Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sperry Charleston Race Week Preview

J/70s sailing Charleston (Charleston, SC)- Why do sailboat racers throughout the country return to Sperry Charleston Race Week year after year?  According to Randy Draftz, now in his 14th year as the event director, “Our focus on first-class customer service has produced remarkable loyalty and transformed the regatta into one of the premier events of its kind. What started in 1996 as a regional gathering has steadily grown into the largest keelboat regatta in North and South America. We feel we have found a formula that resonates with the sailors and we are constantly working to refine what we are offering.”

Draftz said the Charleston Ocean Racing Association, organizing authority and owner of event, hit a home run when it landed Sperry as title sponsor. Sperry’s involvement has been a driving force behind the remarkable development of Charleston Race Week, helping take the event to another level in terms of quality and prestige.

“Sperry is more than just our title sponsor, they are a true partner,” Draftz said. “As a company, Sperry is fully invested in Charleston Race Week and brings incredible value that makes the event better.”

Sperry Charleston Race Week is also fortunate to have the continued support of three critical corporate sponsors in Quantum Sails, Gosling’s Rum and Vineyard Vines. West Marine has been added to the lineup of corporate sponsors with the world’s premier retailer of boating, fishing and paddling gear announcing it will give away up to $30,000 in gift cards.

Sailors from all over the United States and beyond are gearing up for the 23rd edition of Sperry Charleston Race Week, being held April 12-15 out of the famous South Carolina port. Nearly 250 boats in 16 classes are slated to compete in the three-day regatta, which combines one-design and handicap racing along with inshore and offshore courses.

Sperry Charleston Race Week 2018 will feature eight returning champions, including the top two award winners. Skipper Joel Ronning and his CATAPULT crew will be back to defend the Charleston Race Week Cup after capturing the highly-competitive J/70 class last year.

J/88 sailing CharlestonThat prestigious perpetual trophy is presented for the best overall performance by a one-design entry. J/70, which is once again the largest class in the regatta with a whopping 72 entries, will certainly contend for the Charleston Race Week Cup as racing figures to be fierce in a fleet comprised of numerous class champions.

All the elements that have made Sperry Charleston Race Week so popular remain in place, starting with the sheer beauty and elegant atmosphere of the historic host city. Factor in world-class accommodations along with top-notch facilities and you immediately have the makings of a big-time regatta.

Draftz and his team have steadily built on the basic template to enhance the event and every year brings further improvements. One major development in 2018 is the addition of the Columbus Street Terminal as a new facility for boat storage, launching and hauling.

Organizers of Sperry Charleston Race Week have made arrangements with the South Carolina Port Authority to facilitate launch, haul and trailer storage service at this spacious facility, which is conveniently located almost directly across the Cooper River from the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.

“We want to thank the Port Authority for allowing the regatta to utilize their superb facility. This is a much-needed service and the Port Authority has been very gracious to offer the services of its equipment and staff,” Draftz said.

J/24s sailing off CharlestonCollege of Charleston, which has historically provided considerable support to the regatta, will be docking numerous boats at its J. Stewart Walker Sailing Center. Many of those boats are affiliated with the school’s sailing program, including four that will be crewed by members of the College of Charleston intercollegiate dinghy or offshore teams.

Volunteer coach Chuck Coyer will lead one team onboard the J/36 SOUL in ORC B. Members of the College of Charleston Development Team will race a pair of J/22 entries.

“We’re really excited that our team performs well on the collegiate scene, but we’re also extremely proud that they do a lot of sailing outside that realm,” said Greg Fisher, Director of Sailing for the College of Charleston. “We want our sailors to enjoy the sport of sailing and take advantage of all it offers. There is no better way for them to gain tremendous experience and learn a different aspect of the sport than by competing in Sperry Charleston Race Week.”

College of Charleston has been dedicated to supporting adaptive sailing and recently hosted a clinic with Warrior Sailing. Fisher is thrilled that six teams from Warrior Sailing will compete in Sperry Charleston Race Week aboard J/22s provided by the college.

As always, all shoreside activity will be based at the fabulous Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, largest in the state of South Carolina with 459 slips. Sperry Charleston Race Week is renowned for its nightly beach party featuring the Gosling’s Rum Bar and live music.

Seventeen South is scheduled to perform on Thursday while Chewbacky will be onstage Friday with tickets available online or at the gate. An Event Pass for all four days of race week can be purchased for $85 while daily tickets will also be sold.

J/70s sailing off CharlestonQuantum Sails returns as a corporate sponsor and will present the very informative daily dock talks and video debriefs featuring accomplished professional Ed Baird. A veteran of multiple America’s Cup campaigns and a champion match racer, Baird will deliver his “Applying the Forecast to the Race Course” presentations twice each morning – once for the offshore and pursuit classes then later for the inshore classes.

During the beach party each evening, Baird will utilize the Jumbotron to conduct Daily Debrief sessions specific to each circle by utilizing on-course video action provided by Keith Brash. College of Charleston assistant coach Mitch Hall will assist Baird with opening remarks about the local conditions in Charleston Harbor following the initial competitors meeting on Thursday.

An important hallmark of Sperry Charleston Race Week involves expert race management provided by a dedicated team of US Sailing certified volunteers. Hank Stuart returns as the overall Principal Race Officer and will lead a contingent of vastly experienced volunteers.

Back by popular demand for the second straight year is the Pro-Am regatta, being held on Saturday night using J/22 sloops donated by College of Charleston. Racing will be held off A Dock at the south end of the marina with Ed Baird providing commentary to a live stream of the action on the Jumbotron.

Past Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Steve Benjamin and former Olympian Paris Henken headline the list of professionals participating. US Sailing president Bruce Burton and Gill North America president Dave Pritchard bring further prestige to the Pro-Am, which will also feature Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck, North Sails professional Allan Terhune and one-design standout Travis Odenbach.

College of Charleston senior sailor Christophe Killian is the defending champion and will be joined this year by women’s team member Paris Henken, who represented the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in 49erFX class.

Mau, an employment agency based in the Charleston, is sponsoring the Pro-Am Regatta. Two high school sailors from the seven teams in the Charleston area will serve as crew members aboard the nine boats competing.

J/88 sailing at Charleston Race WeekIn addition to Ronning’s CATAPULT returning to defend his title, a veritable armada of top-flight J/70 teams will be challenging them for class supremacy.  Right at the top will be J/70 Midwinter Champion, Jack Franco and his all-star crew on 3 BALL JT (with multi-class World Champions Bill Hardesty and Allen Terhune as tactician and sail trim) and 2017 World Champion Peter Duncan’s RELATIVE OBSCURITY crew from Rye, NY.  In addition, look for these teams to be at the top of the leaderboard, Travis Odenbach’s USA 40 from Rochester, NY; Vincenzo Onorato’s MASCALZONE LATINO from YC Monaco, Bruce Golison’s MIDLIFE CRISIS from Long Beach, CA; Kevin Downey’s MR PITIFUL from Seattle, WA; Bennet Greenwald’s PERSEVERANCE from San Diego, CA; Peter Cunningham’s POWERPLAY RACING from Caymans Islands; John Brim’s RIMETTE from Palm Beach, FL; Brian Keane’s SAVASANA crew from Beverly, MA; Bruno Pasquinelli’s STAMPEDE from Fort Worth, TX; and John & Molly Baxter’s TEAM VINEYARD VINES from Riverside, CT.

The J/88 class has assembled a strong contingent of eight boats from across the country; a boat as simple to rig and launch as a J/70!  Towable by an SUV and launchable off a 3-ton yacht club crane, it’s a matter of minutes to swing it off the trailer into the water and hoist the mast up on its deck-stepped mast base!  Looking forward to the weekend competition are a number of leaders in the class.  Recent J/88 Midwinter Champions, Justin Scagnelli’s ALBONDIGAS from Milwaukee, WI will be hoping they can maintain their momentum.  J/88 North American Champion Laura Weyler and her HIJINKS crew from Youngstown YC will also be testing their 2018 setup to see if they are still in the hunt with boats that had sailed throughout the winter.  The same holds true for teams like Andy Graff’s EXILE from Chicago, IL; Brian O’Malley’s BLUE from Charlotte, NC; Mike Bruno’s WING from American YC; Tim Finkle’s SEAWEED from Youngstown YC; and Rob Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF from Cleveland, OH.

As mentioned above, the dozen boat J/22 fleet features seven teams from the WARRIOR SAILING PROGRAM, including the following skippers- Scott Ford, Rachelle Pontes, Tyra Moore, Michaela Dahlke, Nick Trado, Keith Moore, and Ramesh Haytasingh.  The two College of Charleston teams include skippers Jon Noyes and Sylvia Skerry.  And, the three private boats include Ryan Davidson’s INVISIBLE BOATMOBILE from Balboa, CA; David Buckley’s MAGIC 8 BALL from Charleston, SC; and Pat Isherwood’s SPIFFY from Barrington, RI.

Always a huge supporter of the regatta from its inception, the fourteen-boat J/24 class features some of its class veterans and champions from across the spectrum of decades.  Top bananas should be Tony Parker’s BANGOR PACKET from Washington, DC; Robby Brown’s ANGEL OF HARLEM from St Petersburg, FL; and the young hot crew from Miami, FL- Patricio Sly’s MUY MUY.

Returning as a one-design class for the first time in years are the half-dozen J/105s.  The all South Carolina contingent include Joe Highsmith’s DEAD ON ARRIVAL, Gebel Seese’s HIGH VISIBILITY, Robert Scribner’s JOYRIDE, Paul Jacques’ RUCKUS, Fred Martschink/ Bill McKenzie’s RUM FRONT, and Miles Martschink/ Ben Hagood’s SKIMMER.

Sailing in the offshore ORC classes are a dominant slate of top J/crews from across the region.  In ORC A is Robin Team’s championship crew on his J/122 TEAMWORK from Lexington, NC; he may his hands full taking on Steve Benjamin’s fast TP 52 SPOOKIE.  Then, in ORC B class, is John Keenan’s J/120 ILLYRIA from Mt Pleasant, SC; Willy Schwenzfeier’s J/35 ARROW from Charleston, SC; and the College of Charleston’s J/36 SOUL.

For Saturday’s PHRF Pursuit Race, there are 36 boats evenly split between Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker.  This element of the regatta has continued to grow consistently year over year.  In the PHRF Spin division are Rick Moore’s J/120 MOOSE DOWN and Bob Musor’s J/130 SCEPTRE.  Then, in PHRF Non-spin are Bill Hanckel’s J/120 EMOCEAN and Mark Swatta’s J/30 LAS BRISAS.  For more Charleston Race Week sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.