Dozens of Vanguard Sailboats Racing on West Sound -- Orcas, Washington

San Juan County, Washington

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Sail Orcas opens registration
for summer classes

Get ready to get out on the water!

Due to Covid-19, we are trying out a different sailing season this summer. With the help of OICF, instead of our normal sequence and size of classes, we are specializing our classes to keep sizes smaller than normal, and classes will be differentiated by skill level. Class sizes will be initially limited to 6 kids. Classes are divided into morning and afternoon sessions and run 4 days a week. As the season progresses, we may be able to expand class sizes beyond 6 students. We will maintain a waiting list for our classes.

Here is a description of our youth classes:

Youth Beginner (recommended ages 8 to 13)

The fundamentals of how to sail. Kids learn how to identify where the wind is coming from, make their boat move accordingly, recover a capsize, dock, and get in and out of safety position. The class uses Opti Prams and Open Bics. For kids that know the basics but are still working to master them, this class is also a refresher on how to sail and an opportunity to continue gaining confidence before moving into the intermediate class. The class is taught in Vanguard Prams, Open Bics, and the possibility for larger boats based on sailor skill and COVID restrictions.

Youth Intermediate (recommended ages 9 to 14)

For sailors who are comfortable with the basic boat mechanics and are ready to move into sailing a higher performance boat. For single handed sailing this class will feature Open Bics and Laser 4.7's based on skill level, size, and sailor goals. We will be focusing on how to use more controls on the boat and move into understanding the basics of racing.

Youth Advanced (recommended ages 10 to 14)

A continuation of learning how to adjust the boat in different wind conditions, how sail shape affects speed, and learning more about the fundamentals of racing. All kids are encouraged to begin taking part in Laser, Opti, or Open Bic racing. Drills will be based on teaching greater mastery of boat handling and a deeper understanding of the rules.

This summer we’re excited to be piloting a STEM Marine Science and Sailing program. The aim of the class is to connect kids to the Salish Sea and build their understanding of how the marine ecosystem functions. The class offers opportunities at home for family interaction with the materials and will be taught during the afternoon session the week of the August 2nd. The course was built using SeaDoc educational materials and is geared for kids from 4th through 6th grade. (We will be weaving Marine Sciences into our regular weekly classes to give all kids a taste of this class for future years.)

We are also running six Women’s Learn to Sail classes on Monday evenings. This is a class taught by women for women. The goal is to get more women out on the water and help them achieve whatever their sailing goals may be. Whether it’s learning the basics of how to sail or getting involved with the yacht club race scene, we’re here to teach. Our classes start in two person dinghies and this year we’ll have options for learning in larger keelboats. Class size will be initially limited to 6.

Tuesday nights will be Informal Laser racing for all ages, from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Lasers provided by Sail Orcas will be initially limited to 6.

Watch our Facebook page for additional special events, races, or clinics this summer.

Summer Sailing Class Registration

Greetings, Friends of Sail Orcas!

2020 will be a year that few forget – the COVID 19 pandemic impacted everything, causing closures and changes everywhere. We were saddened at the loss of Board member Les Zorb just recently, as well. Sail Orcas programs were also affected, but one bright spot was that we found ways to keep working with our junior sailors.

"You are the only people I see outside of my mom and dad."

Board member Steve Vurno and his son, Kai, volunteered to begin working with our sailing juniors in Lasers (singlehanded sailing dinghies) in early summer using COVID-safe protocols that included social distancing, wearing masks, and staying outside. Soon, they were working with 5-10 kids in Lasers, focusing on sailing drills and running practice races. For these kids (age 12-16), these workouts are often their only social interaction “in real life” (i.e., not on the computer). Typically, our sailing juniors (middle school and high school sailors) cease practicing in mid-autumn, but 2020 has been different – they continue to practice. This has been a tremendous learning opportunity for them, as they are embracing heavy-air sailing that is typical of the weather we have this time of year. Steve and Kai were also honored recently by Sail Orcas and Orcas Island Yacht Club for their efforts to keep Orcas kids sailing safely through the pandemic.

Looking forward to 2021

Sail Orcas is optimistic about 2021, but we are also being realistic. The immediate need in our community is to keep kids active and interacting in a safe activity during a pandemic, and we intend to support these efforts. Specifically, we ask for your help to refurbish the Lasers, which are being used multiple times each week, so that they are roughly equivalent to each other (~$600/Laser, total $6,000 for all ten). We will get back to a new normal eventually, and when we do, we will need to be ready for summer lessons, middle/high school racing, and programs that keep our community excited to be sailing in the beautiful area in which we live. Please consider the work we do when you are planning for your upcoming charitable donations.

Every donation is tax deductible; check should be made payable to Sail Orcas and mailed to PO Box 1226, Eastsound WA, 98245. Thank you for your support – we are grateful for it!

All the best from the volunteers who make Sail Orcas go.


2019 Year In Review

What a year we've had - it's been one of memories made, as well as new beginnings! Below you'll find a snapshot of what we have accomplished and where we are looking to grow. Your support, both financial and with volunteer hours, has been instrumental in our success this year, and we hope you will consider us in your giving plans for the end of 2019 and into 2020.

2019 in review

  • Our OIHS sailing team graduated six seniors in June, after taking the Bronze Medal in both the NWISA fleet and team race District Championships in May. Our team was selected for the 2019 NWISA Sportsmanship Award - a prestigious distinction awarded by their peers. These sailors learned to sail through the Sail Orcas junior summer sailing lessons at OIYC and joined the OIHS team in the 7th grade; they will all be greatly missed. Several of them plan to continue their sailing careers at the collegiate level, so Orcas sailing (and sportsmanship) will continue to "pay it forward" and enrich other programs.

  • We are developing the next cohort of young sailors through Steve Verno's efforts to develop a middle school sailing team. He has been organizing practices with our remaining OIHS sailors (most who had been crewing for graduating seniors) and our up-and-coming middle school sailors. Steve has engaged interested adult racers to participate in the practices, as well as traveled with the young sailors to six regattas and the WIND clinic this summer.

  • Sail Orcas has accomplished the goal of funding the first and second phases of the dinghy floats project, through the generous support of our friends, OIYC, the Vincent J. Coates Foundation, and the GiveOrcas spring 2019 campaign! We now have two safe, eelgrass-friendly floats that support our programs.

  • Our summer sailing program was a tremendous success. ln addition to the junior sailing programs that help to instill a lifetime love of sailing and nature with school age kids, we had overwhelming response to a woman's sailing program and our Tuesday night "open to all racers" Laser races (23 community members came out!). Sail Orcas was also selected to receive funding to support several sailing scholarships for next year's programs from the Orcas Rotary club.

Sail Orcas is excited about the year ahead. Several priorities include funding a staff sailing coach to oversee our middle school, high school, and summer programs; and replacing the outboard engine on one of our coach boats.

Every donation is tax deductible; check should be made payable to Sail Orcas and mailed to PO Box 1226, Eastsound WA, 98245. Thank you for your support - we are grateful for it!

All the best from the board of directors,

Burke Thomas, Diane Jarecki, Ken Machtley, Betsy Wareham, Steve Verno, Bob Brunius, David Kau, Justin Wolfe, Les Zorb, Vaughn Ploeger, Chis Wolfe

Orcas Vikings Win Island Cup

NWISA District Champ Qualifier Regatta

The 20 best Northwest high school sailing teams from as far away as Hood River, Oregon converged on Orcas Island April 13 and 14 for Northwest District Interscholastic Sailing Association’s annual Islands Cup Regatta.

The regatta rotates location each year between high school teams from Island, Skagit and San Juan counties. The teams arrived Saturday morning ready to take on strong winds and a 100 percent chance of rain in the forecast.

Mother Nature did not disappoint. For the next six hours, teams battled each other out on the choppy waters of West Sound in the wind-driven rain. At the end of Saturday’s racing, Orcas held a slim 4-point lead over Gig Harbor with a pack of other teams all within striking distance of the cup.

On Sunday, sailors arrived to no rain, and a brisk west wind, racing started promptly at 9:30 a.m. and for the next five hours the lead changed back and forth between Gig Harbor and Orcas, but in the end, Orcas held on for the regatta win.

"Today was some of the best racing I have seen on West Sound," said coach Burke Thomas. "This was a big win for the Vikings, and I am very proud how we battled all weekend."

Thomas extended a big thank you to the Orcas Island Yacht Club and volunteers for providing the venue.

Complete scores are at: Results


New Dingy Float Construction

Sail Orcas is excited to announce that our priority mission for facilities in 2019 is to replace our aging floats at the base of the OIYC pier. This has been a multi-year undertaking that began design and permitting in 2015. The new, fully permitted floats will feature a nonskid, environmentally friendly grating that will protect our local eel grass and provide a safe, clean platform for our students and programs for years to come. The new floats are a major undertaking for us, and this season we are asking for your financial help. Please consider joining us in making a contribution to the floats.

Your donation is tax deductible; check should be made payable to Sail Orcas and mailed to PO Box 1226, Eastsound WA, 98245. Alternatively you could use the online donation form and your credit card: Fund the Floats



March 9th and 10th

Ten Sailors from the Orcas High School Sailing Team travelled to the SSP combined division regatta march 9&10 in Seattle. The regatta features a schools A & B divisions boats competing in the same fleet and racing against each other at the same time, pitting 32 boats against each other on a very crowded start line. Orcas had qualified teams at the regionals March 2nd into both the gold and silver divisions for the combined division regatta, giving all sailors an opportunity to race every race.

Sail Sand Point Regatta

Saturday saw a 5 knot northerly breeze fill the race course on Lake Washington by 11:30 am,the breeze continued to build through out the after noon, 6 races were completed in gold and 4 races in silver. The racing started at 11:30am and continued until 6:30 pm, when darkness and freezing temps forced the competitors off the water. Sunday brought warmer temperatures but little wind, with just 3 races completed in a very light and shifty North East Wind. Getting off the starting line in a 32 boat fleet is no easy task and teams that could do that had a huge advantage on the first beat by being up the ladder from the big wind shadow created by the 32 boats.

The orcas team improved on their starting tactics throughout the weekend and were able to grab a very respectable 4th overall in the gold fleet and 3rd in the silver fleet. Complete results can be found here:

Gold Div  Silver Div



Eight Sailors from the Orcas High School Sailing Team, traveled to Anacortes on March 2nd to kickoff the NWISA spring sailing season. The eighteen teams competing at the north regional, were greeted at the 10am competitors meeting, with sunny skies and a very cold NE 12 wind. The Windward-Leeward race course was set outside Sail Sand Point Regatta the jetty at Seafarer’s park in Fidalgo Bay, with the pier providing excellent viewing for spectators.

The wind on the race course was streaky, making it hard for teams to get off the start line,the Orcas team had to shake off a little winters rust in their first race but as the wind built through out the day, the Vikings team just got stronger, completing 10 races by the 5 pm stop time and clinching a solid regatta win.


News and Views

Where's Waldo

Eighty youth sailors from around the region came to Westsound in late October to race in the annual two day team racing “Trick or Treat Regatta”. Many thanks to the many volunteers from Sail Orcas who help make this a fun annual tradition. Pictured here is Team Where’s Waldo and a Team of Pirates from the Caribbean.

Support Sail Orcas — buy this cool hat with the West Sound Jpod J70 fleet logo. I did. In fact, I bought 4 of them. Click on the image to see the details.

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Sail Orcas
P.O. Box 1226
Eastsound, WA 98245