Race Week Past,
Present, and Future

Schelleen Rathkopf Nautical News

Race Week Past, Present, and Future

In 1983, a lot of good things happened. Microsoft released Word, the Motorola Company unveiled the first mobile phone, and over 125 million of us watched the final episode of M*A*S*H. It was also the year when Yachting magazine’s publisher and editor-in-chief, Edward D. Muhlfeld, cooked up a plan to add Whidbey Island to his consortium of Race Week events.

For many years, New York-based Yachting held the reigns as the nation’s premier Race Week events organizer. With Audi in tow as a title sponsor linked to Yachting’s display advertising bottom line, an expansive concept of Race Weeks was developed. Included in the mix of locations were Key West, Catalina, San Diego, Block Island, Solomon Island, and Whidbey Island. As a Yachting Race Week enterprise, the publication was able to tie in national sponsors eager to spend marketing dollars such as IBM, Remy-Cointreau (Mount Gay Rum), and of course, Audi.

But in 1994, Yachting’s advertising dollars went from a torrent to a trickle and the magazine ended its Yachting Race Weeks program. It was presumed that without national sponsors, the regattas would go away (and some eventually did). But Whidbey Island Race Week continued, due in large part to Oak Harbor businessman, Stan Stanley.

Stanley’s history with Whidbey Island Race Week went back to Day One. He, alongside Washington’s Governor John Spellman, Oak Harbor’s Mayor Alvin Koetje, and event co-chair Paul Thorlakson, originally worked with Yachting to bring Race Week to town. Endorsed by the Pacific International Yachting Association, conducted by Seattle Yacht Club, and co-hosted by Oak Harbor Yacht Club and the North Whidbey Chamber of Commerce, the coalition helped present the debut of Whidbey Island Race Week from July 10 to 15, 1983.

Whidbey Island Race Week, as we know it, was born in the post-Yachting sponsorship era. Stan Stanley joined forces with marine industry giant Bob Ross (J/Boat Dealer, Sail Northwest, and Seattle Sailing Club) and carried the Race Week torch forward with Northwest Marine Productions for 14 years. In 2008, Gary Stuntz took the helm with Clear Ahead Marine Productions. Despite a tanking economy, Stuntz kept the event afloat for the next seven years. Then it was my turn as the event producer in 2015, a position I’m passionate about to this day as I also work as the advertising and marketing coordinator for Northwest Yachting magazine.

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For nearly four decades, Race Week called Whidbey Island home. Sailors have come from all over the region to race, party, and play. It’s no surprise to anyone who has attended a Race Week that the event has been called Adult Summer Camp. But this July will be the last Whidbey Island Race Week as it’s moving to a new venue beginning in 2020 and will be rebranded as Point Roberts Race Week. The venue change was necessary to expand the race product and draw in competitors from both the US and Canada. With both dinghy and big boat race offerings, combined with sailors coming from Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle, Point Roberts Race Week may soon be the largest sailboat racing event on the west coast of North America.

To get there, I’ve assembled a team of race officers who are rock stars in the sport. John Abel, a World Sailing International Race Officer from Victoria, B.C., will be the overall event Principle Race Officer (PRO). He will be joined by National Race Officer (NRO) Paul Evenden from Vancouver B.C. and Regional Race Officer (RRO) Charley Rathkopf from Seattle, Washington.

Individually, they are the PROs for many high-profile events including Charleston Race Week, Swiftsure International Yacht Race, VanIsle 360, Melges 24 World Championships, Hobie North Americans, Laser North Americans, Round the County (RTC), 6mR Worlds, 29er Nationals, J24 Nationals and Whidbey Island Race Week. And collectively, this team will run the races at Point Roberts Race Week.

In addition to this race management team, I’ve assembled an Advisory Board that includes prominent racers and US and world sailing officers. This effort, combined with the procurement of a title sponsorship from Chen Yihong of China DongXiang (owner of the Point Roberts Marina) and news that the Transpac 52s are participating (and possibly forming a one design fleet), Point Roberts Race Week is well on its way to future success.

Every sailor knows that tacking is required in this sport, and that is why it’s time to say goodbye to Whidbey Island and hello to Point Roberts.

With immeasurable gratitude and respect for all who have carried the Whidbey Island Race Week torch and those who have had a hand in the development of a great racing event, thank you. Point Roberts Race Week will continue the tradition of raising the bar on what a great sailboat regatta should provide: fun!

Photos: Jan Anderson
Schelleen Rathkopf

Written by

Schelleen Rathkopf is a native Seattleite who grew up cruising and racing in the Puget Sound waters. She is producer of Whidbey Island Race Week (now Point Roberts Race Week) and SHE, a new all women regatta in Seattle. PointRobertsRaceWeek.com

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