Photo by Shane Harms

Sail boat racing for regular folks with regular boats

“Alright, blow the guy!” Captain Tim Morgenroth shouted to his crew as a red and black spinnaker bellowed at the bow of the Airloom, Morgenroth’s forty foot Baba.

Morgenroth was saying to the crew to let loose the spinnaker sail from its guy pole in order to complete the jibe.

Confused? That might be understandable. But being with Morgenroth is like sitting in with the Socrates of Sailing. With a deep and warm benevolent voice he explained some of the sailing terms and coached his crew during the first race of the third series of the Ballard Cup last Monday night, July 23.

What he was saying with that thick sailing vernacular was to release the line that attaches the boat to the spinnaker: a spinnaker, being an enlarged flying sail with a function similar to that of a kite which provides extra wind pull for sail boats, especially during racing.

“Just blow it off! Let's do this real slick. We need to stay ahead of those slow pokes! ... Look at all them behind us. We are first in the fleet today,” said Morgenroth.

Forty-six boats streaked Shillshole bay with a barrage of colors and symbols. Horns blasted from the committee boat as the racers maneuvered in convoluted jibing and tacking at the start of the race. After the first buoy, and taut in the wind, each spinnaker down leg looked like a kite on steroids, pulling each crew closer to celebratory strutting and prowess at the Sloop Tavern in Ballard, where if things go according to plan, they will be accompanied by a 20-ounce mug of ale known as a “slooper.” The Airloom crew took first, and the entire crew showed up at the tavern to imbibe and discuss the race.

Among the Airloom crew was Suzzanne Oosterman, Laura Dangel and her husband Tim Adamson, Jim Carr, Galen Yalch, Ashley Bell, Bob Foulds, Paul Ramsay, Anna Elz, and of course Cap. Tim Morgenroth.

The Sloop Tavern is also the headquarters for the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club (STYC) -- a more casual, colorful, and blue-collar boating club in Seattle. Tim Morgenroth is the Commodore of the STYC. He said the Ballard Cup, which occurs Monday nights, was designed as a casual and fun racing environment for people of all levels and boat designs.

“The Ballard Cup reflects our general philosophy toward sailing. We appeal to the common man. ...It's more of an entry level yacht club catering to regular folks with regular boats,” said Morgenroth.

The club provides the Seattle community with racing organization and sponsorship year round. Races they host include Seattle favorites like the Ballard Cup, Race the Straights, Down the Sound, Iceberg Race, Triple Sound Series and a feature race this year called the Pink Regatta.

The Pink Regatta is a new annual race that raises money for breast cancer. Last year was the first year and held in San Francisco, but this year it will occur Sept. 9 in Shilshole Bay and is hosted by the STYC. All the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. For the Pink Regatta, racers wear costumes and decorate their boats, and more about having a good time and contributing to a good cause than it is about racing.

“It's hard to say how many boats to expect. I would say somewhere around fifty this year, but if this benefit takes off the way we expect it, it could be one of the biggest events in Puget Sound,” said Morgenroth.

Races and fundraisers attract many different racers and to insure all boats compete on an equal and fair level, Paul Ramsey of the Airloom explained that there is a rating system called the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet rating. The PHRF measures the waterline, mast and length of each boat and gives a rating number that’s used to judge boats during competition.The Airloom, has a rating of 167 and is used in a way similar to the handicap in golf, except the score is based on time not points. So at the end of each race the judges have to determine the “corrected time” based on rating number, distance in nautical miles and relative course times.

This summer offers plenty more racing for sailors at any level. The STYC is near the locks at 2830 NW Market and invites people to compete, to learn and to have fun. For more Sloop Tavern Yacht Club information, stop in the tavern or visit

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