Whidbey Island Race Week (WIRW) has been a fixture of Northwest racing for a long time. Boats from all over the region converge on Oak Harbor, WA for this multiple-day regatta. This year’s edition was bittersweet as the organizers of the event have decided to move it a full day’s sail farther north to Point Roberts, WA for 2020.
But this was 2019 and I was crewing on Reckless, John Emre’s J/80. John, in a move of such trust and graciousness it still blows me away, had previously offered Reckless to me and Lizzy “Sailing Unicorn” Grim (inventor of the beer mitt cozy) to campaign in our local Monday night series. So, I was plenty familiar with the boat.
What I wasn’t expecting, however, was for John to decide I was driving and he was calling tactics. When you’ve been focused on foresail trimming and you find out you’re driving, it takes a bit to get your head in the right place. Plus, I’ve crewed with John enough to know we also have two different approaches to races. So, I was a little apprehensive.
In total, we got nine races off over four days of racing. The first two days were ugly. Light winds on day one meant we could only get one race off and we ended up 6th in a 7-boat fleet. Day two we had wind, but no speed, and went 5-4-5.
Back at the docks, we went over the boat with a fine-toothed comb trying to figure it out. Reckless is always competitive in the large local J/80 fleet, so these results were atypical. Sadly, we didn’t come up with anything.
I wandered back down to the docks well after the Day 2 post-race party and started looking at the jib car positions on all the boats. We were running our cars 3-4 positions farther aft than the rest of the fleet. As we sat around our tents and cars before turning in that night, we decided to move our cars forward on day three.
On the next race, we were a strong 4th. We moved the cars forward again and then we were on the wind! We shot a 2-2-3-2 the remainder of the regatta, charging hard for 3rd place.
Sadly, we ran out of races — needing one more to break past the 3rd place boat. Instead, we finished 4th for the regatta.
The third-to-last race of the regatta deserves some special attention. Check out the video below to see the fleet finish under spinnaker.
If you listen close towards the end, you can hear every person on every boat was screaming their heads off in excitement the finish was so close. This is perhaps my favorite sailing moment ever, despite the fact we (blue and pink chute) got clipped at the line by Underdog.