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Pro-Am Competition to highlight Sperry Charleston Race Week

by Dan Dickison on 20 Apr 20-23 April 2017
A hive of activity on the dock at Sperry Charleston Race Week © Charleston Race Week / Tim Wilkes

Sperry Charleston Race Week has been America's biggest keelboat regatta for some time. While the racers love the competition and parties that come with a 'supersized' regatta like this, it's the overall quality of Sperry Charleston Race Week that motivates those who come back year after year. And among those sailors is a wealth of competitive talent, including former Olympic and America's Cup racers, along with numerous top-tier professionals. This trait has prompted the event's organizers to orchestrate a stadium-style event as one of the regatta's highlights.

On Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m., shortly after the fleets return to the dock, ten tremendously accomplished racing sailors will compete against each other for bragging rights to the first-ever Sperry Charleston Race Week Pro-Am Event. These professional sailors, along with their crews will race aboard identical J/22 sailboats, and all funds raised by the event will go to the College of Charleston's highly regarded sailing program.

"We're proud that our regatta attracts top talent from not only the US, but all around the globe," said Randy Draftz, Race Week's Event Director. "We're taking advantage of all the World, National, and Olympic Champions, as well as college sailing standouts here in Charleston this week – and we're making them work for a good cause!"

Among the sailors who will be competing in Saturday's Pro-Am is 2014 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and two-time U.S. Women's Match Racing Champion Stephanie Roble. She'll be joined by double Olympic Gold Medalist Malcolm Page, who now directs the US Olympic Sailing Team. Multiple America's Cup and Class World Champ Morgan Trubovich will do his best to show the way around the course, while former Olympian Paul "The Pope" Henderson – an octogenarian – will take the helm of a J/22 and prove he's still got what it takes.

Joining these pros on board each of the J/22s will be one crewmember from the College of Charleston's varsity sailing team and either a special guest or a high school racer. "This Pro-Am Event is a first for Race Week," Draftz said. "We think it's going to be a really fun part of the regatta, both for spectators and the competitors."

And the Pro-Am Event is just one of the many fun and educational aspects that the regatta organizers have planned. They have also partnered with US Sailing to offer that organization's Reach program, which creates new pathways for young sailors in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. Sailing Through STEM Day, which is open to any young would-be sailor, will take place on Saturday from 10:00 to 2:00 on the docks at Charleston Harbor Marina. And US Sailing is also offering a Reach training course for educators on Friday, April 21 at the College of Charleston Sailing Center. Interested parties can sign up here.

Sperry Charleston Race Week is now in its 22nd year. This regatta attracts sailors from all across the U.S. and around the world. This year, sailors from 24 U.S. states and nine foreign countries have registered to compete. Among them are the skippers of 76 J/70s, which represents one of the largest gatherings for this one-design class.

Sperry Charleston Race Week gets underway with practice races, a skippers meeting and a festive beachside celebration on Thursday, April 20, and the competition starts in earnest the following day. Nearly 220 boats have registered to compete. Follow the event on its website and on its social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube).

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