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Sperry Charleston Race Week starts today

by Sperry Charleston Race Week 15 Apr 2016 07:43 BST 14-17 April 2016

Windy forecast provides perfect gift For Race Week's 21st Birthday

Nearly 250 Racing Teams ready for extreme conditions

Downtown Charleston residents were treated to the sight of a harbour full of colorful sails on Thursday as a postcard-perfect day ushered in yet another year of Sperry Charleston Race Week. Nearly half the 242 boats entered took the day to practice on the water to get ready for the first gun, while the rest of the fleet finished rigging and deck work, with everyone inspecting their boats thoroughly in anticipation of the big blow coming on Friday.

Event Chairman Randy Draftz says that nature smiled on the fleet for Race Week's 21st birthday. "This is a dream forecast with our strongest group of sponsors, supporters, and competitors ever, and it's fitting that our birthday present is the same thing that made Charleston such a world famous sailing destination: Great wind."

Charleston sailmaker and top pro crew John Bowden says the forecast 20-pus-knot northeasterly could make things 'interesting' for the entire fleet. "We've got a great Melges 24 fleet coming in as the whole country gets ready for the Worlds later this year in Miami, and the weather looks awesome." Bowden says it looks like some of the most exciting racing in years. "Friday will be full-on and maybe a little easier Saturday and Sunday – we should all get in some great sailing."

With three courses in Charleston Harbor and one outside the jetties, Sperry Charleston Race Week welcomes competitive sailors of all skill levels, from the highest ranks of Olympic and America's Cup crews to the newest jib-and-main racer looking to get their toes in the water. Skippers and crews hail from some 27 nations, while boats ranging from 19 feet to 84 feet race in seven mixed/handicap fleets and 11 one-design racing classes.

Terry Hutchinson is one of those America's Cup stars, and he says there are few things better than April on the water in Charleston. "I don't get to come to Charleston every year, but when I do, it starts the whole season off perfectly," said Hutchinson, who races aboard Joel Ronning's Catapult in the 72-boat J/70 fleet. The former Artemis Racing skipper and his team arrived early enough to put in two extra days of practice, which Hutchinson said would be essential for hist team to do well in Charleston. "The competition level in this class is no joke, and this will probably be the biggest J/70 regatta all the way until Worlds in 2016. We could use even more practice, but we're ready to get out there tomorrow and make good things happen."

One of the fastest handicap racing boats in town is the 1D35 Warhorse, and Charleston resident Trey Brown says tomorrow's forecast isn't looking great for his craft. "We're a pretty light race boat and we'll load it up with crew on the rail, but the bigger boats will have a real advantage in the big seas," said Brown. "It's not the winds that bother us, but with waves likely in the 10-foot range, we're certainly going to find the limits."

One class of boat making it's debut here in Charleston is the GP 26, but unlike other one-design classes, these high-performance boats are slightly different from one another, so for the first time at Sperry Charleston Race Week, we'll see accurate, measurement-based handicaps generated by the Offshore Racing Congress (ORC).

Measurements made over the last few days have helped to define their rated speed potential over the courses raced here at Race Week, with Peter D'Arista's (California, Md.) Supra Turbo rating the fastest in the group, and John Stevens's (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) Sprint 6 receiving the most time under handicap. Both the designer of these boats – Jim Donovan from Hawaii – and the builder of four of them - Serhad Ciftci from Istanbul – are on hand for the racing.

"These GP 26's are fantastic, really fast and fun to sail, and we're very excited to have everyone here together and ready to race," says Mike Beasley (Annapolis, MD), helmsman on Ciftci's Rattle N Rum. "Its great to have the ORC tools available to recognize our small differences in set-up, but over an average course length the differences will be small and I'm sure it will be tight racing."

One of the newest innovations at the event will be live boat tracking in real time, courtesy of German software leader SAP and US Sailing. Many of the boats in the fleet have opted to participate, so their track information will be visible on the event's website while racing is going on.

www.charlestonraceweek.com

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