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Competitors and sponsors alike psyched for Sperry Charleston Race Week

by Dan Dickison on 21 Apr 20-23 April 2017
Vincenzo Onorato's J/70 Mascalzone Latino (73) is the lone Italian entry at Sperry Charleston Race Week © Charleston Race Week / Tim Wilkes

Sperry Charleston Race Week 2017 will start Friday morning, and everyone – from competitors, to VIPS and sponsors to fans and locals – is pumped that there's a perfect spring forecast for the 22nd edition of the biggest multiclass keelboat regatta in the Americas. With three days of 80+ degree weather, no rain, and reliable southerly breeze on tap for 16 classes of race boats, the cream should rise to the top when Sunday's winners are announced.

If today's practice races are any indication, the competition should be just as hot as the temperature; over 100 of the 212 registered teams spent the day practicing starts and maneuvers on Charleston Harbor, with over sixty J/70s practice-racing for hours. While Charleston is known for its serious parties, there's little question that the racing is equally serious – at least for the top contenders here.

One of those top contenders is the reigning world champion in the biggest and toughest fleet in town, the J/70. Joel Ronning's Catapult won a hard-fought battle to triumph over the world's best last year in San Francisco, and he's in Charleston with a crack crew to continue his dominance. Catapult tactician and National Sailing Hall of Famer John Kostecki may have only been to Charleston once before, but his ties to the city run deep.

"Charleston may very well have been responsible for our success aboard Ilbruck in the 2000 Volvo Ocean Race," said Kostecki, who spent some four months here with his crew training before winning that edition of the famed race around the world. Kostecki also owns an Olympic medal and an America's Cup win – the only sailor in the world to accomplish sailing's "Grand Slam." He said he remembers his time here fondly, but nothing he learned then will be useful to him this week.

"Unfortunately all our training back then was offshore, so I've got a lot of catching up to do inside the harbour," Kostecki said. With a fleet that includes long-time America's Cup team owner and Farr 40 World Champion Vincenzo Onorato (Mascalzone Latino), teen phenom and past National Champ Gannon Troutman (Pied Piper), and past Charleston winner and sportboat standout Marty Kullman (New Wave) on the most congested part of the tricky harbour, Kostecki has his work cut out for him.

While Catapult and the J/70 boys are girding for an all-out war, the crew of the TP52 Gladiator has slightly different reasons for competing in Sperry Charleston Race Week. While British owner Tony Langley campaigns his TP52s at the very highest level of the TP52 SuperSeries, he's brought his 'B' boat to town to fulfill a longtime wish to sail in one of America's ultimate sailing cities along with his family, friends and two British war veterans. Son Bernard (24) will take the helm from dad this week, while daughter Charlotte and son Will will serve as crew along with Tony.

Instead of the kind of all-pro team usually aboard Gladiator, Langley's crew for Charleston includes Afghanistan combat veterans Pete Dahl and Luke Mason, both of whom sailed with the UK-based Toe in the Water program, a charity set up in 2008 and sponsored by the Langley Foundation to help traumatized and injured service personnel through competitive sailing. They won't be without at least some professional help this week. Morgan Trubovich is known as one of the world's best sail trimmers, and the five-time America's Cup veteran is excited to sail his first Charleston Race Week event.

"We'll be glad to race against some good teams in the ORC A fleet," said Trubovich, "but this place is so welcoming that we already feel like we've won." Like Kostecki, he's only seen the harbour from a much bigger boat. "We screamed into the harbour aboard [100' super-maxi] Comanche after a training run two years ago, and I'll never forget how pretty it was," he said.

It's not just the sailors getting psyched for the 22nd edition; Sponsors are gratified to see the spring's marquee event going strong for another year.

"Quantum is thrilled to once again be a sponsor of Sperry Charleston Race Week," said Ed Reynolds, President of the Michigan-based Quantum Sails. "And we're looking forward to a great event. It is a great opportunity for us to showcase our abilities and commitment to enhancing the regatta experience for all the participants."

Reynolds' outlook was echoed by Malcolm Gosling, the President and CEO of Gosling-Castle Partners, Inc., the purveyors of fine rum from Bermuda. "We are proud to sponsor Charleston Race Week. This our 12th year as a partner to this wonderful event. We have a deep heritage and have been involved in major sailing events for a long time, going back to the 1800s."

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.

Stories abound throughout the fleets during Sperry Charleston Race Week, which runs from Thursday, April 20 through Sunday, April 23. 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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