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2023 Charleston Race Week - Day 1

by Charleston Race Week 21 Apr 2023 17:46 PDT 20-23 April 2023
Charleston Race Week © Priscilla Parker

The southeast winds were on point today on the higher end at 8-10 knots and everyone had just enough wind to work with as the 186 boats in fifteen classes got under way on day one, Charleston Race Week. According to weather guru Shea Gibson, part of the Quantum weather team, the biggest theme for the inner circles was the current which showed around the start and finish gates.

"There were both advantages and disadvantages between reaching and hauling today based on the opposing winds across the current," Gibson commented. "Lots of great tactitioners out there made it happen the right way - very impressive racing indeed!"

Leading in the 39-strong J/70 fleet, Brian Keane, owner/skipper of Savasana, has been racing CRW for some fifteen years, ten of those on a J/70. Nonetheless, he cites the infamous Charleston Harbor currents as being an eternal challenge.

"We're really happy about our day - it's always a challenge coming to Charleston and having to not only figure out the breeze but also the current and it was just ripping today. The competition is great, a lot of the top boats in the J/70 fleet in the country are here and a lot of them had good races. Our speed was very good but I think most of all we put ourselves in a good position relative to the current. The current really was a primary driver for the day - it's hard. But it's fun. It's a unique venue. There are not a lot of places where you sail where the current plays such a dominant role."

Jonathan Bamberger from Toronto, Canada is leading the Melges 32 fleet. It's his first time to Charleston Race Week; towed his boat south about a thousand miles with some of his crew, put it all back together again and went sailing today.

"It was a great day, the sun was shining and it was warm with reasonably benign conditions," Bamberger commented. "The great thing was getting the Melges 32 fleet back together again - it's probably the biggest gathering of Melges 32 in years, so thanks to Charleston for hosting it. It was perfect for us, good competition. The biggest challenge was dealing with the currents and tides that we don't see on our Great Lakes. By the end of today we were tired after four races. First time to Charleston Race Week and it's great to be here, we're really enjoying it - the day we left Toronto it was snowing so this is much better!"

The Hobie 33 Hoof Heated owned by Craig and Deborah Wilusz (Fort Walton Beach, FL) took four bullets today to lead the class also racing their Nationals this week. "My crew did great and my wife who drove had been studying the tides for about a week before we got up here so she pretty much had the tides figured out for today," Wilusz, who has raced CRW multiple times on Melges24s, Viper 640s, and Ultimate 20s, said. "The competition is good - it's a bunch of the guys who are on their second or third Hobie 33 - this is our second Hobie 33 - the fleet is full of experience so it's good tight racing. I just hope my crew can hike as hard tomorrow!"

Les Cabiness (Charleston, SC) owner/skipper of the J/111 Wideload leading in Pursuit Spinnaker A, was very happy with today's race. "We did great and it was a lot of fun. Conditions were pretty favorable for us on the J/111 - we were able to keep it powered up most of the day and keep it sailing pretty well. It got light offshore but we were able to keep the boat moving along, avoided any mistakes and had a good outcome. There was a lot of good competition out there, several boats from out of town who were doing very well. It's a good time of year to race here, and having all the boats from out of town, it's a great sailing scene. You can't beat it!"

Elliott Jennings (Goose Creek, SC), skipper of the Noe 27 En Charette and leading in Pursuit Spinnaker B, said, "It was a fantastic day, we had a great match race against Easterly (e33) coming back in through the channel, there were a lot of battle back and forth, and then on the very last leg we were able to hold them off from coming back up to the wind - I think the big thing was the symmetrical spinnaker versus the asymmetrical spinnaker just not being able to point."

Jennings added that he's spent the winter restoring En Charette - his dad donated the boat to Sacred Heart University in Connecticut in 2016 and they brought it back this past fall and spent the whole winter repairing it and getting it ready for this weekend. "We were putting hardware on the deck yesterday!" he laughed.

Tom Sutton (Houston, TX), owner/skipper of the J/122 Leading Edge, is second in ORC A after two races today, ending the day three points behind Mutiny, a Club Swan 42. This is Sutton's first time competing at CRW; he's delivering his boat to Newport, RI having recently completed racing in Florida and thought it would be fun to stop in Charleston to compete in Race Week.

"We thought we were doing poorly several times but we seemed to come back and my crew just never gave up," Sutton said. "The finish was amazing, we just nosed out a couple of other J/122s. It was an incredible day; I've never sailed in conditions like that. It was very intense, there were boats around us all the time, we never rounded a mark without a boat within two boat lengths."

"We're very fortunate to have this event here on board the Yorktown," Randy Draft, event director for CRW the past seventeen years. "It's a big change I know for everybody and it's been an interesting few months getting ready for this. You can't do this event without all our volunteers - we have some three hundred who make this all happen, which is impressive. It's a testament to Charleston and the sailing community here. And, without our sponsors, to put this into perspective, your entry fee would be about twice what it is, so they support the event in a big way - you don't even want to know what it costs to charter an aircraft carrier for the weekend! We're grateful to our long-time lead sponsors Gosling, Quantum, and the Town of Mt Pleasant."

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