By the time long-time sailor Jim Quanci arrives for the annual Great Vallejo Race, he feels like he's entered a new world -- a world of warm-weather clothes and parties, barbecue dinners, laughter and friendly gatherings.

For nearly two decades, Quanci has raced in the Vallejo Yacht Club's colorful annual regatta.

This year's Great Vallejo Race is Saturday and Sunday along the Vallejo waterfront.

"I do a lot of racing in the ocean, and races that are relatively serious and races where it's cold. But the Vallejo race is different. You can always bring your friends, bring your shorts and T-shirts. This is one race that is pretty darn nice," Quanci said.

For the past 115 years, the sail boat speed race has dominated the city's waterfront on one weekend in April. Boaters come from the East Bay, San Francisco and beyond.

The Vallejo Yacht Club plans to celebrate the 115th anniversary this year with a historical look back at some of the more memorable races.

Yacht Club member Martha Blanchfield has combed through historical archives and said the weekend is one of the few times the club is open to the public.

Since the club's earliest days, the race has been a weekend of intensified activity and commerce on the waterfront, Blanchfield said.

One year, a string of windless days presented major race challenges; major winds clocking in at 50 mph bedeviled the racers in another year, Blanchfield said.


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Following a big spill at a local refinery another year, the oil fouled the water in Vallejo and races were temporarily postponed, she said.

The race has been so popular that more than 400 boats crowded into the Vallejo marina and the races had to be held in shifts, she added.

For this year's races, former Yacht Club vice commodore Jim Glenn said between 150 and 200 boats will participate.

"It's a big deal for the Vallejo Yacht Club, but it should be a much bigger deal for Vallejo. It brings between 1,000 and 2,000 people into the city over the course of the two days," Glenn said.

Throughout the weekend, there will be plenty of places for people on the shoreline to enjoy gorgeous views of sail boats and their colorful spinnakers, organizers said.

The Vallejo Yacht Club is also running an open photo contest. (Details are available at www.facebook.com/events/383662155109115/.)

The event launches the Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay season and draws boats of all stripes, shapes and colors.

On Saturday, race participants will make their way north from the starting line off Olympic Circle Saling Club in Berkeley and sail for about 36 miles to the Vallejo club's entrance.

An event highlight is watching the boats stream up the Mare Island channel on Saturday afternoon, starting around 1 p.m., Blanchfield said.

People are invited to come to the Marina Green with picnic baskets and lawn chairs, or observe the vessels arriving from the club's house deck.

Food and beverages will be available to buy, and T-shirts, hats and other items will be for sale.

On Sunday, boat races start up around noon and provide another spectacle in the Mare Island channel.

Earlier in the morning, the public is invited to the club for a pancake breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m.

The race has been a mainstay of the longtime yacht club since 1899, when the organization was known as the Vallejo Yachting and Rowing Club.

Famous author Jack London joined in 1910 and remained a member until his death. The club is also one of only a handful on the West Coast that have reached their centennial mark, according to the club's website.

Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum Director Jim Kern said the club has always been active in preserving and celebrating the city's maritime history.

"It's nice they continue to put such a strong emphasis on that, especially with so many newcomers moving to Vallejo in recent years," Kern said.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or 707-553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.