Getting Started With Windseeker Racing
1. What is Windseeker Racing?
The Oak Harbor Yacht Club's Windseeker racing is a fun and easy way to sail in buoy racing in Oak Harbor, Washington. Windseeker racing is a separate class from the OHYC's Sail Fleet PHRF class and is designed for new skippers, cruisers and those who might want an easy way to try racing without the pressure. It is also a great way to sharpen your sailing skills and have fun with other sailors. Races are held every Thursday evenings from March to September. Single hand, double hand and fully crewed boats are welcome to "round the buoys with us"!
A typical course may be an upwind and downwind leg set up by the OHYC Race committee. Official PHRF class races typically start at 6:00 pm, in the vicinity of Penn Cove, near the R2 buoy, or just outside the breakwater in Oak Harbor Bay. Windseekers are welcome to follow the PHRF boats through the race course and will be given their own start (typically 5 minutes after the PHRF class starts at 6:05 pm) after checking in with the Race Committee (RC) on VHF 72. During the summer months, the RC will try to host multiple races each evening. Each race is about 45 minutes long, depending on wind conditions.
Periodic classes on race rules will be held throughout the year. Contact the Sail Fleet Captain at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending one of these free classes.
After racing, all participants are invited to join us at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club for burgers, spirits and race stories. The Race Committee is cognizant of when the sun sets and tries to have everyone off the course by sundown. Above all, Windseeker racing is meant to be fun! It’s a chance to sharpen your sailing skills and enjoy the camaraderie of other sailors.
2. Is there a place for me?
Yes! There is a place for every skill level and almost all sailboats. Some of the most consistently winning skippers started in Windseeker style racing and quickly moved into PHRF/club racing. There are always skippers and crew who are just getting started in racing, too. They may be a little shaky at first, but not for long. Racing is the best way to fast track your sailing skills while having fun.
There are two main classes of sailboat racing on Thursday evenings—boats with PHRF ratings (the PHRF class) and boats that do not have a PHRF rating (Windseeker class). Many clubs call Windseeker class a “Non-flying sail,” NFS class, meaning that these boats do not fly a spinnaker. The two main classes, PHRF and Windseeker, are further divided by the Race Committee so that in the end every racer should be racing against similar boats. All that to say: Don’t worry; there is a place for you.
3. What do I need to do before I show up, and what is the cost?
The first thing to do is to fill out a racing entry form (available here) and send it to OHYC’s Sail Fleet Captain, in an email: email@example.com. You can also drop the completed form off in person at the dock or at the club. This tells the Race Committee who you are, what kind of boat you have, and whether or not you have a PHRF rating. You can always speak to any of the club racers and they will direct you to the Sail Fleet Captain.
Skippers new to Windseeker racing get their first 4 weeks free. That enables those who are new, to try it without any costs involved. After the four week trial period, we ask that you help support the fleet through race dues. Each night of racing costs $5.00 per race, but racers often pay for a whole series (four to eight evenings) at once ($20 for OHYC members and $25 for non-members). This saves the racer money and eliminates the need to pass five dollars to the Sail Fleet every Thursday before or after the races. Annual race fees are also available for a larger discount.
4. What should I expect on a Thursday evening?
There is a Skipper’s Meeting at the OHYC or at the head of the docks on the first evening of a new race series. Check the race calendar for series dates. If you cannot make the Skipper’s Meeting, just arrive in the starting area before race time, which is typically 6:00 p.m. for the PHRF class and 6:05 p.m. for Windseeker class. You’ll notice that many boats arrive in the starting area around 5:30 p.m.
The Race Committee will set the starting line between an orange buoy (the pin) and the Race Committee boat. They will also announce the course for the evening on VHF Channel 72 and on the RC vessel. Racers who were not at the Skipper’s Meeting should plan on passing by the Committee Boat and letting the Race Committee know that you’re ready to race, especially the first time you race in Windseekers.
Since Winseekers will start 5 minutes after the PHRF fleet, we ask that you keep clear of the start box until the PHRF fleet has started. Once on the course, ensure you adhere to the standard "rules of the road" when racing. This keeps a clear understanding on rights of way and keeps us all safe on the water.
Don't forget to join us at the club after racing!
5. Can I get involved in sailboat racing if I don’t own a sailboat?
Absolutely! Many people are needed to help crew on racing boats. Crew members learn about sailing and racing and they become an integral part of a boat’s team. Crewing can be very rewarding and a lot of fun. Also, there is no cost to crew! See the Race Crew page for details on how you can participate.
Windseeker racing is intended to be fun! All skippers are welcome; it is not necessary to be a member of OHYC, although encouraged to apply. All participants are expected to be good sportsmen and to encourage other competitors. OHYC’s goal is to promote, advance and encourage sailing, and one of the ways the club does this is through Windseeker Racing. We hope that you will come and sail with us. If you’re a sailor, there is a place for you in the OHYC Windseeker sailing program!