the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “It’s unique and consistent and has a lot of history with sailboat racing.”
Hale raced on board Argosia, his San Juan 28, helped by his wife Stina and two other crew members they welcomed to the team last-minute on Saturday and Sunday. At the end of the competition against other performance handicap racing fleet boats, the team placed fourth.
Stephanie Arnold, rear commodore at the Orcas Island Yacht Club, placed sixth in the sports boat category on board Aha! — her J/70 boat. This was her first time participating in the classic regatta, helped by two friends from Bellingham.
“Competition was fierce. We had some really great competitors in our class and fast boats,” she said. “One of the best regattas I’ve been to.”
Despite the different categories, they all raced together in the same area, but with different courses. This, Saxton said, made the experience more challenging and fun.
“So you always have to pay attention to your surroundings, and there are different racing rules that determine who has rights and certain situations,” Saxton said. “So you’re always evaluating not only your direct competition, but also what else is happening on the race course and how it will affect you — and potentially, how you might affect others.”
In and out of the battlefield, the sailors have demonstrated great sportsmanship. According to Saxton, the support is one of the sailing community’s best qualities, as he’s seen rivals help each other when someone would break or lose something.
Sunday, the wind took some time to blow, forcing the competitors to wait. This did not kill the enthusiasm — instead, Hale said, they turned it into a play day and sailed to Coupeville, getting ice cream to eat on the boats with their crews.