Please select your home edition
Edition
Allen IQP 2017 728x90 3

The volunteers who make Sperry Charleston Race Week possible

by Bill Wagner 15 Apr 05:16 PDT 12-15 April 2018

How do you run a regatta with a whopping 246 boats in 16 classes? It requires flawless organization, and a ton of manpower. Those two factors go hand in hand.

Ultimately, the massive success of Sperry Charleston Race Week is due largely to a talented, dedicated army of volunteers. Properly executing an event of this size requires 220 on-water volunteers and another 100 for shoreside duty.

"A regatta this size requires a Herculean effort and we could not do it without such a large contingent of outstanding volunteers," event director Randy Draftz said. "There are regattas all over the world wondering how we do this. The easy answer is because we have lots of great volunteers."

Draftz, in his 10th year as event coordinator, conducted a meeting with all the volunteers on Thursday at noon and the large tent on the beach was almost completely full. It was an opportunity for Draftz to thank everyone for their support.

"Obviously, our goal is to keep the racers coming back and the on-water race management along with the onshore hospitality is why they do," Draftz said. "That is a real credit to the great job done by our volunteers."

Hank Stuart, on-water principal race officer for Sperry Charleston Race Week, asked for a show of hands for how many volunteers were working the regatta for the first time. Approximately 25 people responded, showing there is a constant influx of talent.

"We actually have a waiting list of people wanting to volunteer. I think that speaks volumes about the event," Draftz said.

What was truly remarkable was the high number of folks that raised their hand when Stuart asked who had been volunteering for 10 then 15 years. Bill Jarvis of New Bern, North Carolina fell into that category. Jarvis attended a Charleston Ocean Racing Association annual meeting that introduced him to the event.

"They were soliciting for volunteers to work Charleston Race Week and I thought that would be a very worthwhile thing to do," Jarvis said. "I volunteered to help out and have come back every year since."

Jarvis could not provide a specific answer when asked what role he plays with the race committee.

"I do whatever I'm asked to do. I'm a regional race officer so I'm supposed to know how to do all the different jobs on a typical committee," he said. "I'm happy to do whatever is needed, and that might change from year to year. I love coming down here to Charleston, I love the regatta and I love all the people involved."

Carla Kinnett was one of a handful of volunteers that have been doing Charleston Race Week for 20 years or more. Kinnett, who lives in nearby Isle of Palms, participated in the inaugural Charleston Race Week as a competitor aboard the family-owned Lindenberg 26. Her father sold the boat the following year and they jointly decided to join the race committee in order to stay involved.

"Working on the race committee is the next best thing to racing," said Kinnett, who does the scoring on the J/70 course. "It's a really fun event and I enjoy catching up with friends every year. I just love being out there on the water. The parties are great, the weather is usually fantastic and the racing is very exciting."

Becky Royal is in her second year as the overall coordinator of the volunteer crew while Fran Trottman focuses purely on coordinating the on-water work force. While some of the volunteers are local, roughly 80 percent come from out of state and as far away as California, Connecticut and Canada.

"Our support from the Charleston community and across the country is incredible and provides a level of volunteers that is unheard of," Draftz said. "You could not run racing on six different courses without a critical mass of race management personnel. Same could be said for what we do onshore. You simply could not sustain an event of this size without the commitment of so many volunteers."

Stuart spent five years as a race officer on one of the circles at Sperry Charleston Race Week before transitioning into the big-picture role he's held since 2015. He makes sure the regatta has consistency and uniformity by working closely with the six principal race officers – Tommy Harken (Circle 1), John Strassman (Circle 2), Hal Smith (Circle 3), Wayne Bretsch (Circle 4), Taran Teague (Circle 5) and Ray Redniss (Pursuit Race classes).

"We recognized as the event was ramping up and becoming bigger and bigger that we needed an onshore PRO to oversee all six circles and just kind of coordinate things," said Stuart, a Rochester, New York resident who served as championship coordinator for the Melges 24 class for 12 years.

Stuart explained why the race committee requires 220 volunteers. It is because not everyone can work all three day of the regatta due to personal or business commitments.

"It is nice to be able to draw from such a large pool of people to make sure every job is filled every day," he said.

Organizers with Sperry Charleston Race Week find housing for almost half of the volunteers, but the entire work force willingly pays the cost required to attend.

"They're all volunteers who pay their own expenses to get here. I think it's a testament to how good the event is and how much fun everyone that all these people keep coming back year after year," Stuart said.

Because Sperry Charleston Race Week is the largest regatta in North America, it naturally attracts some of the finest principal race officers from around the country.

"Each one of these race officers that is running a circle is very, very experienced. I've done a number of regattas with all of them and that provides a high level of comfortability.

Find out more about the event at www.charlestonraceweek.com

Related Articles

Sperry Charleston Race Week overall
An interesting dynamic on the docks on the final day There was an interesting dynamic taking place on the docks of Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina Sunday morning. Posted on 17 Apr
Sperry Charleston Race Week Family Sailing Feature
Family dynamic become a hallmark of the regatta If there has been one constant about Sperry Charleston Race Week over the years it's the family dynamic that has become a hallmark of the regatta. Posted on 16 Apr
Paris Henken feature
VX One sailing at Sperry Charleston Race Week Paris Henken has already become a part of the storied legacy of the College of Charleston – she is the first female Olympian (in any sport) in school history. Posted on 15 Apr
Sperry Charleston Race Week day 2
All-important Saturday as forecast brings concern for the final day 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. Posted on 15 Apr
Sperry Charleston Race Week day 1
Excellent first day of racing on Charleston harbor J/24 skipper Tony Parker called it "champagne conditions" and it would be hard to argue with that assessment. Posted on 14 Apr
Sperry Charleston Race Week preview
Gearing up for another exciting edition Cedric Lewis had never competed in Sperry Charleston Race Week before last year. The Annapolis resident always heard great things about the regatta and therefore jumped at the chance to crew for John Potter in the VX One class. Posted on 5 Apr
More launch & haul space for 2018 edition
At Charleston Race Week Back for the 2018 edition - Sperry Charleston Race Week is the largest keelboat regatta in North and South America. The event celebrates its 23rd year and returns to the number one city in the United States for a weekend of elite competition and fun. Posted on 1 Mar
RS Sailing BOTTOMSealegs - On the water 660x82-12018 bottom 660x82