(Charleston, SC)- Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week has a reputation for consistent, solid breeze. In fact, Charleston’s great wind is one of the big reasons this event has grown so spectacularly over the past decade. It was on the eve of the regatta when most weather models predicted big breeze for the start of racing on Friday, with Sunday promising similarly apocalyptic conditions. And that is exactly what the 2013 edition received.
With the 287 teams scattered about on harbor and offshore courses, race organizers were eager to seize the day, completing 3 to 4 races in Friday’s 15-30 knot winds. Saturday’s moderate breezes and calm seas allowed for some recovery, but it was another 3 to 4 race day to insure each fleet was given the chance to sort out the pecking order in the standings. With the podium positions far from certain, Sunday looked to be the determining factor if not for one thing: the forecast. If Friday’s winds were “monster”, there really wasn’t an appropriate superlative to describe what happened Sunday morning. Rapidly increasing winds and huge seas offshore (8 feet at the mouth of Charleston Harbor) prompted the principal race officers to cancel all competition offshore. Inshore, the race committees set up courses and attempted to get races going on all three courses, but the action was quickly cancelled for everyone.
Marking its debut in dramatic fashion, the 55 boat J/70 fleet was the largest at the regatta by nearly 50%! The level of competition was incredibly close and positions could change dramatically leg to leg as entire packs of boats would gain and lose on each shift, such was the tightness of the fleet. While upwind speed for most boats was quite close, it was off-the-wind, particularly in the planing conditions, where boat-handling and pure speed were permitting some teams to make dramatic gains even on the short 0.7 to 0.9 nm downwind legs. In the end, Key West Race Week winner, Tim Healy skippering HELLY HANSEN, sailed an excellent regatta, staying out of trouble and out of the corners to compile a consistent series to take the J/70s with all top five finishes as counters. Just behind them was Jud Smith sailing RELATIVE OBSCURITY, themselves also counting top five finishes in their scoreline to finish second with 21 pts net, just two back from Healy. Sailing in their first big J/70 regatta, Henry Filter dragged "Moose" Mclintock aboard as tactician to put together a great series to finish third overall with 36 pts. The balance of the top five saw St Pete NOOD Regatta winner, Joel Ronning on CATAPULT, take fourth overall and the team on STAMPEDE led by Bruno Pasquinelli (2nd at Key West Race Week) took fifth.
In the J/70s Corinthian Division (amateur teams), it was Heather Gregg-Earl and Joe Bardenheier aboard the beautifully color-coordinated MUSE/ TEAM ATLANTIS that took the honors over sixteen other teams. Second was Brian Elliott sailing B-SQUARED and third was Mike Glover and Robbie Wilkins sailing LUCY, the top local Charleston team in the regatta.
In the J/22 fleet, Chris Doyle’s consistent performance earned his team the victory. Racing "THE JUG 4 1", Doyle’s lowest score of the seven-race series was only a 3, leaving a tally of 1-2-1-1-2-2 for just 9 points. Arthur Libby on TORQEEDO trailed in second with 14 points, and Greg Fisher and Todd Hiller on LEADING EDGE placed third with 19 points. Fisher narrowly beat out the top Canadian team, Ryan Flack sailing BLIND PIG, that finished with 20 pts. Fifth was Keith Zars on USA 1646.
J/24's had the second largest J fleet sailing in the regatta with twenty-six teams showing up on the starting line. After the first six races, it was evident the top two teams were going for broke to take the lead, with Kris Werner's team on SUPERFECTA trying valiantly to hold off a strong challenge from Mike Ingham's team on USA 5443. In the end, SUPERFECTA took the top spot with scores of 1-1-3-4-1-14-6 for 16 pts net. Second was Mike Ingham scoring a 5-5-1-2-6-8-1 for 20 pts net. Third was taken by Ron Medlin Jr on BASH with consistent scores of 3-6-4-6-5-5-4 for 27 pts net. The balance of the top five included Aidan Glackin in 4th sailing the infamous MENTAL FLOSS and in fifth was Frank McNamara sailing ZOT. Good, tight racing in the J/24s, with a dozen boats all posting top five finishes over seven races!
The J/80s had a mild turnout and in the end it was Bert Carp who reigned supremo taking near straight bullets to win class on USA 11. Just behind them two points back was Richard Donn's SUPERFLOUS that took second and in third overall was Brad Bertram's ROCKET DOG.
Offshore, the PHRF fleets were treated to some excellent sailing with the solid 10-18 kt southerly breezes on Friday and the moderate NNE winds on Saturday. Taking PHRF A Big Boat division was Robin Team's J/122 TEAMWORK, sailing a solid series and amassing a 2-1-1-2-7-3 record for 9 pts net. Just behind them was a super-sharp J/120 team aboard the pretty flag-blue REBECCA, led by skipper Glenn Gault and tactician Terry Flynn (of J/22 World Champion fame) they managed to score a 4-3-2-1-4-2 against some top teams to net 12 pts for second place.
Within PHRF A, the J/111s had a closely fought series amongst themselves. In the end, Doug Curtiss' WICKED 2.0 prevailed with 24 pts total as top J/111. Second was the rapidly improving FIREBALL from Annapolis, MD sailed by Fast Eddie, Kristen Berry and crew. In their first major outing in a tight racing fleet, Robert Stein's KINETIC was third J/111, narrowly missing out second by one point!
In PHRF B was the "battle of the 35 footers". Gary Weisberg was the top J team, taking 4th overall with his J/109 HEAT WAVE. Fifth was the J/105 DEAD ON ARRIVAL sailed by Joe Highsmith. And, sixth was Willy Schwenzfeier's J/35 ARROW.
PHRF C had its moments and plenty of drama for the top boats. It was very close racing for these fast 30-footers and, as expected, the top teams were the J/29 MIGHTY PUFFIN and the J/92 AMIGOS. When the dust cleared, Dave Pritchard's J/92 AMIGO had to take an SCP (scoring penalty) in the first race, hurting their chances at taking the golden ring. In the end, Steve Thurston's J/29 MIGHTY PUFFIN sailed a very consistent series to score a 1-3-5-1-3-2 for 10 pts net to take the gold by one point. Second was the J/92 AMIGOS with a 6-2-3-2-1-3 for 11 pts net.
In the Pursuit Class, the only fleet to sail all three days, the J/105 JADED sailed by Peter Rugg from Long Island Sound started off with a bad first race, but rapidly learned the ropes of Charleston Harbor's whirlpool currents and twisting breezes to close on the leaders to finish 6th overall with 16 pts, just two points from third!
What was most remarkable about this year's CRW was that not only were J/Teams by far the largest brand at this year's event, but J sailors also took all three perpetual trophies! The Palmetto Cup, awarded to the best performer under PHRF, went to Robin Team and his family crew aboard their J/122 TEAMWORK. The Charleston Race Week Trophy, awarded to the top boat in the most competitive one-design class, went to J/24 Class winner Kris Werner and his Rochester, NY-based crew on board SUPERFECTA. And, the Jubilee Perpetual Sportsmanship Trophy went to local J/24 racer and the Commodore of CORA, Mike Palazzo. Palazzo and his JO MOMMA crew rescued a man overboard in Friday’s heated action and never approached the jury for redress. In fact, the skipper of the boat that lost the man overboard tried to do that on Palazzo’s behalf. Congratulations to all for job well done! Sailing photo credits- Meredith Block. For more Charleston Race Week sailing information