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Dodge the Ducks

by Norris Comer

If you’ve ever walked about the Lake Union area after work on Tuesdays and noticed an abnormally large fleet of sailboats cruising around, you’ve likely witnessed one of Seattle’s most conspicuous sailing traditions. Duck Dodge is about as informal as a race gets and welcomes boats of all kinds, ranging from “Fast Boats” to “Cruising/Slow Boats” to a “Dinghy Class.”

Duck Dodge - Photo by Alex KwantenThe first race of 2016 was sailed on May 10, 2016 and the last one will be held on September 6. Duck Dodge is beloved by race veterans and is perfect for the newcomers who are just beginning.

The race/party was originally called the, “Tenas Chuck Duck Dodge” in the Native American style. Tenas Chuck is the Native American name for Lake Union. The original handbill announcing a, “Duck Dodge” in 1974 had the subtitle, “Lake Union Beer Can Regatta,” just in case people didn’t get the idea.

The rules are proudly displayed online and include Rules #3, #5, #7, #9, and #11 which are all, “No hitting one-another (with or without boats).” Rule #6 is, “Bribing the committee is against the rules (while anybody is looking).” Rule #8 is, “There is no rule number 8”. Of course, there is the all-important Rule #12, “Never make a duck change its course (Dodge the Duck).”

In fact, the “Scared Duck Rule” always applies. Any yacht that comes into contact with, or substantially frightening, any duck must complete a 720-degree turn and apologize to the duck before continuing. Get the picture?

Additionally, each race has a theme and the 2016 series is no exception. Naturals like “pirate” and “skipper’s choice” are to be expected. “Star wars” and “ugly sweater” are a bit more of a surprise… but “dead presidents” and “prom”? Genius. Maybe next year they can combine the two into “dead president prom”? Think about it.

The course is always the same and is built around Lake Union landmarks like the Aurora Bridge and Police Department floats. Any sailboat of any size with any crew and any sailplan is welcome, just show up at 1900 hours on a Tuesday and you’re in. How’s that for simple?
It’s the perfect race for a local beginner who may be intimidated by the big league racing scene that can dominate Puget Sound.

Duck Dodge definitely doesn’t end when the last boats round the course. The real fun begins as the boats raft-up and the sun sinks low. Old friends reunite and new friends are made as a quintessential Seattle summer ritual comes full circle. Duck Dodge is a time to sit back in the sun with a drink and just soak it all in. You’re on a boat and nothing else matters.

For details, the website is worth a visit (duckdodge.com) and information is available at info@duckdodge.org.

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