Racing a sailboat is a combination of knowing the environment — winds and currents — and having the skills to play chess on the water, says Steve Orsini, who relishes the challenge.
“Racing sailboats is a lifelong passion for me,” he said. “This is what happens when you start racing — it gets in your blood.”
Orsini will put his skills to the test, as will about 50 other sailors, when the 55th annual Lido 14 Class Championship Regattas are held on Fidalgo Bay for the first time July 23-27, hosted by the Anacortes Yacht Club.
Orsini is a member of the club’s Lido 14 Fleet 78 and regatta chairman.
Lido 14s are often raced on Fidalgo Bay, but until now, Anacortes didn’t have the infrastructure to host a national regatta, Orsini said.
“We couldn’t handle it,” he said. “We couldn’t do a good job.”
What changed that was the new P/Q dock boat hoist at the Cap Sante Boat Haven and Seafarers’ Memorial Park improvements, including the jetty and dock to protect the boats. With those in place, Orsini applied last spring to the Lido 14 Class Association to hold its annual event here.
Since Fidalgo Bay is relatively protected with currents and winds that aren’t too strong, it makes a good venue for the regatta, Orsini said. Other factors that help are the town being close to the marina and the community having lots of activities for visitors.
Lido 14s are 14 feet long and 6 feet wide fiberglass sailboats often used to teach youth and adults how to sail. They were first produced in 1958 by the W.D. Schock Corp.
The design of the boat has remained so consistent through the years that each one (more than 6,000 have been made) is considered equal in performance, according to DoubleWave, a Lido 14 parts supplier. Because of that, it’s referred to as a one-design sailboat.
“You can race all kinds of boats,” Orsini said. But the Lido 14 is the “real West Coast standard.”
About 25 Lido 14s with two sailors each along with friends and family are expected to come from all along the West Coast for the annual event, Orsini said.
A senior championship regatta will take up most of the week with a women’s championship regatta on Friday. Monday will be open for boaters to practice on Fidalgo Bay.
“This is a lot for people who haven’t sailed here before,” Orsini said. “So they’ll want to get their boats on the water and get to know this bay.”
The qualifying races on Tuesday will divide the competition into two groups for the gold and silver flight races on Wednesday and Thursday when Orsini will be racing with his wife, Ginger.
Others representing Anacortes will be Elise King, Austin Murphy, Nick Estvold, Gabe Hill, Garrett and Tracy Johns, David Way, Alexis Orsini (Steve and Ginger’s daughter), Byron and Jane Skubi, and Chris Lofgren.
Because a sailor’s “court” changes everyday depending on the currents and the wind, yacht club member and principal race officer Fred Ableman will be on the water to determine the specifics of each race — where marks should go and how many rounds around the course participants have to make, depending on the wind strength.
“Dictating (exactly) how long the race will be is up to Mother Nature,” Orsini said. Typically the races will be about 40 minutes long with about eight races a day, starting at about 2 p.m. Spectators can get a good view of the races from Cap Sante.
The boat that crosses the finish line first will get one point, the second will get two points and so on. Final scores will be tallied at the end to determine the winners. All races are sanctioned by the Lido 14 Class Association, which got its start soon after the first Lido 14 was built.
Trophies — 16-ounce tumblers etched with the regatta’s logo — will go to the top five finishers in each race. Additional trophies will be handed out to the best crews in the senior and family divisions and the one traveling the farthest to get here.
Along with the races, entrants get a welcome barbecue on Monday, Italian dinner on Tuesday, when the Lido 14 Class Association’s annual meeting will be held, and an awards salmon barbecue dinner on Thursday.
“Wednesday night we want everybody to go out on the town,” Orsini said.
The yacht club will provide boats for race organizers and safety crews in addition to volunteers on water and land. Volunteers will oversee the races, make food for the dinners and provide home stays for the participants. All together up to 40 people are helping put the regatta on, Orsini said.
Costs for hosting the regatta will be covered by the entry fees, which are $250 a boat, in addition to in-kind and monetary donations from individuals and sponsors, including the Port of Anacortes and local businesses.
The goal in the end is to break even, Orsini said.
The senior championship regatta is a qualifying regatta for US Sailing’s annual Championship of Champions Regatta. Winner of the gold flight here will be automatically invited to the event held at a different yacht club with a different one-design class of sailboat each year.
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