The Islands Race, a 142 nautical mile race around Catalina and San Clemente Islands hosted by San Diego Yacht Club and Newport Harbor Yacht Club, returns on February 25-26, making it the first offshore race of the year in Southern California. The signature offshore event currently has an entry list of over 20 boats preparing for an overnight at sea. 

With San Diego Yacht Club’s popular Puerto Vallarta Race to Mexico only two weeks following, many sailors use the Islands Race as a practice run for their vessels and crews. While the Islands Race can be considered an exercise for more intense offshore sailors, it is not without its own admiration for many others.

City Lights’ Aaron Wangenheim is sailing in the race for the first time. “We’ve been bringing City Lights back to race form, so we’ll be ready to experiment a lot – with sails, rig and crew. I have never done the Islands Race, but heard it’s a great event,” said Wangenheim.

While the course is pre-planned prior to the race, weather conditions have made alterations to the course in the past. Co-Chair Wayne Terry commented, “While we do not anticipate any changes in the race format from previous years, the yearly unknowns are what race day conditions will bring in terms of weather. With crew safety being of the utmost importance, should extreme weather conditions be in the forecast, the course could be altered to preclude rounding the islands. The organizing authority will typically make this call on race day.”

The Islands Race is the kickoff event for a full calendar of offshore races. One boat sailing in the Puerto Vallarta Race on March 10-18 is Ivan Batanov’s Zero Gravity. “The Islands Race is the dress rehearsal for the PV Race – it has all navigation and tactical elements. It’s also long enough to test the crew, boat, and equipment under varying conditions and gear changes while also being close enough to shore to allow for a margin of error,” started Batanov.

“The Islands Race can bring a wide range of conditions – from very light to fresh and frightening and every point of sail. Tactical decisions can make or break the race while the straight-line legs test the boat and crew for speed. The finish in San Diego can be challenging and frustrating after sunset when the winds die. Choosing the right approach can make or break the race,” he finished.

Since the Islands Race, like any other offshore regatta, can be unpredictable, the main goal of the race is a safe return. SDYC Waterfront Director Jeff Johnson commented, “Ocean racing is a dramatic and thrilling way to experience our planet, and our sport. But it is also dangerous, and like most good adventures, highly changeable, and uncertain in its outcome. Being safe is about adapting appropriately to the conditions with your given crew and skill set in a timely manner. Recognizing when you have insufficient skill, or too much power in the sails, before it develops into an emergency (crew injury/rig down) is a vital component of safety on this field of play. We want everyone to be safe, and that is our greatest concern.”

San Diego Yacht Club is thrilled to be hosting this race again in collaboration with the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. “Having served for several years as Co-Chair of the Islands Race, it’s great to witness how well our clubs, and the respective sailing offices, work together to host this well-attended race,” said Terry.


Competitors can enjoy a pre-race social at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club on Thursday, February 24 at 1800. After the race, an awards ceremony will be held at the San Diego Yacht Club on Saturday, February 26.


You can follow the race by tuning in to the YB Tracking race tracker display, showing real time position updates every 15 minutes, accessible from