Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week - Education is an extra mission

Educational outreach at past editions of this regatta included a presentation on the America's Cup in 2012, augmented by the Cup itself on stage. - Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week
Dan Dickison
2014 Charleston Race Week - Most regattas entertain participants with great action on the water, epic social affairs on shore, and a few frills here and there. Other regattas do a lot of the same and raise money for a worthwhile cause as well. But few sailing events combine all of those traits while also providing substantial educational offerings at the same time. Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week is one of those rare regattas.

When Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week kicks off next week on Thursday, April 10, it will play host to over 280 boats. That’s more than 2,000 sailors – the majority of them from out of town. Most of these individuals won’t be traveling to the Carolina Lowcountry to deepen their competitive knowledge. The majority will be bent on simply enjoying the fruits of racing: time spent on the water in exciting competition and the chance for some serious socializing afterward with fellow competitors. But those sailors keen on honing their skills and knowledge of the sport will find some terrific opportunities here.

The regatta’s educational outreach begins straight away on Day 1 when America’s Cup winner, three-time world match race champ and TP-52 skipper Ed Baird will combine his expertise with local knowledge provided by College of Charleston Head Sailing Coach Ward Cromwell. The duo will give a pre-race presentation on Charleston’s often tricky tidal currents, and they’ll augment the discussion with observations gleaned from that day’s practice races. Ultimately, Baird and Cromwell will offer assessments on what it will take to succeed over the ensuing days of the event given the forecast conditions.

Baird will take his analytical talents to the stage two more times during the regatta to offer post-racing discussions based on his travels around the various race courses. His daily debriefs on Friday and Saturday are being provided courtesy of Quantum Sail Design Group, the regatta’s latest corporate sponsor.

On the heels of Baird’s Saturday debrief, regatta participants will be treated to a team racing exhibition staged right off the beach by members of the 2012 national team racing championship squad from the College of Charleston. Live commentary will be provided by Brooks Clark, a member of that winning group.

The largest congregation ever of J/70s will be at Charleston Race Week this year, with over 80 boats registered. - Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week
Dan Dickison

A different form of education will take place on shore during Saturday’s racing. Charleston Race Week has partnered with U.S. Sailing to host one of that organization’s STEM Educator Courses, which is a part of U.S. Sailing’s REACH program. In this, local teachers and leaders from area non-profits who work with at risk middle school students have been invited for a full-day professional development session focused on integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics education into sailing.

'This is a new direction for us,' explained CRW Event Director Randy Draftz, 'but it’s completely in keeping with the regatta’s mission. Charleston Ocean Racing Association, the local organization that founded this regatta and continues to manage it, is committed to promoting the sport, and what better way to do that than setting the stage for teachers to offer STEM curriculum through sailing?'

In addition, Draftz and his fellow organizers have arranged for several of the event’s sponsors to engage regatta participants with educational offerings. For example, representatives from B&G, the marine electronics firm, will be demonstrating the company’s new SailSteer feature on its navigation systems. And a technician from electric outboard manufacturer Torqueedo will be on hand to offer software upgrades to owners of Torqueedo engines and help them understand how to maximize the performance of their products.

'Adding education to the mix of what we provide to competitors is just another way that this event delivers,' offered Draftz. 'At the end of the day, it’s really about what we can do for the sailors to make this the best experience possible. We’re hoping that when the event ends this year, ever sailor can head home knowing that he or she has not only enjoyed a great regatta, but they’ve learned something valuable as well.'

Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week runs from April 10 through April 13 this year and is open to all sailboats 20 to 80 feet in length. (The offshore classes accept boats from 24 to 80 feet, but only those capable of sailing offshore.) The event is owned and managed by Charleston Ocean Racing Association, and is supported by Sperry Top-Sider, the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, Vineyard Vines, Gosling’s Rum, and Quantum Sail Design Group.

Additional sponsors include the Town of Mt. Pleasant, Gill, Coral Reef Sailing Apparel, and Torqueedo Outboards, along with Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Newport Shipyard, West Marine, B&G/Simrad, Dimension Polyant, Bainbridge, with additional support from Francisco Davila’s Signature Coffee, Charleston Community Sailing, Farr One Design 280, Pierside Boatworks, Other Brother Entertainment, Boating Basement, Stage Presence Event Rentals, College of Charleston Sailing Association, SailFlow, Azalea Moving and Storage, Charleston Yacht Club, Carolina Yacht Club, James Island Yacht Club, Hobcaw Yacht Club and Zip2Water.com.

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