Corinthian Yacht Club

One Wednesday Night: The race committee operates like clock work even though there's an all out party onboard.

July 15, 2010

Corinthian YC of Seattle
Puget Sound, Seattle, Wash.

From the water off Shilshole Bay, the well-known red YC5 race committee boat appeared to be all business on August 12. Six sequences were crisply reeled off, and the J/105s and Melges 24s even enjoyed a second start. No one was surprised, nor should they have been. Corinthian YC of Seattle runs approximately 1,300 races per year across two venues and in classes from Lasers to maxis. The YC5 team, led by PRO Charley Rathkopf and his wife Schelleen, is a well-oiled machine, having run 120 races at Whidbey Island Race Week two weeks earlier.

But the scene onboard YC5 on August 12 was a little more festive than usual. It was Charley’s son Arden’s fourth birthday. There were cake, presents, and one happy boy. Arden’s 9-month-old sister Grace, already an old hand at the race committee routine at age nine months, kept an eye on things from her car seat.
One couldn’t help but come away in awe of Schelleen. As the team’s timekeeper, she kept a steady pace to make a metronome jealous and kept one eye on little Grace and the other eye on the team. All of that allowed Charley to call the line and fine tune the course, no easy task in 300-plus feet of water.


Charley’s move to the race management end of things started several years ago when a knee injury kept him out of the Star fleet for a season. And, as it turns out, being one of CYC’s two pro PROs works perfectly because it allows him more family time than many of us even dream of. “Doing race committee is actually a lot like racing,” Rathkopf says. “You have to have a good team and kept it together. You have to have a plan and stay focused.” In addition to Schelleen, his crew included four enthusiastic volunteers.

The classes that night were fairly spread out. Bill Buchan’s venerable Peterson 44 Sachem, with Olympic silver medalist Brian Ledbetter as skipper, was legs ahead of the Flying Tiger and Corsair tri it was racing. In the light breeze, the J/33 Corvo twice handled the J/105s in its class. A moment of excitement came when two Melges 24s—Cool Beans and Trophy Wife—finished within a shackle’s width in race two, with the nod going to the latter.

For many years Wednesday nights anchored my week; I did bow onboard Dick and Carolle Rose’s Laser 28 Sloop du Jour. Yes, the same Dick Rose who pens this magazine’s rules column. It was a perfect learning situation, and Sloop‘s slip was right next to the club. We cooked burgers and carried them 25 feet to eat in the cockpit, where visitors would stream by to say hi or ask Dick a rules question.


A couple years later I raced my own San Juan 30 Bridget. My crew of new sailors learned the game and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Our hijinks on and off the water will never be forgotten. Ultimately, however, the frustrations of PHRF and of pulling together a crew week after week got to me.

Then came a more serious stint as tactician aboard an Olson 30—second place was always a disappointment. That was a different kind of fun.
These days I take care of my two year old, Ian, on Wednesdays. It’s so painful to think of what I’m missing that I avoid going down to watch. Though I still check the results of my old class.

As it turns out, Wednesday night racing at CYC may be changing. The numbers have steadily dwindled, and the club is facing some pressure to open it up to non-members. Despite Arden’s birthday, on this Wednesday night I couldn’t help but feeling a little melancholy. There was little of the intensity I remember. And watching three-boat classes of completely disparate boats spread out across a long starting line is just sad, especially when hundreds sit idle only yards away.
—Kurt Hoehne


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