Whidbey Island: Blessing & Curse

The first edition of DWI- Dinghies Whidbey Island, was a blessing and a curse… the blessing of wind, the curse of it going away.

This is the second year of dinghy racing as part of Race Week, the premier week of keelboat racing in the Pacific Northwest, and the first year of having the FD as a class. With the expected boats not showing, we still reached the minimum of 4 for a class start: Duane Elhringer and Mike Mezaros in “Henry”, their green carbon fiber machine, les frers Jones, Andrew and Josh in the “Chelan Flyer”, an old school Plastrend, Derrick Hiltz and his son Jason on the “Mexican Boat”, an early 80’s Mader,

and yours truly with Heather Anderson on “The Wounded Moose”, a ’71 Bob Hoare woody. All the sailors who pass always comment that they started on the boat, knew someone who did it, or better yet owned one.

Dinghy racing was held in a smaller bay than the Formula 18 Hobies, and had less wind. However close the starts were, there was no catching Mike and Duane, and they led to nearly every mark, even to the point of going beyond the leeward mark and getting hung up on a sandbar, when Derrick showed his skills and won the only mark rounding from them. We got second in the first race, feeling pretty confident in the Moose, followed by Derrick and son. The Jones had a smaller old school spinnaker, and still sailed respectably close.

The next race was lighter, with the Jones boys nailing the start, only to be slowly rolled over by Mike and Duane’s carbon wonder. The windward mark must have really liked the Wounded Moose, and latched onto the rudder blade, securely firmly last place for us. Derrick and son couldn’t catch the Jones boys, and the racing for the day was only bullets for Mike and Duane, and the rest of us tied for 2nd place.

The 3rd race was in a dying breeze, painful and slow. The race committee had had enough, calling the race as the FD’s were coming to windward against the current. Of course, 10 minutes afterward, the wind picked right up again, as it always does before and after a race.

Noone was satisfied with the racing volume, but the wonder of how the FD goes through the water in any breeze never ceases to amaze. That night was supposed to be a banquet for the dinghies @ the yacht club, but turned instead to skewers and fish and chips on the barbie, talking boats by our tents and boats. That’s really what it was all about: talking about the boat, how to better handle it or set it up, and philosophically reckoning driving the 14 hours and setting up camp and boat for another 10, all for a couple of hours of racing.

Day Two was best described as cats’ paws on the water, fading to a fart with a slightly seawater smell. The race committee postponed for an hour, while the FD’s cruised around in what seemed like no wind…. so… we ran our own informal races, eventually convincing the committee that, yes, races can be sailed in light air, too. The Moose nailed the start, skewed favoring the port tack. Mike and Duane, of course, rolled by and got to the windward mark first, followed closely by the Moose. Derrick and son hit a shallow sandbar– twice. The time spent at the bar let the Jones brothers pass, and they fought it out around the course. Into a breath of breeze, there was a little bumper boats leeward and windward, with the Jones eventually crossed first, negating the need for any protests.

The last race was fought out in even lighter wind, and the timid race committee canceled the race and watched as every dinghy paddled like mad to get back to the dock first.

Overall finishes were pretty easy to determine… “Henry”, 1st, with the finishes in the last race determined the lineup, “The Wounded Moose” 2nd, “The Chelan Flyer” 3rd, and “The Mexican Boat” in 4th.

(Thankfully he didn’t start any riots, as Canadians are known to do.)

Pictures will be posted next week on the www.flyingdutchmandinghy.com site.

Everyone there said they would definitely come back again to sail next year. Then, we’re looking to have the dinghies be more a part of the Race Week itself. (sponsored by Mount Gay Rum). With bands and volleyball tournaments, cheap booze and compatriot sailors, it will be the fixture of FD racing in the Pacific Northwest, and we expect there will be at least double the number of boats next time around. We should have at least 10 FD’s there, giving a real mix of racers. I know I’ll be back, if nothing else then just another tune up for Worlds 2012.