When Orcas Island Yacht Club’s East Sound Spring Regatta was created back in 2018, there were no guarantees it would become the perennial favorite that it is today. 2021 brought another resounding success… even rain and cold temps couldn’t dampen spirits in the islands!

The J/70 fleet is booming in the islands, and they were everywhere you turned on the racecourse.

East Sound Spring Regatta (ESSR) is back again this year and it couldn’t be more picture perfect if it tried. Twenty-two boats from around the region converged on Rosario Resort to enjoy some great racing in some magnificent liquid sunshine. If there were two things I heard all weekend it was “Wow! It’s so beautiful here!” and “Brrrrr! I’m freezing, close the hatch!”

Charley Rathkopf and his regatta crew got off 10 races for 3 divisions over two days, and did it flawlessly with thought toward fair races for the fleets and lunch breaks for the crews. The course were straight and just long enough. A light-to-moderate southerly was predicted all weekend with a 100% chance of freezing rain. On Saturday morning, the local snails were having a party on the rain-drenched lawn as we met for the skippers meeting, with more snails than sailors thinking it was a good day to go out. We braved the elements and got the first race right off on schedule in an early morning northerly. The first two fleets started a second race in the fading northerly, but the last of the little boat fleet was still on course from the first race and showing a southerly on its way. 

Sailors on the bows of J/35s Outlaw (left) and Keet (right) call the starting line.

We took a short break and all found our way to stay warm. The crew of Keet put on an impressive dance party, spurring other revelers to turn on the tunes. Before we knew it, the southerly had filled in to stay for the day. We got in a few more races on Saturday in a consistent 5-knot breeze. 

The starts and mark roundings were critical, the tide was pretty negligible, and the J/70s were literally everywhere you turned. The day ended with a trip to the Lower Tavern, and an early bedtime with soggy laundry hanging in every possible spot on board. The wind came in that night and we could hear it in the rigging as we tried to sleep.

The prediction was for a southeasterly to settle in and for the rain to break up a bit by the afternoon, and that is exactly what happened…mostly. We had a solid 15-knot breeze that kept us in the #3 all day. When it was all said and done, a lot was said and a lot was done! We were exhausted and happy, and the body- care regatta awards from local business Island Thyme were just what the doctor ordered.

The racing was great, but it was only one component of a terrific weekend.

After a 10-race weekend, there were awards on the lawn before we enjoyed an easy sail home. Among the many compliments shared with Orcas Island Yacht Club, the greatest of them centered around how great of a venue it is. Rosario Resort and Orcas Island are just great places to be. Besides a well run race event, I hear that the sandwiches were outstanding and the manhattans at the resort were top tier — friendly people and a great experience in general. Work hard, play hard, and treat yourself! 

In addition to everything else, ESSR is a Clean Regatta, and special awards were given to boats that did not bring single-use plastics to the race course. 

The capable doublehanders on Sir Isaac.

Well done, all around! In Division 1, outstanding performances were by the J/120 Time Bandit, finishing in the top spot for the weekend, as well as the Baileys who sailed the schooner Sir Isaac doublehanded all weekend won the weekend regardless of scores. 

Keith Whitttemore’s Furio crew clawed back for top honors in the burgeoning J/70 fleet.

In the J/70 fleet, seven boats duked it out all weekend with lots of multiple-lap races and at least two of the boats sailing doublehanded. At the end of day one, it was the Wolfes doublehanding Mossy in first place. In the end, however, it was the venerable Keith Whittemore winning the weekend with Furio

In the little boat Division 3, the top three spots were highly contested and changeable all weekend. Right up until the last race, it could have gone any way! Congratulations go to Betsy Wareham winning the weekend on her Martin 242 Purple Martin. Excellent sailing and another Orcas Island sailor that you just always love. Thanks everyone, it was great! See you again next year.

All images courtesy of the talented young photographer, Arden Rathkopf.