Northwest youth sailors travel south to share the water with top-level competition and get a dose of sunshine, surf, and sand.

For kids and adults alike, it can be hard to get motivated to go sailing during the winter in the Pacific Northwest. No amount of high-end rain gear will make Seattle sailing feel like California. So, for our winter season this year, we hung up our heaviest foulies and went to California. 

As a general rule, most of the top sailing teams in the nation can be found on the East Coast or in California. As the Northwest works to become a more competitive district, going to sail against these teams is a must, and it is a lot of fun too. 

This year, six high school teams from the Pacific Northwest attended the Rose Bowl Regatta hosted by the Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Association, PCISA. The two day event in Long Beach, California, had 78 teams from around the country competing. The group from the Pacific Northwest included Bainbridge, Orcas, Olympia, Capitol, Gig Harbor, and Lakeside High School Sailing Teams.

For teams who were not accustomed to beach launching boats, the sand was a nuisance and the high surf warning was a bit sporty, to say the least… On the second day, one rig was damaged when the breakers on shore sent boats ripping into the beach and bowled over any sailors in their path. Throughout the weekend, many rudders, hulls, and centerboards received an involuntary sand blasting. Sand was poured out of gearbags, food containers, sailing booties, and pockets — “docks and rocks” became the mantra as the sailors thought of what they like about sailing at home. 

The regatta was sailed in Club Flying Junior dinghies, and fleets were divided into gold, silver, and bronze divisions, based on the team’s experience and national standing. The top schools in the gold and silver fleet were predominantly from Southern California with our PNW teams coming in mid-fleet, but in bronze, the second through fifth place teams were all from Washington. There’s always room for growth, but the northwest sailors still held their own.

Any sailboat racer will understand, there’s always a risk that the wind won’t not come through for you. The first day of sailing had only 3 races in total due to the light wind, but on the second-day things picked up and they got another 7 races in for a total of 10 (scored as 5 rotations). We go to California for the competition more than the wind. 

The experience in California might help our sailors have had a better understanding of why so many Californians made the long trip to sail with them in the Columbia River Gorge last summer at the CGRA WIND clinic. The Gorge experience lets young sailors test their skills against some of the top schools in the country in predictably big breeze. As a bonus, it seeds new reasons for PNW sailors to appreciate their home venues.

Overall, the winter trip to Long Beach for the Rose Bowl was a great experience for our next generation of racers, and another step towards the Northwest becoming a more competitive district. 

All photos by Orcas Island High School Sailing Team Assistant Coach, Taylor Smith.