Photo by Jan Anderson/Jan’s Marine Photography

Race Week in Anacortes: A Yachting Tradition Sails On

To describe Yachting Magazine as the journal of record for those who ply our coastal waters (and mid-oceans) in artfully engineered sailboats is not hyperbole. Publisher Oswald Garrison Villard published the magazine’s first issue on New Year’s Day, 1907. Over the years, the magazine began putting on seminal ‘Race Week’ events across the U.S., yacht races that possessed both towering prestige and a rollicking good time—in the early 1980s, a Race Week on Whidbey Island at Oak Harbor debuted, joining such premier yachting destinations as Key West, Catalina, and Solomon Island. Supported by sponsors like IBM and Audi, the Whidbey Island Race Week prospered and became a jewel in the crown of the American yachting scene.

Photo by Jan Anderson/Jan’s Marine Photography

For nearly four decades, Race Week called Whidbey Island home. With its reliable afternoon westerlies, Penn Cove drew sailors from hither and yon to race, party, and play; the week was often described as “adult summer camp.”

But by 2015, after maintenance issues in Oak Harbor—primarily a lack of dredging—Race Week was looking for a new home. In 2020, Point Roberts was chosen, due to its easy access for Canadian boats, deep-water harbor, and “remote island feel,” according to Race Week Event Producer Schelleen Rathkopf, who purchased the event in 2014. The move was scheduled for 2020, but…then the pandemic hit, and the US/Canada border shut down. So it was back to the drawing board for Rathkopf.

Photo by Jan Anderson/Jan’s Marine Photography

She discovered the perfect location in Anacortes, where the City and Port, as well as the Anacortes Yacht Club, “made the choice very easy.” The wealth of transient moorage at Cap Sante Marina, combined with the adjacent RV Park and excellent shoreside amenities, including motels, hotels, and restaurants within walking distance of the marina, was perfect. An excellent race area off the Northeast shores of Guemes Island sealed the deal.

The first Race Week in Anacortes was held in 2021, but the pandemic curtailed much of the social aspects of the event. This year’s Race Week (June 26-30) marks a milestone as the post-race parties are returning after the COVID-caused hiatus. “Covid was tough to navigate,” Rathkopf says, “and everyone is relieved that 2023 marks a step towards ‘normal’ again!”

Photo by Jan Anderson/Jan’s Marine Photography

Race Week attracts the region’s most competitive sailboat racers and their crews to test themselves on the Salish Sea. There are awards to be won and lots of fun to be had.

Rathkopf lives, eats, and breathes Race Week. She’s participated in one form or another since the early 2000s, nearly a quarter century now, and served for a time as editor of Yachting Magazine. It’s in her blood. And her family’s.

“I have two children who have grown up with Race Week on the Race Committee boat, who are now ages 14 and 17, who could not imagine a summer without Race Week.”

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Photo by Jan Anderson/Jan’s Marine Photography

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