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What the Port Townsend Shipwrights’ Regatta Is Really All About

Port Townsend might not be ‘just up the road’, but The Resourceful Sailor‘s description of next weekend’s Shipwrights’ Regatta makes us want to hoist our sails and hotfoot it up there for the Saturday event.

What’s that buzz going on around the Port Townsend Boatyard this month? Something about putting the shipwright back in the Shipwrights’ Regatta? Well, it’s not just gossip. The 31st Annual Shipwrights’ Regatta, brought to you by the Port Townsend Sailing Association, in conjunction with the Northwest Maritime Center and local sponsors, is scheduled for noon, February 26, 2022, on Port Townsend Bay. It’s a regatta, but in a loose sense of the word. There’s a start line and a finish line, but no handicaps and no taking oneself too seriously. It’s really about bringing the sailing and maritime community together with a hardy, cold-weather sailing course.

For me, as a recent arrival to Port Townsend, the origin of the Shipwrights’ Regatta is clouded in mystique. I hear tell it was a small clique of local shipwrights getting a hoot out of wintertime sailing and partying. I can neither confirm nor deny. Since then, it has had a few stewards and expanded through the years, with the shroud of ambiguity over its beginnings and history only adding to the intrigue.

While the true history may reveal itself over time, what’s important is the event that’s in front of us. Hope for good weather, a good boater turnout, an after-party, and to avoid winning some of the classic trophies passed on from year to year. For example, the Directional Helmet, given to a boat having trouble navigating the course. Or, the Hook, awarded to the last boat to cross the finish line. Sure, there are more flattering prizes too. Like your name immortalized on the Perpetual Trophy for being the overall winner. Or the Golden Trident for the saltiest boat or crew. There are door (or is it gangway?) prizes and even free haulouts to be awarded.

Port Townsend Shipwrights Regatta
A cool-looking trophy, but perhaps not one that every sailor will covet.
© 2022 Joshua Wheeler

It’s a classic event steeped in the tradition and culture of the Port Townsend maritime community. With the help of local sponsors, the event is free, and all sailboats are welcome, regardless of class or size. If you haven’t your own, harangue your friends and neighbors to take theirs out, but don’t forget the snacks, beverages, and good cheer. If you are more of the powerboat type, that’s OK. Bring it out and join the crews of spectators floating on the fringe of the course, adding to the festivities. I hear they like snacks and beverages too. Maybe you love the beauty of boats, but being on one makes you queasy. With a good turnout (the 2021 Regatta had over 50 participants), shoreside viewing of the Port Townsend Bay spectacle from Water Street, Sims Way, or Uptown is an option.

Last (but not least) is the pizza, beer, and awards after-party for participants at the Northwest Maritime Center, also made possible by local sponsors. Keep your foulies and long underwear on because it’s likely to be outside (stupid COVID).

If your interest is piqued, learn more about the 31st Annual Shipwrights’ Regatta by clicking on over to the Port Townsend Sailing Association website. You can register, get sailing instructions, check out the awards, and review the lore around the event. Winning is not important, but showing up is. Come see what the hubbub is all about.

Port Townsend Shipwrights Regatta 2022

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