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Charleston Race Week at Patriots Point - Day 1

by Charleston Race Week 20 Apr 03:04 BST April 18-21, 2024
Light & shifty conditions challenge the 16 classes racing on day 1, Charleston Race Week 2024 at Patriots Point © Joy Dunigan/CRW2024

When the going gets tough, the tough get going and today was no exception on Charleston Harbor where 16 classes proved that the smart tactic no matter the weather was to put your best sail up, keep moving forward, and have as much fun as possible. Racing was tight as sailors pushed each other across the fleet; in the Melges 20 class 3 teams tied for second, and a 4-way tie in the J88 fleet ensures that all bets are off for Saturday's racing.

PRO Taran Teague noted, "When we came out this morning, we knew it was going to be a tough day due to lighter air building after 11am but we didn't know quite when. It was going to be coming from the west and was anticipated to back to the south, south-west for a sea breeze. We were looking for puffy clouds to indicate backing of the wind, the sunshine and land heating but it was delayed because we had too many clouds." Nonetheless, most classes got at least two races in and a shipload of smiling faces at the post racing party on the USS Yorktown told today's real story.

Chris Beckwith, sailing on his Melges 20 Brass Monkey for the first time at CRW, finished in first with 6 points while the 3 teams behind him are tied for second with 9 points each. Beckwith said, "It was certainly challenging with weather all over the board, but we had good racing with great teamwork, and we stayed consistent. Staying focused on our tasks and minimizing mistakes - the simple things we can overlook - is what we'll be looking for. It's our first time sailing together so we'll be making sure that we're fine-tuning what we already know."

There's a lot of love in the Melges 24 fleet this week, and competitors are thrilled with the show in the class at CRW. Anthony Kotoun owner and skipper of Stepping Razor leads in class after a tight battle with Sandy Askew's well-honed team on Flying Jenny, taking a 2, 1 versus Askew's 1, 2 score. Hot on their heels is Lucky Dog, owned and helmed by Travis Weisleder, who finished the day with 4 points.

"We're super excited, I bought this boat to have some fun," Kotoun said. "This class has always been one of my favorites, the class is so good, it's very challenging. I get to sail against my best friend Bora - we raced together in the International Moth class but now we're a little older, so we bash around in these things instead!" he laughed. "We had the boat going fast - this racecourse and this wind direction is all about waiting for your time to strike and limiting your tactical risk exposure and stay close and we did a superb job of doing that today."

Warpspeed, the J24 owned and skippered by George Murray, leads the 11-strong fleet by 5 points. He's been sailing in Charleston for years, but this is the first time skippering his own boat at CRW. "We had a great day; we weren't used to the tides so we were having to deal with that, but we've got a USC sailor on board with local knowledge and without him I couldn't have done it. We had a fast boat; we had a great day, and it was fun."

Andy Graff, leading the J88s on his boat Exile, commented on the tough competition, notably the boats behind him who are in a 4-way tie for second. "After the delay we had a nice sea breeze come in right around when the tide shifted it started to fill in and it was great breeze at the end. The race committee did the right thing by not falling for some of the short-lived increases in breezes that happened earlier because they weren't from the right direction. Our crew work was really good, granted we haven't sailed since the fall on this boat so I'm sure we are rusty, but it got better, and we didn't have any mishaps. There were a lot of boats neck and neck and at this point it is anyone's regatta!"

J70 Reggaeshark, owned and helmed by Ed Lebens, and deep in talent with pros Alec Anderson, Luke Muller, and River Paquin on board, leads with 4 points ahead of second place boat Emperia, owned and skippered by John Heaton. In third with 11 points is Doug Newhouse on Yonder.

"We had a pretty good day, it was a long day, pretty shifty with a lot of different conditions," Lebens said. "I've been floating in and out of the J70 class for a number of years now but once in a while I get my friends together to sail with me. Obviously, I always look for skill in my crew, but I like personality over anything and always have my friends sail with me. I sailed CRW two years ago on another boat, so this is my first time driving here. We'll keep pushing tomorrow but it is super snakes and ladders here!"

Offshore, Luke Tougas, tactician on the Antrim 40 XL, sailed by students from the College of Charleston, took first in Pursuit Spinnaker A. This was Tougas' first CRW, and his crew were ready to roll.

"Today was tricky," Tougas said. "We started and sailed into a big hole that hit the fleet around the first mark. Our crew work was immaculate, we started with the spinnaker, so we were able to go jib down and kite up really fast and power through it. From there we caught up to our competition and just tried to stay ahead of everyone as best we could. Polyester was behind us and sailed really well - they had a couple of sails we didn't have and it was frustrating to see them put those up behind us! It's been really cool training with Ned Goss, he's taught me so much in the time I've been at school here."

Deja Voodoo, owned and skippered by Bill Zartler, leads the 11-strong J105 fleet with 2 points, ahead of Charleston boat Joyride who finished second with 5 points. Joe Pitcavage, also a Charleston local sits in third with 8 points.

"We had a good day after a long wait for the wind to fill which it did," Zartler said. "When the wind stabilized with just small shifts, we managed to not to let the current affect us too badly, and it was great short course racing; it went pretty quickly especially with the current pushing us downwind in one direction which shortened the course one-way. Last time we did this regatta we were racing offshore so having a J105 inshore was nice, all the spinnakers running down on the courses next to us was spectacular. Hopefully we get wind a little earlier tomorrow and we get three races in, we keep the crew work down and watch for the shifts."

Note: Saturday at 6:30pm is the CRW Pro/Am competition, weather permitting.

Competitors are invited at 8am each morning for the online weather briefing presented by Quantum Sails. Join forecaster Shea Gibson from Sailflow Weather with Quantum Sails pros for interactive forecasts, local knowledge, and expert tips. Get your questions ready and prepare for your day on the water!

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