Stormy end to Sperry Charleston Race Week


16 April 2018

  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 on Sunday 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 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 of approximately 8 and 6 nautical miles.

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. 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. Among two overall winners in the one-design and handicap classes was the Donovan-designed GP 26 Rattle-n-Rum. Skipper Mike Beasley and his team were near flawless in capturing the ORC C class and the title 2018 ORC Class C East Coast Champion, reeling off five straight victories to start the regatta. The Annapolis-based team also posted a second with the lowest result being a fourth in the highly-competitive class of speedy sportboats.

It was yet another strong performance at Sperry Charleston Race Week for Beasley, who was presented with the prestigious Palmetto Trophy for the second straight year for best performance among ORC handicap entries. “I’m at a loss for words. To win this trophy back-to-back is obviously sensational. It’s a highlight of my sailing career,” said Beasley, who owns and operates a marine services business in Annapolis. Joe Gibson called tactics and trimmed the spinnaker while Teddy Haaland worked the bow and served as strategist aboard Rattle-n-Rum, which has now captured class honors at Sperry Charleston Race Week three years in a row. Brady Stagg trimmed the main and handled strategy downwind, Joanna Haaland handled the runners while Ryan Rutkowski was the floater.

“This is a team sport and these guys and girls are the key to the boat’s success. I’m so lucky to have each and every one of these sailors on my crew,” Beasley said. “I’m so grateful that they’re committed to the same goals as I am. I can’t thank all of them enough for all the hard work they do to get this boat ready to perform on the race course.” Sperry Charleston Race Week 2108 closed on Sunday 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, giving spectators on shore a peak at the big boats who had been in action out of sight to the east out beyond the harbor.

Principal Race Officer Taran Teague sent the three classes on Circle 5 on a two-lap tour of Charleston Harbor and Spookie skipper Steve Benjamin acknowledged it was a bit nerve-wracking for a TP52 that draws 3.5 meters and did slide onto a shoal nearby on a practice day. “It was a little claustrophobic inside. We were carefully watching the laylines and the depth because there were only certain areas we could go,” he said. “It was a terrific race and real fun. It was a great day of sailing and illuminated several areas of improvement” prior to the team’s upcoming summer program.

Spookie picked up its fourth win of the series on Sunday and captured the 2018 ORC Class A East Coast Championship title by four points over the XP44 Sitella, owned by Ian Hill of Chesapeake, VA. The 1D35 Photon finished off a wire-to-wire win to be the 2018 ORC Class B East Coast Champion despite placing fourth in the final race. There was a reason for that as skipper David O’Reilly stopped the boat during an upwind leg after a sailor fell off one of the J/105 entries. “We bore off, dropped the jib and went to render aid. Just as we were reaching the sailor he got scooped up by a support RIB,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly did not bother to request redress since Photon had already clinched victory after winning three straight races to start the regatta. Most of the team members raced on an SR33 that captured Sperry Charleston Race Week in 2005, but had not won their hometown regatta since. “This regatta has eluded us for a while now. Being a local boat, this means a lot to finally win in Charleston again,” O’Reilly said.



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