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Sperry Charleston Race Week: All-important Saturday as forecast brings concern

by Ellinor Walters 14 Apr 2018 22:38 PDT 12-15 April 2018

Forecasts call for a front to move through town and there is no way to predict how much racing will be completed on the final day. As the skies darkened over Charleston Harbor on Saturday evening, the leaders had to feel good about their position while the followers were hoping for an opportunity to change the final standings.

"We're still in the hunt. Hopefully, we'll get two or three more races tomorrow and be able to improve our position," said Savasana skipper Brian Keane, who holds fourth place in J/70 class.

Plans had called for the J/70 fleet to conduct three races per day, but the prospect of thunderstorms on Sunday prompted the class leadership to ask regatta organizers to run four on Saturday while the weather was clear and the wind was blowing between 8 and 15 knots.

Peter Duncan and his crew on Relative Obscurity had another solid day on the water and were able to maintain their lead. Relative Obscurity finished 10th in Race 4, but came back with results of 1-3-4 and has a low score of 22 points. John Brim and the Rimette team are seven points behind Duncan and two points ahead of Joel Ronning and the Catapult crew.

A strong ebb tide pushed a bunch of boats over the start line and caused two general recalls for J/70 class, largest of the regatta with 68 boats. It took a while to finish four races as a result and the fleet did not return to the docks at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina until 5 p.m.

"They're worried about the weather so they wanted to do four races, which makes sense," Keane said. "It was a really tough day out there because the combination of the sea breeze and gradient. The wind was all over the place."

To complicate matters, the tide changed from ebb to flood late in the afternoon. Keane sailed Savasana to victory in Race 6 after posting a third in Race 5. Those results came between a seventh and a 10th and left Massachusetts entry with 34 points, just five out of second place.

"We had two very good races and two decent ones," said Keane, runner-up at the 2018 J/70 Worlds in Porto Cervo, Italy. "We had a couple good starts and were able to get over to the lifted tack on the first windward leg."

Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris, who represented the United States in 49er class at the 2016 Summer Olympics, are aboard Savasana as tactician and jib trimmer, respectively. Veteran bowman Ron Weed rounds out the team.

Skipper Bruce Golison had Midlife Crisis in second place after taking second in the opening race on Saturday. The Long Beach resident had an impressive 1-7-2-2 score line at that point. Double digit results in the other three races on Saturday dropped Golison to 10th overall.

"This is one of the trickiest venues in the world and it's easy to have one of those days," Golison said. "We got fouled and lost a lot of boast in the third race today."

Golison enjoyed considerable success in the J/24 and Etchells classes before buying a J/70 three years ago. The 61-year-old loves racing a sportboat and competing against some of the finest sailors in the world.

"It keeps me young," Golison said. "I've never won a world championship and that is still my goal. I came close in the J/24 and the Etchells. We'll see if I can get it done in the J/70."

Further down A Dock, Rattle-n-Rum skipper Mike Beasley was quite happy to hold a five-point lead in ORC C class. The Annapolis resident has steered his GP 26 to victory in three races and placed no worse than fourth in the other four.

Ruttle-n-Rum is trying to repeat as winner of the prestigious Palmetto Trophy that goes to the top performing boat among the handicap classes and could do so considering the caliber of competition among the 12 boats in ORC C.

UltraViolet, an Antrim 27 owned by Dave Prucnal of Pasadena, Maryland, has given Beasley's boat all it can handle and is well within striking distance if multiple races are held Sunday.

"UltraViolet follows us around the course. When we tack, they tack," said Beasley, whose GP 26 owes time to the Antrim 27. "UltraViolet can get a piece of us downwind because they can square the spinnaker pole. It will be match racing with the Antrim if we go out tomorrow."

Brian Porter and the Full Throttle team continue to set a strong pace in Melges 24 class, second-largest of the regatta with 31 entries. Porter opened with a sixth on Saturday, but then reeled off a 3-2-1 score line and sits at 11 points – 13 better than Monsoon skipper Bruce Ayres.

Mike Goldfarb, a relative newcomer to the Melges 24 class, is just one point behind Monsoon in third place. Goldfarb, who bought his boat in 2016, finished strong on Saturday – winning Race 7 in between a pair of seconds.

"Brian is really setting a high standard for the rest of the fleet. It's super fun to sail against those guys because they have been doing it so long and are so darn good," Goldfarb said. "We're still learning the boat, but we're getting progressively better. We're going great here in Charleston and I could not be happier with how we have fared so far."

It's a similar story in VX One where John Potter and David Guggenheim have won five of eight races. Those two class veterans showed a slight chink in the armor with a 10th in Race 8, but can throw out that result and stay five points clear of Christopher Alexander.

Reciprocity held third place in the 25-boat class despite having to make a major crew change. Helmsman Greg Fisher was sidelined by a bum shoulder and replaced by Craig Leweck, publisher of the sailing newsletter Scuttlebutt.

"Craig jumped right in and did an awesome job of steering a boat he's never sailed before," said Jeff Eiber, who works the middle aboard Reciprocity.

Leweck is staying at the home of Greg and Jo Ann Fisher and knew something was up when he came downstairs and was asked what he planned to do for the day.

"I walked into the kitchen and couldn't even get a cup of coffee before being hit with a series of inquisitive questions such as what was my waist and shoe size," Leweck said with a laugh. "Jeff and Jo Ann were trying to figure out if I could fit into Greg's gear."

Leweck acquitted himself well in the substitute role, steering reciprocity to victory in Race 7. "I was lucky that I had two people that are very familiar with the boat, which allowed me to shut up and drive," said Leweck, who was already scheduled to compete as a celebrity skipper in Saturday evening's Pro-Am regatta. "I was more than happy to focus on steering and allow Jeff and Jo Ann to do everything else."

There are 11 boats in J/22 class and seven are being sailed by Warrior Sailing teams. Skipper Scott Ford is skippering the lone Warrior entry that is racing with a spinnaker and doing extremely well. Ford is trimming the mainsail, Sammy Lugo is trimming the jib and Josh Agripino is driving USA 1367, which won Race 3 and has taken third in five other starts.

"We had a lot of fun today. Conditions were great and the racing was exciting," said Ford, a former construction mechanic in the U.S. Navy who is blind. "We're really enjoying competing against the College of Charleston students and feel pretty good about the results we've put up."

Agripino served in the Marine Corps and sustained severe injuries to his lower legs and feet while also losing sight in one eye. Lugo, who worked in civil affairs for the Army, had his right leg amputated just below the knee.

J/22 class grew from three boats last year to 11 this year due to the strong participation of members from the Warrior Sailing program along with the generosity of the College of Charleston, which donated all the boats. Ford was pleased that several of the Warrior teams are learning how to fly a spinnaker and hope to do so at Charleston Race Week 2019.

Velocidad took over the lead in J/24 class as skipper Chris Stone got the gun in two of three races held on Saturday. The New Jersey entry is winning by tiebreaker of Angel of Harlem (Robby Brown, St. Petersburg, FL) as Day 1 leader Bangor Packet (Tony Parker, Washington, D.C.) dropped to third.

There is good action in J/88 class where Tim Finkle has skippered Seaweed to the top of the standings on the strength of four bullets. Tactician Kris Werner, owner of the Quantum Sails loft in Rochester, helped Werner close out Saturday with back-to-back wins to gain eight points of separation from Deviation (Iris Vogel, New Rochelle, NY) and Spaceman Spiff (Rob Ruhlman, Cleveland, OH).

"We've had really tight racing and it's still anyone's game," said Werner, who works for the J/Boat dealership in the Buffalo area. "We're racing in fairly close quarters near Fort Sumter and there is not much of a runway, which puts a premium on starts and boathandling."

Taran Teague, principal race officer on Circle 5, followed a windward-leeward race with an 11-nautical mile distance race that finished in Charleston Harbor. Mount Pleasant local Robert Scribner has now steered Joyride to victory in all four races held over two days and has a comfortable 10-point lead in J/105 class.

Scribner made his Charleston Race Week debut last year and finished fourth out of five boats in J/105. The 72-year-old skipper was determined to do better this year and took steps to make that happen.

"We did a lot of preparation in the offseason. We paid more attention to tuning the boat, got some new sails and developed a disciplined, committed crew. That has proven a winning formula," Scribner said. "We were not very competitive last year so my crew chief (Maarten Zonjee) and I decided to put in the effort to reverse that result."

Photon, a 1D35 being skippered this weekend by David O'Reilly on behalf of owner Robert Hibdon, is leading ORC B based off winning all three windward-leeward races. Photon finished third in the distance race behind the J/35 Arrow (Willy Schwenzfeier) and the J/36 Soul (College of Charleston), but still leads the class by five points.

Spookie, the TP52 skippered by former Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Steve Benjamin, leads ORC A by two points over the XP 44 Sitella (Ian Hill, Chesapeake, VA). Teamwork, the highly-successful J/122 owned by four-time Palmetto Cup winner Robin Team, had its moment in the sun on Saturday by winning the distance race.

George Collins led the Tripp 62 Chessie Racing to victory for the second straight day in the Spinnaker Pursuit Race while John Barnes and Will Cramer lead the Non-Spinnaker Pursuit Rce class after posting a pair of seconds aboard their e-33 named Easterly.

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