Last Dance in Oak Harbor
Published on June 30th, 2019
A venue change in 2020 will turn Whidbey Island Race Week into Point Roberts Race Week. Event producer Schelleen Rathkopf reflects on the history and future of this iconic event.
This is really it. Our last big event in Oak Harbor, WA. And, if you’re like many that I’ve talked to in recent days, it just feels weird. This really marks the end of an era in the Pacific Northwest sailing community that began in 1983 under the umbrella of Yachting magazine.
For many years, New York-based Yachting magazine held the reigns as the nation’s premier Race Week event organizer that included Key West, Catalina, San Diego, Block Island, Solomon Island, and Whidbey Island. But in 1994, Yachting ended its Yachting Race Weeks program.
However, Whidbey Island Race Week continued on due in large part to Oak Harbor businessman, Stan Stanley, whose history with Whidbey Island Race Week went back literally to day one. He, alongside Washington’s Governor, Oak Harbor’s Mayor and City Council, the Oak Harbor Yacht Club, and many others worked to bring Race Week to town for its debut event, July 10-15, 1983.
So after the Yachting years, 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 and kept the event afloat despite a tanking economy. And then in 2015, it was my turn.
For nearly four decades, Race Week has 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. And though every sailor knows that tacks are required in the sport, some tacks are just super tough to make, and changing venues is one of those tacks.
For all who have had a hand in the 37-year history of this event, thank you. It has been an astonishing ride that is ripped with nostalgia as the memories are just that great. I really hope you will join in for the last dance planned there on July 24-27, 2019. Let’s race, party, and play one last time in Oak Harbor.