Monday, April 23, 2018

Challenging Charleston Race Week

J/70s sailing Charleston Race WeekJ/70 Wins Charleston Race Week Cup
(Charleston, SC)- The 2018 edition of the Sperry Charleston Race Week will be remembered for its first two days of great weather for a vast majority of the fleet.  On Sunday, forecasts indicated a massive front moving in across the harbor by the afternoon, producing a line of thunderstorms, squalls, and possible tornados.  As a result, only the big offshore boats in ORC 1, ORC 2, and J/105s sailed early on Sunday before the storms hit.  Crowned as overall winner of the top one-design fleet was Peter Duncan’s J/70 RELATIVE OBSCURITY from American YC in Rye, New York. Here is how it all went down over the course of the three-day event.

J/24s sailing CharlestonDay 1- Friday
Mother Nature delivered in a big way on the first day of Sperry Charleston Race Week with action getting underway in strong winds, sunny skies and warm temperatures. J/24 skipper Tony Parker called it “champagne conditions” and it would be hard to argue with that assessment.

Ten of the 11 classes competing on the four inshore circles were able to complete four races in winds that ranged from 12 to 16 knots and swung from south to slightly southwest. The lone exception was the highly competitive J/70 class, which did three races at the request of the sailors.

Because there are 66 boats in J/70, the class is so large that it is split for re-seeding after each day of racing. Class organizers felt three races would make for better round-robin competition.

Winds were lighter for the five classes racing on Circle 5 and Course 6 outside the jetties on the Atlantic. ORC A and B along with the J/105 one-design fleet all finished two races.

“What a wonderful day for sailing. You really could not ask for better conditions,” proclaimed Parker, who took the early lead in J/24 class. “It was challenging enough to make things really interesting. I think the combination of changing current and shifting winds made for really tight racing.”

Parker and his crew aboard the J/24 BANGOR PACKET sandwiched a couple bullets inside a pair of seconds to close the day with a low score of six points– two better than runner-up ANGEL OF HARLEM (Robby Brown, St. Petersburg, FL).

“We had good starts and solid upwind speed so we were basically able to dictate where we wanted to go,” said Parker, a seasoned J/24 sailor who resides in Washington, D.C. “We were first at every weather mark in three straight races to start the day, which was nice.”

North Sails pro Will Bomar is calling tactics for Parker, who is coming off a tough season in which he was runner-up at the J/24 Worlds, East Coasts and Midwinters. James Niblock is trimming the headsails and Martha Parker from TEAM ONE NEWPORT in Newport, RI was working the bow on BANGOR PACKET.

J/70 sailing Charleston harborDay 2- Saturday
As the skies darkened over Charleston Harbor Saturday evening, the leaders had to feel good about their position while the followers were hoping for an opportunity to change the final standings.

“We’re still in the hunt. Hopefully, we’ll get two or three more races tomorrow and be able to improve our position,” said SAVASANA skipper Brian Keane, who holds fourth place in J/70 class.

Plans had called for the J/70 fleet to conduct three races per day, but the prospect of thunderstorms on Sunday prompted the class leadership to ask regatta organizers to run four on Saturday while the weather was clear and the wind was blowing between 8 and 15 knots.

Peter Duncan and his crew on RELATIVE OBSCURITY had another solid day on the water and were able to maintain their lead. RELATIVE OBSCURITY finished 10th in Race 4, but came back with results of 1-3-4 and had a low score of 22 points. John Brim’s RIMETTE team was seven points behind Duncan and two points ahead of Joel Ronning and the CATAPULT crew.

A strong ebb tide pushed a bunch of boats over the start line and caused two general recalls for J/70 class, largest of the regatta with 68 boats. It took a while to finish four races as a result and the fleet did not return to the docks at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina until 5 p.m.

“They’re worried about the weather so they wanted to do four races, which makes sense,” Keane said. “It was a really tough day out there because the combination of the sea breeze and gradient. The wind was all over the place.”

To complicate matters, the tide changed from ebb to flood late in the afternoon. Keane sailed SAVASANA to victory in Race 6 after posting a third in Race 5. Those results came between a 7th and a 10th and left the Massachusetts entry with 34 points, just five points out of second place.

“We had two very good races and two decent ones,” said Keane, runner-up at the 2018 J/70 Worlds in Porto Cervo, Italy. “We had a couple good starts and were able to get over to the lifted tack on the first windward leg.”

Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris, who represented the United States in 49er class at the 2016 Summer Olympics, are aboard SAVASANA as tactician and jib trimmer, respectively. Veteran bowman Ron Weed rounds out the team.

Skipper Bruce Golison had MIDLIFE CRISIS in second place after taking second in the opening race on Saturday. The Long Beach resident had an impressive 1-7-2-2 score line at that point. Double-digit results in the other three races on Saturday dropped Golison to 10th overall.

“This is one of the trickiest venues in the world and it’s easy to have one of those days,” Golison said. “We got fouled and lost a lot of boats in the third race today.”

Golison enjoyed considerable success in the J/24 and Etchells classes before buying a J/70 three years ago. The 61-year-old loves racing a sportboat and competing against some of the finest sailors in the world.

“It keeps me young,” Golison said. “I’ve never won a world championship and that is still my goal. I came close in the J/24 and the Etchells. We’ll see if I can get it done in the J/70.”

J/22's sailing Charleston Race WeekThere are 11 boats in J/22 class and seven are being sailed by Warrior Sailing teams. Skipper Scott Ford is skippering the lone Warrior entry that is racing with a spinnaker and doing extremely well. Ford is trimming the mainsail, Sammy Lugo is trimming the jib and Josh Agripino is driving USA 1367, which won Race 3 and has taken third in five other starts.

“We had a lot of fun today. Conditions were great and the racing was exciting,” said Ford, a former construction mechanic in the U.S. Navy who is blind. “We’re really enjoying competing against the College of Charleston students and feel pretty good about the results we’ve put up.”

Agripino served in the Marine Corps and sustained severe injuries to his lower legs and feet while also losing sight in one eye. Lugo, who worked in civil affairs for the Army, had his right leg amputated just below the knee.

J/22 class grew from three boats last year to 11 this year due to the strong participation of members from the Warrior Sailing program along with the generosity of the College of Charleston, which donated all the boats. Ford was pleased that several of the Warrior teams are learning how to fly a spinnaker and hope to do so at Charleston Race Week 2019.

VELOCIDAD took over the lead in the J/24 class as skipper Chris Stone got the gun in two of three races held on Saturday. The New Jersey entry was winning by tiebreaker over ANGEL OF HARLEM (Robby Brown, St. Petersburg, FL), meanwhile Day 1 leader BANGOR PACKET (Tony Parker, Washington, D.C.) dropped to third.

There is good action in J/88 class where Tim Finkle has skippered SEAWEED to the top of the standings on the strength of four bullets. Tactician Kris Werner, owner of the Quantum Sails loft in Rochester, helped Finkle close out Saturday with back-to-back wins to gain eight points of separation from Deviation (Iris Vogel, New Rochelle, NY) and Spaceman Spiff (Rob Ruhlman, Cleveland, OH).

“We’ve had really tight racing and it’s still anyone’s game,” said Werner, who works for the J/Boat dealership in the Buffalo area. “We’re racing in fairly close quarters near Fort Sumter and there is not much of a runway, which puts a premium on starts and boathandling.”

J/105 sailing Charleston Race WeekTaran Teague, principal race officer on Circle 5, followed a windward-leeward race with an 11-nautical mile distance race that finished in Charleston Harbor. Mount Pleasant local Robert Scribner steered his J/105 JOYRIDE to victory in all four races held over two days and had a comfortable 10-point lead in J/105 class.

Scribner made his Charleston Race Week debut last year and finished fourth out of five boats in J/105. The 72-year-old skipper was determined to do better this year and took steps to make that happen.

“We did a lot of preparation in the offseason. We paid more attention to tuning the boat, got some new sails and developed a disciplined, committed crew. That has proven a winning formula,” Scribner said. “We were not very competitive last year so my crew chief (Maarten Zonjee) and I decided to put in the effort to reverse that result.”

TEAMWORK, the highly successful J/122 owned by four-time Palmetto Cup winner Robin Team, had its moment in the sun on Saturday by winning the distance race.

J/122 Teamwork sailing Charleston Race WeekDay Three- Sunday
There was an interesting dynamic taking place on the docks of Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina Sunday morning. Some of the boats competing in Sperry Charleston Race Week 2018 were getting ready to go racing with sailors pulling on foul weather gear in anticipation of heavy air and rough seas. Meanwhile, a bunch of other boats were in breakdown mode with sailors packing up gear and carrying sails down the dock.

That unique dichotomy was the result of a split decision by event organizers in response to a severe storm that was due to hit Charleston this afternoon. After carefully reviewing weather reports and consulting with overall principal race officer Hank Stuart, event director Randy Draftz decided to conduct racing for certain classes while cancelling the final day of action for others.

Sperry Charleston Race Week organizers announced in the morning that competition would be canceled in nine of the 10 one-design classes along with ORC C, which is comprised of smaller sportboats. Meanwhile, Stuart and his team elected to allow the two Pursuit Race classes to complete a condensed course out into the Atlantic Ocean and back. Meanwhile, the three classes on Circle 5 (J/105, ORC A, ORC B) came into Charleston Harbor for a windward-leeward course.

Draftz said the main reason for cancelling competition for the smaller boats was concern about the haul out process. Draftz had to consider the possibility of a severe thunderstorm hitting Charleston just as boats were beginning to be lifted out of the water and put onto trailers.

“I’ve been watching the forecast all morning and the breeze is just going to escalate. We could get one race in, but afterward we would have to pull all the boats out of the water,” Draftz said. “It was just not a prudent thing to do. We have 200 boats that have to get hauled out. You have to error on the side of caution. We know it’s coming, we just don’t know exactly when. Better to have cranes pulling boats out now as opposed to 2 or 3 in the afternoon.”

With the entire fleet safely out of the water by early afternoon, the final awards party on the beach at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina was moved up to 3 p.m. Overall winner of Sperry Charleston Race Week 2018 were the J/70 RELATIVE OBSCURITY.

Skipper Peter Duncan and his crew on RELATIVE OBSCURITY won three races and finished fourth or better in three others to capture the J/70 class, largest of the regatta with 68 boats. Duncan received the Charleston Race Week Cup for best overall performance by a one-design.

“Oh my God, it’s kind of off-the-charts. You read about people winning trophies like this and you never think it could happen to you. It’s a very, very cool honor,” Duncan said of capturing the Charleston Race Week Cup.

This marked the first Sperry Charleston Race Week for Duncan, the reigning J/70 World Champion. He came away completely sold on the regatta and cannot wait to come back.

“It’s just a wonderful event with really great competition. It was terrific to sail in this venue for the first time. Charleston is very tricky with lots of shifts, lots of current. I just think it’s a really well-run event and it was a pleasure to participate.”

Victor Diaz de Leon served as tactician and trimmed the main for Duncan, who took the lead on Day 1 and never looked back. Willem Van Waay trimmed the headsails aboard Relative Obscurity, which finished seven points clear of runner-up Rimette (John Brim, Palm Beach, FL).

“I think the best thing we did was we went after the first day really hard. We had a really good first day and that gave us a little latitude on the second day,” said Duncan, a resident of Rye, N.Y. “Actually, perhaps the most important thing was that we were really deep in two races on the second day and came back. We fought really hard and battled back to get a 10th and a third. To me, that was the key to winning the regatta.”

Brim’s RIMETTE crew (which included Taylor Canfield as mainsheet/tactician, a World Match Race and Congressional Cup Champion) secured the silver.  Meanwhile, Ronning’s CATAPULT crew (which included John Kostecki as mainsheet/ tactician, J/24 World Champion and America’s Cup winner) finished two points back to take the bronze.  Rounding out the top five were Brian Keane’s SAVASANA in 4th and John & Molly Baxter’s TEAM VINEYARD VINES in 5th place.

Winning J/70 Corinthians Division was Andrew & Mallory Loe’s DIME from Seattle, WA with a total of 68 pts and also finishing 15th in the Open division.  Second was Sarah Renz’s BERTEAU GROUP from Chicago, IL with 86 pts and third was Jack & Vivien Wallace’s SELKIE, their best performance in a major J/70 event for a team that sails on Lake Champlain and hail from Burlington, Vermont.

Skipper Chris Stone steered VELOCIDAD to victory in the J/24 class, winning three races and taking third in three others. VELOCIDAD finished equal on points with Robby Brown (St. Petersburg, FL), but won the tiebreaker based on posting one more bullet and Stone earned his first class championship at Sperry Charleston Race Week.

“Well the starts, particularly with the current running out fast, were very challenging. I’ve never been so far from a starting line with one minute to go in my life. So timing was critical,” said Stone, from Middletown, N.J. “We were very fortunate to come out on top in a very tough fleet.”

J/88 Seaweed sailing Charleston Race WeekSkipper Tim Finkle led SEAWEED to the win in the J/88 class, getting the gun in four of eight races in posting a low score of 16 points. It was tightly bunched behind Seaweed with four boats finishing with either 24 or 25 points.

“We had a really good team that put a lot of effort into preparation and that paid off,” said Finkle, a J/Boat dealer in Buffalo who credited tactician Kris Werner for repeatedly putting the boat in good spots. “We got a bunch of good starts, which was huge because you had to get to one side of the course quickly because the current was such a huge factor.”

Leading the regatta after the first day, Mike Bruno’s WINGS crew from Rye, NY enjoyed a 3 pt lead on the closely packed fleet. During Saturday’s racing, their first two results of a 3-3 matched the second place team, Finkle’s SEAWEED, leaving the gap the same and WINGS hanging on to the lead.  However, after two gorgeous races, the Circle 3 RC/ PRO team took nearly three hours to change the course to match the winds.  By late afternoon when the third race of the day started after 1530 hrs, the wind had gone quite light due to the low-flying cloud cover rolling in from the ocean.  Liking the “lake-like” conditions, SEAWEED posted a 1-1 in the final two races to take the win.  Meanwhile, Bruno’s WINGS had issues with speed and executing on the corners of the course, registering a 7-8 to lose the lead. After tossing out their 8th place, the WINGS crew ended up one point off a three-way tie for 2nd place, having to settle for 4th.  Meanwhile, Iris Vogel’s DEVIATION and Rob Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF both ended tied on points at 24 pts for second place, with the tiebreak going in favor DEVIATION.

The J/22s saw Ryan Davidson’s INVISIBLE BOATMOBILE and David Buckley’s MAGIC 8 BALL close the regatta tied on points at 9 apiece for first place.  Winning that countback was Davidson’s team.  Comfortably securing the bronze on the podium was Scott Ford’s WARRIO SAILING with 16 pts net.

Sperry Charleston Race Week 2108 closed with a distance race for the Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker classes on the Pursuit Race course along with a windward-leeward course in Charleston Harbor for the ORC A, ORC B and J/105 classes.

That last race proved decisive in the Spinnaker Pursuit class, as skipper Rick Moore steered the J/120 MOOSE DOWN to line honors. Chessie Racing, the Tripp 62 owned by George Collins, finished fifth and that four-point swing enabled MOOSE DOWN to secure the overall victory.

“Actually, the key to the whole thing was our crew just keeping the boat moving forward at all times, particularly on Friday when it was very light and sloppy,” said Moore, a Charleston local.

“Today we were fully-loaded and totally dialed in. We stayed on target, watched where we were going and used the currents. We’re extremely thankful for the outcome. It was a great day of racing and we had a blast in the Pursuit fleet. It’s a challenge when you see the boats coming up behind you and you have to work to stay in front of them.”

Tied for 3rd behind them in class was Bob Musor’s J/130 SCEPTRE from Charleston, SC; having to settle for 4th on the tiebreaker countback.

Then, in the ORC A class, Robin Team’s TEAMWORK won the last inside-the-harbor, storm-tossed race, to hold on to third overall.  In the ORC B class, Willy Schwenzfeier’s J/35 ARROW won their last two races to take second. John Keenan’s J/120 ILLYRIA liked the breezy last race, posting a 2nd to finish fourth overall.

In the Pursuit Non-Spin class, Bill Hanckel’s J/120 EMOCEAN brought home the silver after winning their last two races, just one point shy of the lead!

Finally, the J/105s saw Bob Scribner’s JOYRIDE win counting all bullets. They were followed by Joe Highsmith’s DEAD ON ARRIVAL in second and the trio of Smith/ Seif/ Jacques on RUCKUS win the last race to leap into third position.  For more Charleston Race Week sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.