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A colorful and traditional rite of spring, the only one of its kind in the world, brings many people to Seattle's inland waterways on May 7 as boaters celebrate Opening Day of the boating season. Spectators crowd the shorelines of Seattle's Portage Bay and Montlake Cut as boats, many of them decorated, parade past judges and spectators watching aboard boats anchored along the parade route.

There are small boats, motorboats, rowing and paddleboats, sailboats, antique boats and mega-yachts in the annual Opening Day parade sponsored by the Seattle Yacht Club. There are racing shells from top-caliber collegiate and international rowing teams.  This year's races will feature teams from around the country and the world competing in the 2016 Windermere Cup Crew Races.

Seattle Fire Department boats move by in a cloud of spray, as well as sailboats with spinnakers flying. Two small flotillas of yachts carrying members from the University of Washington Husky and Washington State University Cougar Marching Bands set the musical tempo for the day.

Participating yachts will decorate to this year's theme: "A Great Escape."

Opening Day in Seattle is a family affair - families decorate their boats for the festivities and parades, families spread blankets on the shoreline and spend hours watching and picnicking.

The boating season never officially ends in the Puget Sound area. There may be less extended cruising during the blustery, wet days of winter, but the faithful keep sailing. Opening Day, however, kicks off the happy spring and summer days of boating for many avid boaters in this area.

Sponsored annually by the Seattle Yacht Club, Opening Day can trace its roots to a Fourth of July celebration on Seattle's waterfront in 1895.  In 1920, shortly after the Lake Washington Ship Canal was completed, linking Seattle's inland lakes with Puget Sound, the celebration moved to the fresh waters of the ship canal, Portage Bay and the Montlake Cut.

Opening Day offers some outstanding photo and story opportunities. You'll not find anything like it in the United States or, to our knowledge, anywhere in the world. The only comparable event is an annual parade of commercial vessels in Venice, Italy.

There are lots of story possibilities in the weeks prior to Opening Day as families and friends and businesses decorate yachts, and racing crews from around the world practice for Saturday's regatta.

We'd be pleased to help you cover Opening Day events in Seattle. We think it's a unique celebration offering a great time and a good story.

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Press Contacts

Michelle Sailor
2014 Opening Day Press Chair
Seattle Yacht Club
(206) 617-9049

Seattle Yacht Club's Opening Day Committee welcomes coverage of Opening Day events.

Please read about "Press Opportunities" and check "Press Releases" for more Opening Day information.

For general questions about Opening Day, please contact the Seattle Yacht Club directly at 206.325.1000.

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Press Links

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Press Opportunities

View the Crew Races and Parade on the SYC Press Boat

Departing the dock immediately after the 9:00 a.m. commissioning ceremony on the Seattle Yacht Club lawn, head out on a beautiful volunteer yacht with front row seats to the Windermere Cup Crew Races and the 2016 "A Great Escape" Boat Parade. Yacht returns to SYC at the end of the parade, around 3:00 p.m.  A day on the Press Boat offers front row (boat) seat photo opportunities as well as information about parade entries. By reservation only.  Call (206) 617-9049 or email

Parade Director's View

The Seattle Yacht Club boat Portage Bay, provides an excellent viewing platform for the press anchored near the finish line of the crew races and the starting area of the boat parade. The Portage Bay is the nerve center for the Parade Director, Marshal boats, USCG and Harbor Patrol.  It gives a unique, inside look into how the parade is actually put together and executed.

Cruise the Log Boom

On Friday before Opening Day, you and your crew can be escorted on a volunteer yacht to cruise the waterway, through the Montlake Cut, and to the log boom to photograph and film enthusiastic Opening Day spectators. This is a popular cruise for some of our local weather reporters, and spots fill up quickly.  Marshal boats will be available on Opening Day.  By reservation only.  Call (206) 617-9049 or email

Broadcast or Tape from the SYC Docks, Lawn or Parking Lot

Decorated boats from visiting yacht clubs make the Seattle Yacht Club a picturesque backdrop for taping or broadcasting information about Opening Day and the crew races. The Seattle Yacht Club is private property and all press must register in advance at the Front Desk of the Club and be escorted on the property at all times.

Interview the Admiral, Vice Admiral or Admiralette

This year's Trio of Opening Day officers is available for press conferences, TV, print and radio interviews.  Please contact the Press Chair Michelle Sailor at (206) 617-9049.  The Trio will be in attendance at the press conference with Windermere Foundation and Washington Huskies Athletics Department typically held on the Wednesday before Opening Day.

Broadcast or Tape from an SYC Boat

Press Committee members can arrange member volunteers and their boats to be available for interviews and broadcast/taping locations.  The Seattle Yacht Club is private property and all press must register in advance at the Front Desk of the Club and be escorted on the property at all times.  Contact the SYC Press Committee at

Photographs or Taping in the SYC Clubhouse

The Seattle Yacht Club is private property and all press must registers in advance at the Front Desk of the Club and be escorted on the property at all times.  Press photographs or taping is not permitted inside the Club, however, with advance notice, and depending on the time, special arrangements may be made.  Contact the SYC Press Committee at

Feature a Parade Class in Your Publication

Parade entrants are generally eager to talk about their parade entries in the Opening Day Boat Parade.  In the past, many successful features have been done on entries with historical significance, unusual designs or interesting ownership histories.

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Parking at the Seattle Yacht Club

As you can imagine, parking at the Seattle Yacht Club and on neighboring streets can be quite difficult during Opening Day activities on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. To ensure you get the press parking priority you deserve in exchange for covering our event, contact the Club at (206) 325-1000.

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Press Releases

Michelle Sailor
(206) 617-9049

Opening Day of Boating Season 2016

Seattle Yacht Club is once again hosting Seattle's Opening Day of Boating season on May 7, 2016.  This is the 96th annual celebration dating back to 1920 when Opening Day festivities were first held in the Montlake Cut. The theme this year is A Great Escape.

 Opening Day officially kicks off with a Commissioning Ceremony at 8:45 a.m. on the Seattle Yacht Club lawn.  It begins with music provided by the I Corps Army Band-Rainier Brass.  Commodores and presidents of regional yacht clubs from Olympia to Vancouver, British Columbia and area boating organizations participate in the ceremony, along with the commodores, trustees, and flag officers of SYC.  Other officials include professionals in the marine and naval industry who are selected as judges for the boat parade competition. The Master of Ceremonies is SYC Past Commodore Tom Foti.

 The burgees of the participating area yacht clubs will be raised along with the country flags of Canada, Japan and the United States. Four Canadian yacht clubs will be in attendance as well as guests from Suma Yacht Club from Seattle's sister city of Kobe, Japan. 

 Collegiate and local crew races start off the festivities at 10 a.m. in a unique venue through the Montlake Cut and past hundreds of spectator boats with fans cheering on their favorite team.  The crew races culminate with the prestigious Windermere Cup with the University of Washington men's and women's team competing against visiting teams. 

 The on-the-water regalia finishes off with a two-hour long parade of boats entered in various categories of competition and decoration - from Classic Sail and Power, Youth-sponsored Decorated, Decorated Sail and Power, to Working Boats.  The parade starts off with boats under spinnakers which get everyone's attention as they slide all too close to the spectator boats.

 Finally, awards are presented back on the lawn at Seattle Yacht Club to the energized crowd at 6 p.m. The Closing Ceremony follows the Awards Presentation where the flags are retired to Taps played by a bugler from the University of Washington band.  Opening Day 2016 will then be one for the books.

April 18, 2016

Seattle Yacht Club to Host Takarabune Regatta

            Seattle Yacht Club is hosting members of Suma Yacht Club from Kobe, Japan for the 13th Takarabune Regatta.  Thirty-four guests from Japan will arrive in Seattle on April 29.  Racing will be in Mini 12s launched from South Lake Union's Center for Wooden Boats and will culminate with an awards dinner on the lawn of Seattle Yacht Club's Mainstation on Tuesday, May 3.  Most guest will extend their stay to participate in the regalia of Seattle Yacht Club's Opening Day on Saturday, May 7.  They are entered in the themed Decorated Boat Category - A Great Escape.

            The cities of Seattle and Kobe officially established sister city ties in 1957.  In 1982, Seattle Yacht Club and Kobe's Suma Yacht joined forces to develop a sisterhood relationship by organizing a sailing regatta between the two clubs.  "This was based on a shared passion for boating and the challenges of sailboat racing," explained Mary Simpson, chair of the event. 

            The centerpiece of this fellowship is the Takarabune Regatta, a multi-day event featuring team racing in one-design sailboats.  A number of social and cultural activities are offered in conjunction with the competition.  Seattle Yacht Club members provide home stays for their Japanese guests to further solidify the bond between the two clubs.

            The regatta takes place on Monday, May 2 and Tuesday, May 3 in Lake Union.  Racers will leave the docks at the Center for Wooden Boats at 10 a.m.  Spectators are welcome to watch from shore, on their boats or paddleboards.  For more information, contact Chair Mary Simpson at (206) 364-5675.

March 4, 2016

2016 Opening Day of Boating Theme is "A Great Escape" 

               Seattle Yacht Club has chosen "A Great Escape" for the theme of the 2016 Opening Day Boating Festivities on May 7, 2016.  The Seattle community will see boats in full dress, as well as decorated boats in theme-related regalia as they parade through the Montlake Cut

               The 96th annual, world-renowned boating event is under the leadership of Admiral Tom Wingard, Admiralette Joanne McConnell, and Vice Admiral Bruce Campbell.  The theme 'A Great Escape' was selected for boaters to celebrate their town, city or region.  Where do you go to escape, rejuvenate or relax - the sea, the mountains, the forest?" explained Admiral Tom Wingard.

               Seattle Yacht Club's Opening Day is organized by countless volunteers and is open for participation to the entire Salish Sea community.  The festivities begin with a celebration of the Northwest traditions with rowing competitions from local, regional and international athletes.  The Windermere Cup, started in 1986, is the highlight of the rowing competition which pits national/international crews against the University of Washington men's and women's crew.

               The celebration culminates with decorated vessels of all shapes and sizes - dinghies, aqua cars, wooden boats, sailboats, powerboats and yachts - decorated to "A Great Escape" theme.  This event is like no other Opening Day;  where boaters and landlubbers alike can watch within yards of the passing vessels in the Cut.

               The tradition known as Seattle's Opening Day first started in 1913 with a parade and regatta in Elliott Bay.  Since 1920, the celebration has been held in the Montlake Cut when Seattle Yacht Club moved its facilities to Portage Bay.  Founded in 1892, the Seattle Yacht Club has been instrumental in establishing boating traditions and hosting events leading up to the legacy of what Opening Day is today.

Page last updated 4/28/2016 by R. Souslin