Sperry Charleston Race Week


13 April 2018

  Competitors in Sperry Charleston Race Week 2018 were hurriedly carrying equipment, sail bags and other gear down to the docks while the various vendors were busily setting up shop. Event director Randy Draftz and other organizers with Charleston Ocean Racing Association (CORA) were huddled in a conference room going over last-minute details while volunteers were working furiously to install the infrastructure that transforms the beach area into a thriving party venue.

By mid-afternoon, a large contingent of boats was out on the water testing sails and tuning rigs. Most of the J/70 and Melges 24 fleets conducted a series of practice races mid Charleston Harbor. A significant number of VX One and Flying Tiger 7.5 entries filled the racing area in the Cooper River located closer to the Arthur Ravenel Bridge.

Thursday was all about final preparations and practice in advance of Sperry Charleston Race Week 2018. It will be go time on Friday as 246 boats in 16 classes take to the waters off this historic coastal city during the 23rd edition of this renowned regatta. Quantum Sails professional Ed Baird conducted the first of many weather briefings in the tent area on Thursday morning and declared the forecast quite promising. Baird said competitors can expect a healthy sea breeze from the southeast on Friday and Saturday.

“Right now it looks like we’re going to have some great racing,” Baird said. “For two days at least, the sea breeze should be really solid and fairly steady.” Baird said Sunday could be a bit dicey as current forecasts call for a front to move through Charleston. However, there is optimism the conditions will improve in time to complete the three-day regatta in the afternoon. Overall principal race officer Hank Stuart and his highly competent team are confident they can give the sailors plenty of action by the time Sperry Charleston Race Week wraps up.

Racing will be conducted on six separate circles with 10 of the 11 one-design classes along with ORC C sailing courses inside Charleston Harbor. Meanwile, ORC A and B will be joined by the J/105 fleet on Circle 5 that is set on the Atlantic Ocean. A pair of Pursuit Race classes (Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker) consisting of 35 boats will do one distance jaunt per day around a combination of government and drop marks. Principal race officer Ray Redniss is adding several new course configurations to spice up the Pursuit Race classes, which have become increasingly more popular.

What’s in store for ORC classes?

Taran Teague, PRO on Circle 5, issued updated Sailing Instructions for the offshore courses to accommodate racing back into Charleston Harbor to close out each day. Plans call for an ocean race with a harbor start on Sunday.
“I really like what the race committee has done to change things up. It’s a long day out there and when we have to motor in afterward we wind up being late for the party,” said Andrew Guhl, owner of the 1D35 named Fogdog. “I think it’s a really good idea that will add another changing element to the event.”

ORC B is comprised of five boats that all hail from the greater Charleston area. There is another 1D35 along with a J/35, J/120 and J/36. “This is a good group of boats that race regularly here in Charleston. We are familiar each other so it should be real competitive.”

ORC A features the fastest boat in the regatta – Spookie, a TP52 owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin. That class also includes Teamwork, a J/122 skippered by Robin Team that has enjoyed considerable success at Charleston Race Week. Team, a resident of Lexington, N.C., is the only four-time winner of the prestigious Palmetto Trophy Palmetto that is presented to winner of the tightest class among handicap divisions.

Rattle-n-Rum, a GP26 skippered by Mike Beasley of Annapolis, Md., is the defending Palmetto Cup champion. Beasley brings back basically the same crew and will try to repeat as winner of ORC C, which has increased to 13 boats this year. “We have a wide range of sportboats that are all a bit different in terms of performance and rating. I think it’s going to be fantastic competition,” Beasley said. “Charleston always turns on very technical conditions with the current being the most challenging factor. There isn’t a 30-minute period in that harbor that is the same and things change with each windward leg.”

ORC rule was implemented as the principal handicap rule for the Sperry Charleston Race Week 2017, it was the first time the system was used in a major North American regatta.  Thirty boats raced in four separate ORC Classes at this event. One of the most competitive fleets was ORC C. The fleet consisted of f 9 boats, SR33, Melges 32, Melges 30, Heno 30, 2X Farest28Rs, and 3GP26s. USA2604 Michael Beasley and Team Rattle and Rum won the event with a comfortable margin. The overall award for the best performance in an ORC Class went also to Mike Beasley and his Annapolis-based crew of Joe Gibson, Ted and Joanna Harland, Scott Gibbs and Ty Van Dalen.. Beasley and his crew were awarded the prestigious and historic Palmetto Cup for winning the tightest class in the handicap divisions



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