Charleston. This gem city on the shores of South Carolina offers up hospitality in historical proportions as it prepares for one of the season’s most exciting regattas along the eastern seaboard. Charleston Race Week, produced through the joint efforts of the South Carolina Maritime Foundation and the Charleston Ocean Racing Association is hosted by Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, and strategically planned to coincide with the conclusion of Florida’s winter race season and the beginning of the Annapolis summer season.
According to Yachtscoring.com, 30 teams at last year’s event hail from New England – many of those right smack in the middle of WindCheck’s distribution path. Steve Thurston of Thurston Quantum Sails in Bristol, RI discovered Charleston Race Week last year. “After wrapping up Key West Race Week we took Mighty Puffin, our J/29, up to Charleston,” he said. “I’m telling you, those folks do an outstanding job with this regatta – the whole town is friendly, the event is fun and we will be going back for many years!” Thurston’s team took second place in a PHRF class that was “loaded with J/29s.”
With only a few months till the regatta (April 14 - 17), organizers are working feverishly to ensure there is plenty of excitement offered up on the course as well as off. Enthusiastic one-design classes have helped Charleston Race Week explode in popularity and 2011 will see the biggest participation yet in numerous fleets.
Charleston Race Week is the final event in “The Road to Corpus Sailing Series” which leads up to the Melges 24 World Championship in Texas, and Steve Kopf, U.S. Melges 24 Class President, is elated. “National and international teams alike are extremely excited to see the biggest M24 fleet ever in Charleston this April, and as a Charleston resident, so am I!” he exclaimed. Competing in Charleston this year is Mediterranean champ of the Melges Europe, Federico Michettei who has entered with the twotime Melges 24 World Champion Uka Uka racing team. “It seems every month that we hear yet another great comment about Charleston and with the World Championship just a month later in Texas, this will be the perfect place to get some big fleet practice time in the boat in preparation for Worlds,” said Michetti, the only man to ever win three Melges 24 World Championships.
Adding to the one-design excitement is the substantial increases in the already large fleets in the Viper 640 class. Mark Mc- Namara, Sales Director at Landfall/Dinghy Locker in Stamford, CT can’t say enough good things about the event, describing the city’s southern hospitality, weather, competition, racecourse and parties with superlatives such as “Great! Wonderful! Fabulous! Excellent! and The Most!” McNamara is keeping his fingers crossed that scheduling allows him to return this year with his Viper 640, appropriately named Dinghy Locker. “Those folks really know how to organize,” he enthuses. “Charleston Race Week was the most fun I’ve had racing in a long time!”
In anticipation of stronger turnouts in larger classes like the Tripp 26, J/24, J/80 and J/105, Race Director Randy Draftz and his team are hard at work on solutions to provide the best experience possible for more than 1,400 participating sailors. “This event’s success has required constant adaptation and evolution from the professionals and volunteers that keep everything running,” said Draftz. “Our biggest change for 2011 is to create a new location for our fourth course – the sportboats and smaller handicap raceboat course.” Draftz explained that the new course would use the Dynamite Hole channel to eliminate nearly a half hour off the commute to the racecourse. “The new passage requires attention to navigation, but the sailing area will be fantastic and everyone will get to the party sooner!” The North circle will continue to host the larger IRC and PHRF boats. And, as always, those events are scheduled so that substantial tidal currents push the boats out in the morning and pulls them back in after racing.
Charleston is proud to welcome two classes that haven’t competed at Race Week in years – Tartan Tens and J/22s. “We love Charleston Race Week, but until this year, we couldn’t seem to get enough momentum together for the mostly Midwest based fleet to get to Charleston,” explained Ted Mahoney, the T10 National Fleet Captain. “We’re confident the fleet will enjoy great racing at Charleston Race Week for their 2011 Midwinter Championship.” The hugely popular J/22 class that attracted well over a hundred boats to its World Championship in Rochester, NY will be new to the venue. Greg Fisher, one of the world’s top J/22 racers and Director of Sailing at the always-competitive College of Charleston, said, “Charleston Race Week is a super opportunity for J/22 sailors…sailing here is just incredible.”
To help keep expenses down, Charleston Race week has partnered with Azalea Moving and Storage to offer free, secure storage of trailered boats under 30 feet from January until Race Week. Additionally, Pierside Boatworks is offering money-saving deals to larger boats that have their boats rigged and launched for Race Week at the yard. Competitors can get more information on the event website and are urged to make arrangements soon before the free spaces fill up.
Although racing is the “star of the show,” Charleston offers plenty of fun after the races as well as an excellent view of the race from the vantage of race host and sponsor Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina at Patriots Point, where families can watch the harbor races from their own balconies. Each evening the resort’s private beach area turns into one of the best beach parties in the Southeast. As hundreds of racers, families and fans gather for food, music and Gosling’s Rum, you’re sure to run into somebody from back home. “Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina could not be more thrilled that Charleston Race Week has become one of the top regattas in the United States,” said Tracy Mitchell, the resort’s Director of Sales and Marketing. “Each year we work closely with the South Carolina Maritime Foundation to find ways to improve upon the last year.”
Charleston’s legendary Southern hospitality has not gone unappreciated by competitors. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so welcome anywhere,” said professional sailor Rodney Keenan of New Zealand, who crewed on the 52-foot Vincitore during her dominant 2010 performance in the IRC division. For 2011, organizers are working hard to spread that legendary hospitality to the web via social networking.
“We’ve been amazed at how much interest we receive from our Facebook and Twitter presence,” said Community Relations Coordinator Rachel Stewart, whose team will be posting news on lodging, dining, and entertainment in Charleston as well as all relevant sailing news. “We’re also going to keep our extremely popular ‘photo tagging’ feature going for 2011, where we post official event photos to Facebook and encourage everyone to tag their friends and family,” she said.
For the past several years, WindCheck’s Sound-Off columnist, Bill Sandberg, has encouraged readers to experience Charleston Race Week. “Charleston offers the perfect combination of wind, weather, camaraderie and, of course, that good old-fashioned Southern hospitality with exceptional race management from the organizers!” said Sandberg.
Get more information and register at charlestonraceweek.com or join the buzz on Facebook.com/ CharlestonRaceWeek, Twitter.com/CHSRaceWeek and YouTube.com/user/CharlestonRaceWeek.