Pilot stories and photos

by Andrea Barkan

A pair of crazy eights dominated the 10th annual slug races at the Port of Brookings Harbor Sunday, as the eighth racer in both heats squared off in a battle for the grand championship that was as David and Goliath as they come.

After a grueling four-minute race, the mammoth leopard banana slug andquot;Princessandquot; proved that sometimes size really does matter as she crossed the finish line and cemented her title as this year's grand champ.

Her opponent, a young, slim rookie named andquot;Thin Man,andquot; got hung up at the gate and just couldn't find his way out of the bag.

Both slugs were racing stock from a Winchuck River Valley slug ranch, owned by slug wranglers Deane McConnell and Laurie Calef.

The wranglers brought about 70 rental slugs to the races.

andquot;We rent 'em, you race 'em,andquot; McConnell said.

The slug rental fee was $2 and proceeds went to the South Coast Humane Society. The event raised $76 for the animal shelter.

Princess's jockey was visitor Ashley Staples of Elk Grove, Calif. Staples was in Brookings visiting her grandparents, Martha and David Martin.

andquot;I've never won anything before,andquot; the 15-year-old said.

Grand champion prize was $25 worth of ice cream at Slugs 'N Stones 'N Ice Cream Cones.

So what was her secret to success?

andquot;It's in the name,andquot; Staples explained.

Indeed, McConnell and Calef, who acted as slug advisor and slug handler at the races, couldn't emphasize enough the importance of a good name to a racer's success.

Other entrants included Lickety Sticky, Lightning, Mercury, Titus, Spot, Slimy Sam and Bob.

Alli Ehrhardt, 10, and Casey Pearce, 10, both of Rogue River, chose a spotted rental slug and named it andquot;Fluffy.andquot;

They said McConnell advised them to andquot;keep it calm and talk to it.andquot;

Staples said she initially chose a different slug, but the slug handler gave her Princess instead.

andquot;It was fate,andquot; Martha Martin said.