The 32nd year of sailboat racing throughout the salty blue sea and snow-capped mountain backdrop of Port Townsend Bay is returning soon, with local mariners tuning their rigs, loading their gear, and …
The 32nd year of sailboat racing throughout the salty blue sea and snow-capped mountain backdrop of Port Townsend Bay is returning soon, with local mariners tuning their rigs, loading their gear, and assembling their crew for race day.
The event is organized by the Port Townsend Sailing Association and supported by the Northwest Maritime Center.
Set to start at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 with the skippers’ meeting at Boat Haven Marina, racers and participants will meet at the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s new headquarters in the Nomura Building opposite of the boat ramp.
After all the teams are signed up and ready, the regatta starts at noon.
Interested sailors can sign up for the race and learn more about it at ptsail.org/shipwrights-regatta-2023.
Like most other water races, Port Townsend’s rendition brings unique obstacles and challenges, with wind being the top concern for race organizers and sailors.
“It’s really just the strength of the wind that’s the big factor,” Heumann said.
The weather forecast as of Tuesday morning for race day is mostly cloudy with wind speeds of around seven knots and a 23 percent chance of rain.
First commencing in 1991, the annual event has a special connection to the local working waterfront and a unique backstory.
“It’s been going for 32 years; the origins are interesting. Shipwrights at the Boat Haven shipyard were working on boats, but one day decided it was time to go out sailing on them,” said Jim Heumann, race director for the Shipwrights’ Regatta. “It’s a celebration of the marine trades; we call it the Shipwrights’ Regatta because that’s the name it started with.”
The upcoming regatta is expected to bring out approximately 30 vessels racing in four separate boat classes.
“Depending on number of boats, we’ll probably have four classes: a Racing Class, a Thunderbird Class, a Cruising Class for smaller boats, and a Cruising Class for bigger boats,” Heumann said.
For the expected turnout, “I’m thinking we’ll probably have [an amount] in the 30s right now;, there’s 10 to 15 [teams] already signed up.”
For local landlubbers who still want to watch the event, the sailboats and race course is visible from the shore for people to follow along at their leisure.
The regatta follows a triangle-style course marked by three buoys scattered between Boat Haven Marina and Point Wilson.
While there’s certainly a competitive aspect to the race, this isn’t the America’s Cup.
To highlight the fun-first style of the event, most of the post-race awards are humorous.
“All of the awards that have been created over the years are for fun things,” Heumann said.
Some examples include the Whack-O-Matic trophy handed to the team with the best use of misspent energy, the Hook accolade for the crew most in need of a hook to attach to a faster vessel, the Directional Helmet for a team that got lost or missed a buoy during the race, and more, Heumann added.
Each of the awards have their own history and even the trophies are rooted in the local community.
“Some of those are 30 years old, like the Peg Leg and Hook awards, which were all created by Pete Langley,” Heumann said.
Langley is the longtime owner of the Port Townsend Foundry.
Following the race, participants and spectators will head to the Northwest Maritime Center campus on Water Street for the post-race award ceremony, with free pizza and beer provided to the race crews who particpate.