Friday, April 22, 2011

J's Enjoy Spring Sailing Fling in Charleston

J/80 sailing Charleston Race Week
J/122 GAMBLER & J/29 MIGHTY PUFFIN Triumph, J/111 2nd
(Charleston, SC- Apr 14-17) - Springtime in Charleston is one of the more perfect places to spend the spring season and nature smiles especially fondly on Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week every year. For local Charleston resident and J/22 competitor, Greg Fisher, it's all about the community. The multiple world champion and former sail designer recently left the sailmaking industry to accept the position as Director of Sailing for the College Of Charleston. "The amazing thing about Charleston sailors is how they come together as a community for important events," Fisher said. "Hundreds of passionate sailors and their families get together to support Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week, Charleston Community Sailing and the College, and it really feels like you're part of a big family when you're with them."

While the rest of America was fretting about tax filing deadlines, Charleston Harbor gave sailors a tax day gift - nearly perfect weather for sailboat racing on Friday. "I don't think I've ever had a day with such perfect sailing weather," said a competitor on the offshore PHRF course. "We had tight racing with 15-18 knots out of the East - perfect wind, perfect waves, and warm sunshine all day."

J/111 one-design sailboat- sailing Charleston Race WeekRacing offshore on the north/south courses were the big boats.  The new J/111 VELOCITY finished the day in fourth in a very competitive PHRF B Class with a 3-4-4 record. "This was the boat's first day of racing ever, and we're having a good time figuring her out," explained trimmer Dave Malkin of Annapolis. "We're definitely looking forward to even more breeze tomorrow." Kemah, TX J/122 owner Doug Shaffer leads the class with just four points in three races aboard GAMBLER, getting a 1-1-2 score.  In second was yet another J/122, Robin Team's TEAMWORK from Lexington, NC with a 4-2-1 record, getting stronger every race as their team dials it in to be a class leader.  Having a tough time against their stablemates were the two J/120s, John Keenan's ILLYRIA and Rick Moore's MOOSE DOWN, finishing further down the ladder.

J/124 sailing Charleston Race WeekIn PHRF A, the J/124 WICKED sailed by Doug Curtiss and crew from Branford, CT lay in a three-way tie for second with a 2-3-4 score.  Just behind them were the two J/130s, David Hackney's SUGAR MAGNOLIA and Noel Sterret's SOLARUS.

In PHRF C were the 35 footers-, including the J/35, J/109 and three J/105s.  After the end of a glorious day of racing, the J/35 ARROW sailed by Willy Schwenzfeier from Charleston, SC sailed a solid 4-5-6 to lie 4th for the day.  Ric Campeau's J/109 HOODOO had some flashes of brilliance but couldn't put it all together, ending up with a 7-6-9 for 6th.

Over in PHRF D, a real fight was taking  place for the top three positions on the podium.  Leading the charge was the masthead/outboard J/29 FOR SAIL skippered by Jim Mackevich from Edison, NJ with a 4-2-1 record for 7 pts.  Just behind them by one point was Steve Thurston sailing MIGHTY PUFFIN, another masthead/outboard J/29, sailing to a 2-1-5 record for 8 pts.  Just off the pace was Dave Pritchard's J/92 AMIGOS sailing to a 7-4-3 tally.

J/24 one-design sailboat- sailing to offset mark at Charleston Race WeekOn the inshore one-design courses, the J/22s, J/24s and J/80s were having a great day sailing, with all three classes getting in four races.  Sailing on the new Course "0", the J/22s and J/24s were sailing in the easterly breeze with the windward mark set about 85 degrees from the start line.  While the first race was affected by the strong ebb current flowing out of the harbor, after 12:18pm the next three races were fought in a building flood current.  If you haven't heard about it before, there's no question that current is a factor in setting your course strategies and tactics, on some courses more important than others.  For the J/24s and J/22s, the first beats were influenced by the presence of the giant sand spit called Shutes Folly Island with a little fort at the SE end of it- Castle Pinckney.  The combination of less adverse current near the island and the puffs backing left most of the afternoon meant the fleet had to play middle left nearly all day.  At the end of the day, it was pretty clear the top three in the very competitive 25 boat J/24 class traded places taking most of the podium finishes.  Leading the charge was past J/24 Champion Mike Ingham, from Rochester, NY, who had the wind and current scenario wired, sailing to a very consistent 1-3-1-2 record for 7 pts.  Sailing STREET LEGAL into second for the day was Chris Jankowski from Richmond, VA with a 3-2-2-3 tally for 10 pts.  And getting stronger by the race was John Surguy's team on VANISHING ACT from Marlboro, NJ, sailing to a 4-4-3-1 scoreline for 12 pts to secure third place for the day.

The J/22s had a very strong sixteen boat fleet and the competition for the top spots was going to be tough with some excellent teams fielded not only from local Charleston sailors, but also from very strong J/22 one-design class fleets in both Rochester, NY and Annapolis, MD.  After the first two races, it was obvious that a near match-race was forming for the top spots between Chris Doyle sailing SOLID LAYER from Rochester, NY and Greg Fisher from Charleston, SC.  After the first two races, Chris had a 1-2 and Greg had a 2-1.  As the afternoon wore on, Chris and his SOLID LAYER crew made their move and established primal supremacy in the J/22 fleet, getting two more bullets to finish the day with a 1-2-1-1 for 5 pts.  Greg's team sailed well to finish the day with a 2-1-3-3 tally for 9 pts.  Behind them was another match race shaping up between Todd Hiller from Annapolis, MD sailing LEADING EDGE and Travis Odenbach from Rochester, NY sailing INSTIGATOR.  This duel ended up tied for the day with Todd scoring a 3-3-2-6 and Travis with a 4-4-4-2, the tiebreaker going in favor of Todd.

J/80s one-design sailboats- sailing downwind at Charleston, SCA great turnout of twenty-six boats meant the J/80s were going to have a good series with some very competitive teams attending.  Plus, a fun, fast course with less than 1.0 nm windward-leeward legs meant that skippers, tacticians and crews would be busy.  Unlike the J/22 and J/24 Course "0", the J/80s were sailing on Course 1 along the southern part of the harbor.  The PRO set the windward mark at about 90 degrees and basically never changed it all day.  The winds built from 6-12 to 9-17 knots from the East by mid-afternoon, making for epic, brilliant sailing, perhaps the best course for sailing in the entire regatta (based on hearsay at the Goslings tent afterwards!).  Like the Course "0" sailors, the J/80s saw the winds oscillate significantly, but the right side of the course along shore only paid off twice on 8 total windward legs over 4 races! Fast out of the blocks was Bruno Pasquinelli from Dallas, TX sailing TIAMO to a 1-1-4-6 score for the day for 12 pts.  However, the team of Henry Brauer and Will Welles sailing RASCAL from Marblehead, MA/ Newport, RI sailed consistently well, never finishing out of the top three, rounding either the first or second mark in first place in every race, to get a 3-3-1-2 record to end the day with 9 pts to be at the top of the leader-board.  In third due to a tie-breaker with Bruno's TIAMO team was Kerry Klingler's team from Larchmont, NY sailing to a 5-2-2-3 for 12 pts.

The talk of the dock after the spectacular day's racing was whether or not the dire predictions for Saturday's sailing would come true- a weather forecast that included no less than trailer-destroying tornados, frightening line squalls, severe ginormous thunderstorms, massive car-destroying hail stones, monster micro-burst puffs and gale-force wind conditions. If Friday's conditions provided a chance for racers to knock the rust off, Saturday would undoubtedly separate the top teams from those who could use a bit more practice-- or the crazed from the simply normal.  As Saturday dawned, it was clear the prognosticators were correct, the forecast was more accurate than most had hoped; in fact, the storm front killed nearly 50 people in tornados less than 100 miles away.  As a result, Regatta Chairman Randy Draftz was put in the unenviable position of having to cancel racing for the first time ever in the race week's history.  Nevertheless, many were sanguine about the dilemma and felt it was a good call.

Multiple J/24 World Champion Anthony Kotoun of Newport, RI was one of them, and the Virgin Islands native who has sailed the past four Charleston Race Weeks, shared his thoughts on Charleston Race Week: "I just love this regatta," he said. When pressed on why, he mentioned the parallels with Caribbean regattas. "I just came back from sailing in St. Thomas at the Rolex Regatta, the BVI at the Spring Regatta and St. Maarten for the Heineken event, and Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week is the only event in the country that's got a flavor like those." Kotoun cited "great breezes, beautiful surroundings, and the regatta village here on the beach that's really something you don't see anywhere but the Caribbean."

An earlier start time for Sunday saw frantic preparations as all boats were seen pulling piles of extra sails and gear off their boats to lighten their loads for the expected forecast of a dying 5-10 kt wind. The offshore courses saw sufficient sailing breeze through most of the day, with the first race run under very light northerly conditions and the final race in a moderate Charleston sea breeze of 10 knots.

The biggest boats at the event had an exciting, three-way battle for the lead in PHRF A, with the J/124 WICKED ending up third after the smoke cleared.  WICKED missed 2nd by 1 pt and first by just 2 pts, a shift here, a puff there and the tables would have turned completely in their favor.

J/122 offshore racer-cruiser sailboat- one-design sailingIn PHRF B, Doug Shaffer's J/122 GAMBLER simply sailed away, leaving the fleet in their rear-view mirror, winning the last two races to win by 9 pts over the J/111 VELOCITY.  After their Friday "practice race" day, the gang on the J/111 VELOCITY got their act together, retuned the rig, trimmed the sails faster, avoided some big holes and even led the entire fleet around one leeward gate to secure 2nd overall with a solid 2-2 showing on the last day for a total of 15 pts.  Third was Robin Team's J/122 TEAMWORK, sailing an uncharacteristic 7-3 to finish 3rd with 17 pts.

The mighty struggle between the 30 footers in PHRF D was finally settled in favor of Steve Thurston's well-sailed J/29 MIGHTY PUFFIN, getting a 4-1 to win with 13 pts.  Jim's J/29 FOR SAIL had a slow day, getting a 7-5 to drop to 4th after leading on the first day.  Dave Pritchard's J/92 AMIGOS got their mojo on and managed to peel off a 1-2 for the best record on Sunday to get 3rd overall with 17 pts.  The Palmetto Cup, which is awarded each year to the best boat competing in the PHRF (handicap rating) classes, went to Steve Thurston and his crew from Bristol, RI racing aboard the mighty yacht  MIGHTY PUFFIN!

Inshore, conditions were more fickle and no races were completed on the J/24 and J/22 race course, with only one completed on the J/80 course.  Former North American and National J/24 Champion Mike Ingham was disappointed that his class didn't see enough wind for a final race today, though he was happy to take the victory in the most competitive J/24 fleet that Charleston has seen in several years. "We last sailed here for our National Championship about six years ago, and it's just as great as I remembered," said Mike. "On Friday, we got four solid races in, and just kept our noses clean and tried to sail smart. It worked."

J/80 one-design sailboats- sailing downwind with spinnakersFor the J/80s, it was a beautiful, but disappointing day.  The one and only race was punctuated by a series of events for the leaders and the entire fleet that could best be described as "unfortunate".  The PRO elected to start the race in a rapidly dying breeze from the NW (it was forecast to die by 11am) at precisely 10:40 am after it was obvious the Viper 640 fleet that started at 10:35am were struggling getting to the first windward mark.  Toss in a dying breeze with massive holes, 40 degree shifts and a full-moon ebb tide flowing at 3 knots and what do you get?  A very ugly picture that many sailing in England's Solent are all too familiar with.  Out of 26 boats only 5 managed to finish the race (exactly 1/5th of the fleet) and the rest scored TLE (time limit expired!).  Not exactly a "fair or reasonable" race for all involved, e.g. an awfully expensive one-day regatta!  Nevertheless, not often you see top three finishers scored with TLE's as counters!  Kerry Klingler's team avoided the mishaps and secured a finish to win with 15 pts with a 5-2-2-3-3 score.  In finishing second, the Brauer/Welles team got caught by the finish line buoy, literally, and instead of winning the regatta was forced to take a TLE, scoring 3-3-1-2-TLE for 16 pts.  Third was Bruno's TIAMO team who seemingly took an involuntary tour of Fort Sumter over on another course as they were getting flushed out to sea, finishing with a 1-1-4-6-TLE for 19 pts.  Thanks to Mike Lovett's contributions from his Sailing World Forum report (

Sailing Photo Credits:
Meredith Block-
Priscilla Parker-

VIdeo coverage:
  - OTWA  Sailing Coverage- Day One
  - T2P.TV- Day One Summary

For more Charleston Race Week sailing information