Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week has always been an inclusive event. Each spring, it draws a remarkably broad spectrum of sailors to the Carolina Lowcountry, and over time that has translated into large-scale expansion. For the sixth straight year, this event is experiencing significant growth. In fact, it has evolved to become the largest regatta of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Come mid April, when the first starting guns fire on Charleston Harbor, a massive fleet of 290 sailboats is expected to be on the water.
Now in its 18th year of existence, this home-grown regatta has seen participation mushroom in recent years. Organizers anticipate that the 2013 fleet will see a 15-percent increase over the number of boats that were on hand for the 2012 edition.
'We’re very fortunate to have one of the most desirable sailing venues in the country,' explained Event Director Randy Draftz, who has been involved with the regatta for nearly a decade. 'In addition, Charleston’s hospitality is unsurpassed. This city is continually singled out as being one of the top destinations in the country, and the world. Of course, our organizing committee has been working hard over much of the past decade, laying the groundwork for growth.'
Competitors at Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week come here from all across the U.S. and from several foreign countries. According to Draftz, they come for the hospitality as well as the three days of competition. He noted that the Melges 24 National Championship will take place as part of the regatta this year.
Audi Melges 20 Fleet at Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week - © 2012 JOY
Participants at the event run the gamut from weekend-warriors to professional crews; their boats vary from clunky cruisers to stripped-out speed machines; and the intensity ranges from the uber-intense competitor to the laisse-faire participant. 'We’ve really got all kinds of players in this fleet,' adds Draftz.
Among the competitors will be current and former America’s Cup racers, Olympic medalists, and world champions competing alongside recreational racers. In one of the 18 classes, there will be a physically disabled skipper from Florida, who, along with his wife, bought the couple’s 41-foot racer for $1. Elsewhere among the skippers there will be an architect from the Turks and Caicos Islands, the CEO of a medical technology company from San Diego, the owner of an architectural glass company from Charleston, and so many others.
'Probably the friendliest regatta I've ever been to.'
Some of these players are multi-time veterans of the regatta, such as Melges 24 racer Catharine Evans of Annapolis, Maryland. In the words of this IT professional, 'Charleston is probably the friendliest regatta I’ve ever been to. There are a lot of regattas that are fun, but it’s so easy in Charleston. You get there and you feel like you’ve got welcoming friends instead of obligations.' Other sailors are first-timers, like Chris Chambers, a real estate agent from Sandpoint, Idaho. 'We heard that Charleston is a great venue for racing with good conditions…..so for us, it’s definitely worth making the trip.'
And what do all these sailors have in common? They’ll each be part of the record number of entries participating in what has been for several years America’s fastest growing regatta.
Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week runs from April 18 through April 21 and is open to all monohull sailboats 20 to 80 feet in length. 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 and Gosling’s Rum. Additional sponsors include Outside Television, the Town of Mt. Pleasant, Gill, Coral Reef Sailing Apparel, North Sails, B and G/Simrad, Dimension Polyant, Eelsnot, Newport Shipyard, and Torqueedo Outboards, along with Charleston Community Sailing, West Marine, Pierside Boatworks, College of Charleston Sailing Association, Azalea Moving and Storage, Harken, Marlow, Other Brother Entertainment, Sail Charleston and Zip2Water.com.
Charleston Race Week
by Corey Farrell
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4:46 AM Thu 28 Mar 2013GMT
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