2014 Charleston Race Week - Thousands of sailors descend on Charleston

Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week
2014 Charleston Race Week - Today was the busiest day of the year for the yacht clubs, marinas, and launch ramps dotting Charleston Harbor as nearly 300 boats rigged, tuned, and splashed their way to Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina for Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week 2014.

In the 19 years since the event began, it has transformed itself from a fun local regatta into the largest keelboat regatta in the Western Hemisphere, and despite seven years of consistent growth, Event Director Randy Draftz says there’s much more to come. 'Every year we see big changes in the fleets, but one thing stays the same: People love racing in Charleston.' Draftz says that innovations like the new multihull class, the growing Pursuit Class, and a distance race addition to the high-octane High Performance Rule Class have all helped draw new competitors to Charleston.

'Southern hospitality means providing our guests with not only the highest level of race management and event organization; we want to give them exactly the kind of racing they want, and we’re committed to doing just that,' said Draftz.

Charleston’s reputation as one of the world’s ultimate sailing destinations has spread far and wide, with the 2014 edition of CRW attracting boats from nine nations and as far away as Norway, Germany, and Brazil. 'We’ve heard so much about Charleston and we’re very psyched to finally be here,' said Rio De Janeiro’s Cesar Gomez, skipper of the Melges 20 'Portabella'. 'We are ready for some great racing, and even more ready to check out Charleston’s great nightlife,' said Gomez.

The Charleston-based Swan 56 'Azura' spreads her wings during practice in front of the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, headquarters for Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week. She will race in the Pursuit class for the cruiser/racers attending the event.

Kai Katchadourian airs over a section as Josh Stone heads out.

While the big-fleet one-design racing dominates the highlight reels, one of Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week’s fastest growing fleets is the Pursuit Class. 'This class is growing so fast, because, let’s face it – we’ve got these boats that aren’t real race boats, and this gives us a great way to for them to compete,' said Draftz.

Charleston racer Eddie Evans, who owns the Beneteau 381 'Naut-On-Call,' said teams like his are every bit as competitive as the one-design fleets. 'We’ve had the entire event come down to a one-second win. We may not be the latest and greatest carbon fiber grand prix boats, but we’re definitely racing hard!'

Ideal Wind Forecast for Friday

Once again, Charleston is ready to deliver gorgeous sailing weather for the 2014 fleet. According to professional forecaster Shea Gibson from Weatherflow – the regatta’s official weather source – racers can expect a moderate southerly flow tomorrow with sea breezes building in the afternoon to the mid teens; enough to keep things fresh, but not frightening for the nearly 300 boats on starting lines spread between Charleston Harbor and the offshore course. Sailors can monitor local conditions live and check out forecast tables here.

Three Audi Melges 20 racing boats test their speed near Fort Sumter during a Thursday afternoon practice for Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week.