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Charleston Race Week 2013 - Monster winds set to challenge sailors

by Dan Dickison on 19 Apr 2013
Charleston Race Week 2013 Dan Dickison
Charleston Race Week 2013 gets underway today, Friday 19th April. From professionals to novices, you’ll find the full spectrum of sailors among more than 2,500 participants at the upcoming sailing spectacle. And while there was plenty of strategizing being shared at the welcome party, the real talk among the nearly 300 teams entered was the forecast. Most weather models predict up to 25 knots of breeze on Friday, while Sunday promises similar in-your-face conditions.

'We’re excited to race in such a fun fleet, and even more excited to really light it up downwind in the Viper when the breeze pipes up,' said dinghy sailor and Viper 640 crew Luke Lawrence. Toronto female skipper Sandy Butler won her offshore class here last year in mostly light wind aboard the 38-foot Carbonado, and this year, she’s back on the inshore course in the big Melges 20 fleet on Touch2Play. 'After a season of racing in the breezy Caribbean, I’m ready for anything,' she said. And Event Director Randy Draftz predicts that Friday’s anticipated winds will make for a great day for ‘getting to know’ Charleston’s waters. 'There are bound to be a couple thousand smiling faces tomorrow along with more than a few bruised bodies and egos,' he said.

Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week has become the most important event of the winter for many classes, a notion that’s reflected in both the size of the fleets and the level of talent throughout them. With the new, massive J/70 fleet (55 boats), the tough Melges 20 fleet (33 boats), the Melges 24 fleet (38 boats), the Viper 640 fleet (33 boats), and double digit entries in the Ultimate 20, J/22, and J/24 fleets, along with the new High Performance Rating fleet, this year’s edition represents the most talent-laded gathering in the event’s history, with literally hundreds of America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race, Olympic, and College stars on the water.

Among the sport’s luminaries who will be on hand to compete when racing starts on Friday morning is San Diego’s Mark Reynolds, a three-time Olympic medallist who last year was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame as one of America’s most successful sailors. On the water, he’ll share space with former Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and long time America’s Cup veteran Terry Hutchinson, who will be racing in the Melges 20 Class with multiple Farr 40 World Champion Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad. Elsewhere, Volvo Ocean Race veteran Kimo Worthington will do a cameo appearance with Bryan Huntley and his crew from Sandusky, OH, on board a brand new Beneteau First 35. (Huntley and company won Sail Magazine’s Best Around the Buoys contest, giving them use of that boat, accommodations, dockage, free entry to the regatta, a new suit of North Sails along with instruments by B and G, gear by Ronstan and bottom paint supplied by Pettit Paint.)

Worthington is just one of 23 industry professionals who will be on the water representing North Sails, a regatta sponsor, and the roster of pros stretches well beyond. Three other Rolex Yachtsman of the Year recipients will be competing: Chris Larson (a former College Sailor of the Year at the College of Charleston), Bora Gulari, a perennial trophy grabber in the Melges 24 Class, which is holding its National Championship this week in Charleston, and one-design guru Jud Smith (racing in the J/70 Class). And the list goes on, and on, and on.

As much as these guys garner the limelight – on the racecourse and often at the beachfront parties – the majority of competitors this weekend are sailors whose names most of us will never learn. 'That’s a special trait of this regatta,' offered Draftz.' It was born as an every man’s event, and that’s definitely the core. But what’s really cool about Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week is that you might be completely new to the sport, yet you get to be out there right alongside guys who are featured in sailing magazines. It’s like lining up to play golf in a foursome with Tiger Woods.'

And what do those pros have to say about sailing here? Let’s leave it to Terry Hutchinson, who will be sailing in this event for the first time: 'Why Charleston? Great competition in a great venue. This regatta has the reputation as one of the best one-design events in the country. For our Melges 20 team, this is our first competition and we pushed hard to get the boat ready to be here. We’re really glad we did!

Competitors in the J/70 Class take advantage of great conditions to participate in a practice race on Thursday.

The competition gets underway on Friday morning when the full 285-boat fleet will face building breezes throughout the day due to a strong frontal system sweeping across much of the eastern part of the country. For more information or updates, log on to Charleston Race Week You can also follow the event on Facebook and Charleston Race Week 2013
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