Saturday, April 22, 2017

Charleston Race Week Preview

J/70s at Charleston(Charleston, SC)- Spring maybe finally be arriving for the much anticipated Sperry Charleston Race Week that is taking place from April 20th to 23rd in Charleston, SC. Between the historical downtown of Charleston and the casual atmosphere of Mt Pleasant across the harbor, the sailors will be spoiled for choice for charming restaurants, quaint southern-style inns, and plenty of sites to see, including the famous World War II aircraft carrier- the USS Yorktown.

The incredibly popular regatta is the first large-scale spring event to take place on the East Coast, with 217 boats entered, with just about all boats based at the amazingly accommodating Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina on Patriots Point.  The event has become a mecca for J/sailors in the spring-time, a great chance to dust off the old yacht, toss it on a trailer, and drag it down to Charleston to have some fun-in-the-sun and enjoy good’ole southern hospitality.

The sailing is quite challenging for both Charleston Harbor veterans and rookies learning the vagaries of winds and the notorious currents. While the winds can be tricky and shiftier than most harbors, it is the massive amounts of current produced by the confluence of three rivers (Ashley, Cooper & Wando) that converge at the northwestern part of the harbor that drives both the RC/ PRO’s crazy and the sailors simply cuckoo.  It is not unusual to see upwards of 3 kts of current across the four race courses inside the harbor and enormous current shears and eddies when the tide changes; especially inside of Fort Sumter (the place that is infamous in US history for being bombarded by the Confederate Army on April 12-14, 1861, starting the American Civil War).  Plus, toss in some constantly shifting sand bars and mud banks known simply as “Middle Ground” and you get the picture- it’s a challenge.

J/24s sailing CharlestonThe weekend forecast may actually exacerbate the tactics and strategies employed by the teams, both on the inshore courses and the offshore courses.  In general, it looks to be light to medium breezes for all four days.  Starting Thursday, a light northerly is supposed to die with potential for a 5-8 kts south/southeast seabreeze in the afternoon.  There should be some improvement on Friday, sunny in the high 70s with a SW flow moving SSW in the 8-15 kts range.  Saturday and Sunday look promising, with forecasts indicating SSW winds of 12-18 kts and sunny.

For the 127-strong field of J’s across PHRF handicap and one-design classes of J/22s, J/24s, J/70s, J/80s, and J/88s, it means they will represent by far the biggest brand participating in the event- nearly 60% of the entire fleet!  In short, Charleston Race Week has become another “de facto” J/Fest regatta for the passionate tribe of J/sailors in the eastern half of America.

Leading the charge by far is the largest fleet in the regatta- the 76-boat J/70 fleet.  It has the feeling of a “Woodstock-type” of gathering, sailors are coming from near and far to get a chance to re-unite after a long cold winter and for those who’ve been fortunate enough to have been traveling the Florida and Caribbean winter regatta trail.  Canadians, Nova Scotians, Chileans, Mexicans, Cayman’ers, Italians, Quebecois, and the sort are all looking forward to diving into the muddy, tricky currents of the famous harbor and, later, trading a few bruising war stories in the sands of the tent party about how they missed “the big one”.

The J/70s are loaded with both strong Corinthians teams as well as Open crews from across the world.  Top visitors include World Champion Italian sailor from YC Monaco and of America’s Cup & MOBY Lines fame, Vincenzo Onorato, steering one of his famous MASCALZONE LATINO’s.  He will be challenged by other visiting teams like Felipe Robles from Cofradia Nautico del Pacifico in Santiago, Chile; Peter Cunningham’s Cayman Islands crew on POWERPLAY RACING from Cayman Islands Sailing Club; Fabian Gomez-Ibarra’s VAGAZO from Guadalajara, Mexico; Hadrian Corning’s EMILEE from Pointe Claire YC in Westmount, Quebec; and Matthew Monts crew from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

J/70s sailing CharlestonOn the flip-side of that contingent is a thundering herd of fast crews hoping to maintain some composure in the tricky conditions despite their platinum credentials.  Such teams include current J/70 World Champion Joel Ronning’s crew on CATAPULT from Wayzata, MN; Jack Franco’s 3 BALL JT from Kemah, TX; Doug Strebel’s BLACK RIVER RACING; the formidable Snow/Brigden duo on COOL STORY BRO from San Francisco, CA; Allan Terhune on DAZZLER from Annapolis, MD (a J/22 World Champion); Martie Kullman’s NEW WAVE from St Petersburg YC; Bennet Greenwald’s PERSEVERANCE from San Diego YC; Tom Bowen’s REACH AROUND from Annapolis YC; John Brim’s RIMETTE from Fishers Island YC; Pamela Rose’s ROSEBUD from Coral Reef YC; Peter Vessella’s RUNNING WILD from St Francis YC; Brian Keane’s SAVASANA from Buzzards Bay; Will Welles’ SCAMP from Newport, RI; Hannah Swett’s SPARKLE from New York YC; Bruno Pasquinelli’s STAMPEDE from Fort Worth Boat Club, TX (the 2017 Quantum Winter Series winners); and John & Molly Baxter’s TEAM VINEYARD VINES from Riverside YC in CT (the 2016 Quantum Winter Series winners).  Yes, it’s a star-studded, highly competitive event that will see “flights” of 38 boats race each other in a continuous round-robin to determine the winner.

The top Corinthians J/70 crews will certainly include Andrew & Melissa Fisher’s BUTTON FLY from American YC; Frank McNamara’s CHINOOK from Eastern YC; Tracy Usher’s CHRISTINE ROBIN from St Francis YC; Jenn & Ray Wulff’s JOINT CUSTODY from Annapolis YC; and Alex Meleny’s TRUCKIN’ from Vineyard Haven YC.

Next up is the most excellent showing of the J/24 class, with twenty teams showing up for a “battery bash” across that waterfront all weekend long.  A number of cataclysmic confrontations of the megaton kind will most certainly take place in this legendary class.  Pulling out every weapon in their arsenal will be past J/24 champions like Mike Ingham’s USA 5443 from Rochester Canoe Club; Robby Brown’s ANGEL OF HARLEM for Davis Island YC; Tony Parker’s famously-named BANGOR PACKET from Annapolis YC; Ron Medlin’s BASH from Waccamaw SC; Mike Palazzo’s JO MAMMA from Charleston YC; Aidan Glackin’s MENTAL FLOSS from Lloyd Harbor YC; and Mike Marshall’s USA 5028 from Jamestown, RI.

Celebrating their first Midwinter Championship in some time are the J/80s.  A good fleet of eight teams will be on the starting line, representing seven states!  Familiar crews include Ken Mangano’s MANGO from Eastport YC in Annapolis, MD; John Storck’s J/80 North Americans winning team on RUMOR from Huntington, NY; and the top couple team on-board SHENANIGANS- Bill & Shannon Lockwood from Keyport YC in Holmdel, NJ.

J/88s sailing CharlestonThe five-boat fleet of J/88s promises to be a donnybrook amongst the leading crews.  Featured are two past Key West and East Coast winners, Mike Bruno’s WINGS team from American YC in Rye, NY and Iris Vogel’s DEVIATION crew from Huguenot YC in New Rochelle, NY.  Chasing them hard will be another woman skipper- Laura Weyler’s HIJINKS from Youngstown YC and Williamsville, NY; Brian O’Malley’s BLUE from Peninsula YC in Charlotte, NC and Ryan Ruhlman’s fast SPACEMAN SPIFF team from Lakeside YC in Cleveland, OH.

The J/105 class is making a bit of a comeback in this regatta, with 5 boats on the starting line.  With all local boats, the betting form is a bit suspect since none of the teams have competed on a national level.  Nevertheless, it could be a JOYRIDE (Robert Scribner) as they become the crew that becomes the SKIMMER (Martschink/Hagood) that goes past the RUCKUS (Seif/Smith/Jacques) formed on the RUMFRONT (Martschink/McKenzie), or else they will all be DEAD ON ARRIVAL (Highsmith)!! :0

The J/22s are sailing with four boats, but it must be noted that it includes the WARRIOR SAILING TEAM, a program designed to provide opportunities for America’s war veterans to experience the sea and team-building with friends. Also, the fleet includes two women’s skippers- Allyson Plessner on College of Charleston #9 and Kate O’Donnell on LEVEL PELICAN.

In the world of offshore sailing, there are a number premiere teams hoping to gather some silverware in both ORC handicap as well as PHRF Pursuit events.  In ORC A with 6 boats, we find multiple Key West Race Week champion, the J/122 TEAMWORK, again being led by owner/skipper Robin Team from Lexington, NC.  In ORC B with 6 boats, there is a quartet of crews that includes the J/120 MOOSE DOWN with Richard Moore from Carolina YC and John Keenan’s ILLYRIA from Mt Pleasant, SC; the J/35 ARROW with Willy Schwenzfeier from Charleston, SC; and the J/36 SOUL with Charles Coyer from College of Charleston YC.

The random-leg PHRF Pursuit Spinnaker fleet includes the J/111 KINETIC with Robert Stein from Charleston YC; the J/120 EMOCEAN with Bill Hanckel from Charleston YC; and the J/130 SCEPTRE with Bob Musor from Mt Pleasant, SC.  Their colleagues in PHRF Pursuit Non-Spin include the J/30 LAS BRISAS with Mark Swatta from Mt Pleasant, SC.  For more SPERRY Charleston Race Week sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.