Quartermaster Harbor is expected to draw more than 150 sailors this weekend, when the Northwest Interscholastic Sailing Association holds a regatta with approximately 40 high school teams from Washington and Oregon competing.
Sailors and their supporters will gather in Dockton Park for races Saturday and Sunday. Vashon High School does not have a sailing team, but several nearby schools do, with sailors expected from Gig Harbor High School, Bainbridge High School and Charles Wright Academy. Organizers caution that parking may be limited, but say islanders are welcome to come watch.
“We believe it’s a phenomenal location to run an event like this,” said The Sailing Foundation’s Andrew Nelson in a recent email. “Quartermaster Harbor is perfectly suited to the format of high school sailing, and we’d love the community to see it in action.”
Nelson also provided the basics to know for the weekend ahead: High school sailing focuses on short course racing around buoys. Each race only lasts about 15 minutes, and if conditions are good there may be as many as 20 races during the weekend. Sailors race in two-person, 13-foot boats called FJs (short for Flying Juniors). A full team consists of four sailors, an A fleet and B fleet. “A” does two races, then comes in and swaps out with “B.” “B” does two races then comes in and swaps out with “A” and so on. At any given time half the sailors are on shore watching and cheering on their teammates. He added that many teams travel with extras or alternates who specialize in certain wind conditions, and they may bring a heavy crew for strong winds or a small crew for light winds.
This weekend’s regatta is one of three big ranking regattas to be held this year. The top seven teams this weekend will secure a berth to the conference championships later this spring.
High School sailing has grown substantially in the last decade, Nelson said. Ten years ago there were only about 10 teams, and now that number is closer to 50. He added that sailing often appeals to students who do not appreciate traditional high school sports and noted it is truly co-ed, with young men and women competing with and against one another. He added that sailors need not come from big schools to be highly competitive. In fact, he said, many of the most successful teams in the area come from places much like Vashon Island communities surrounded by water.
Racing will begin both days about 10 a.m. and continue into the afternoon.