Please select your home edition
Allen Brothers

Sperry Charleston Race Week - Day 1

by Dan Dickison 22 Apr 2017 08:06 BST 20-23 April 2017
More than 70 boats comprise the J/70 fleet on day 1 at Charleston Race Week © Charleston Race Week / Meredith Block

It was a tale of two mornings for the more than 200 boats taking to the water today for the opening day of 2017 Sperry Charleston Race Week. Over 150 inshore boats on four circles inside Charleston's world-famous harbour faced hot temperatures, flat water, and sedate wind of 4-6 knots on their first race.

In the meantime, the 46 offshore and Pursuit class boats were battling steep, short seas of 3-5 feet offshore in a solid 12-16 knots of Southerly wind – perfect sailing conditions for the larger boats sailing outside the shelter of Charleston's breakwater.

Charlestonian Eddie Evans, who has been a competitor at Race Week since its inception more than 20 years ago, was pleased with his team's third-place finish in today's breeze and lump, explaining that his Beneteau 381 Naut-on-Call "doesn't have the waterline to stay with those bigger boats in these conditions."

Evans explained that his team needed to stay in the hunt until conditions suited them better if the are to have a shot to win. "I always tell my crew, you can't win a regatta in one day, but you can definitely lose one that way." Evans described the Pursuit course today as a fetch, a run, a beat and then a long fetch in to the finish. "We knew the wind was going to turn, but it happened so suddenly, it swung from 240 to 210 in less than an hour, building so quickly we actually finished our race by 1:00 p.m.!" Evans thinks his team is one of the most competitive he's been part of at Race Week. "I've never won my class at this event, so maybe this might be the year," he said.

While the breeze stayed strong offshore, inshore's light morning gave way to a far more typical afternoon southeasterly, providing a great challenge to the one-design fleets and handicap racers. Continuing its reputation as one of America's most innovative regattas, Sperry Charleston Race Week is the first regatta in the USA to adopt widespread use of the international ORC rating system. Four classes of 27 teams are competing in three course areas, divided by size, speed and boat type, and results have been close from the go.

Proof of this may be found in ORC Class A, where the fastest and slowest-rated boats are tied on overall points after three races, proving the rule's versatility. Tony Langley's TP52 Gladiator made its debut at Race Week loaded with talent, strength, and experience with his pro-and-family program, yet its Robin Team's family-and-friends team on his J/122 Teamwork whose consistent runner-up scores keeps them tied on 6 points each.

"Our crew has been sailing together for a long time, and we always enjoy racing real Charleston days like today," said Team, a perennial champion at Race Week and the only four-time holder of the Palmetto Cup Trophy for the best overall performance at the event among boats racing under handicap rules. "ORC seems to be working well, but beating Gladiator will be tough, and the other guys are getting better every race too."

Chuck O'Malley, tactician on multiple Race Week winner Gerry Taylor's Cape Fear 38 Tangent, said despite his team's optimization for PHRF, they too felt the ratings were fair, and they lead ORC Class B by three points. "The time allowances seem about right. I think our advantage today was because we're able to go through the chop a little better relative to our competitors – we're just a little heavier and longer to get through the waves."

And inshore on Circle 3, Eagles Wings bowman Tim Fitzgerald says racing in the ORC C Class is spectacular. "These boats are all fast and all powerful, and the courses are so short that you really need to be on your 'A' game all the time," said Fitzgerald, a local kiteboarder. "The ratings don't even really matter, which is a good sign that it's working – if you sail well, you do well."

You don't have to plan years in advance to sail Charleston's premier sailing event, either, as University of South Carolina student Ryan Smoker found out after hooking up a ride via the online Race Week crew bulletin board. He found himself racing with Dan Berezin's Ontario-based team on board the appropriately-named Melges 24 Surprise. "The first race was a little rough with light air and tough shifts, but we were just getting used to each other and our positions. The boat and guys I'm racing with are from Canada so they haven't sailed this year, but as the races progressed and the breeze picked up, we got better pretty quickly."

Smoker says he's enjoying sailing here. "It's a lot different than sailing where I'm used to on Lake Murray. There, we are constantly chasing the wind, but here it appears to be a lot more consistent and steady. And fortunately, today we weren't overly influenced by the current."

Hank Stuart, Race Week's overall Principal Race Officer, seemed pleased after today's racing. "I think we're making a fairly seamless transition to the use of ORC at the event this year," he said. "The only tricky part is that we have ORC boats on three different race courses. Usually you just need one ORC scorer, but that dynamic made it somewhat more challenging. Fortunately, we had Dobbs Davis here on site, the ORC rep for the U.S., and he successfully steered us through some challenges today. He also provided a very helpful training earlier this week."

Stuart was also bullish on the addition of a fourth inshore racecourse. "It's turned out to be a really good addition to the event. It will enable us to accommodate additional classes in the future and it's allowing us to spread out the current classes so that everyone gets in more races."

Stories abound throughout the fleets during Sperry Charleston Race Week, which runs 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).

Related Articles

Sperry Charleston Race Week overall
An interesting dynamic on the docks on the final day There was an interesting dynamic taking place on the docks of Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina Sunday morning. Posted on 17 Apr 2018
Sperry Charleston Race Week Family Sailing Feature
Family dynamic become a hallmark of the regatta If there has been one constant about Sperry Charleston Race Week over the years it's the family dynamic that has become a hallmark of the regatta. Posted on 16 Apr 2018
The volunteers who make it possible
Those who help run Sperry Charleston Race Week How do you run a regatta with a whopping 246 boats in 16 classes? It requires flawless organization, and a ton of manpower. Those two factors go hand in hand. Posted on 15 Apr 2018
Sperry Charleston Race Week day 2
All-important Saturday as forecast brings concern for the final day Forecasts call for a front to move through town and there is no way to predict how much racing will be completed on the final day. As the skies darkened over Charleston Harbor on Saturday evening, the leaders had to feel good about their position. Posted on 15 Apr 2018
Sperry Charleston Race Week day 1
Excellent first day of racing on Charleston harbor J/24 skipper Tony Parker called it "champagne conditions" and it would be hard to argue with that assessment. Posted on 14 Apr 2018
Sperry Charleston Race Week preview
Gearing up for another exciting edition Cedric Lewis had never competed in Sperry Charleston Race Week before last year. The Annapolis resident always heard great things about the regatta and therefore jumped at the chance to crew for John Potter in the VX One class. Posted on 5 Apr 2018
Sperry Charleston Race Week overall
New champions crowned after a tricky finale Charleston is known for its reliable spring sea breeze, but the Holy City's coast outdid itself this year during the 22nd edition of Sperry Charleston Race Week. Posted on 24 Apr 2017
Sperry Charleston Race Week day 2
Wild day with big wind and big waves For a second straight day, Charleston Harbor and the open ocean just offshore provided near-perfect conditions for over 200 competing teams at Sperry Charleston Race Week 2017. Posted on 23 Apr 2017
Competitors and sponsors alike psyched
For Sperry Charleston Race Week 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. Posted on 21 Apr 2017
Pro-Am Competition highlight
At Sperry Charleston Race Week 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 quality that motivates those who come back year after year. Posted on 20 Apr 2017