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Racing begins Friday in the 28th edition of Charleston Race Week at Patriots Point

by Charleston Race Week 16 Apr 10:50 PDT April 18-21, 2024
With the beautiful southern city of Charleston, South Carolina as the scenic backdrop, Charleston Race Week 2024 at Patriots Point is ready to go and looks forward to hosting over 1200+ sailors to the USS Yorktown from April 18-21, 2024 © Priscilla Parker/CRW2023

Sailors, boats, families, and friends are rolling into town for their first major regatta of 2024: Charleston Race Week at Patriots Point. In some one-design classes where competitors have lined up against each other during winter racing, CRW is often a time for retribution and to set the wheels in motion for the 2024 racing season.

Trevor Parekh, on the VX One Bro Safari has been chasing John Porter on Far Side, in the Florida winter series after losing to Porter at CRW last year. Parekh, who races with his best friend Marc Farmer, said, "We went back and forth with John all winter, and after taking second last year, we are totally prepared to apply what we learned and take it to the limit. There's only one option for us, and that's to win! I absolutely love Charleston Race Week; I love the city, I love the complexity of the racecourse, I love all my friends, and I love the Goslings after-race party - it's an all-in-one for me."

With twenty-eight boats signed up, Porter knows it's going to be tough to defend his title. Last year, he raced with his Olympian training partner David Himmel (Finn, 1992), and this year he'll be racing with his son Collin, 24.

"David and I have done well this winter, but this week I'm excited to race with my son, who has just moved to Charleston for his job. I am even more excited because I can stay at his place and don't have to pay for a hotel! The racing will be tough; Trevor is really good. They were challenging us on the last day at CRW last year, and I don't expect him to back off the gas pedal. The VX is a boat where we have ten or twelve at the top of the class, which really mixes it up but makes it challenging."

With a 42-strong fleet, Briane Keane, owner/skipper of the J70 Savasana, is also back to defend his title, sailing with his steady crew: two-time Olympian Thomas Barrows (tactician), Ron Weed (trimmer), and Conner Harding (bow). Savasana won almost every J70 regatta last year that they sailed and took fourth in the Worlds.

"We're excited about Charleston Race Week; I expect it to be an intensely competitive event, and we are going there, like every event, to win. We do regattas all around the world, but Charleston is unique; you're right there in the harbor with dynamic wind shifts and currents that are some of the most complex and strong currents that we experience anywhere. We are the defending champions, but we know that it is going to be hard as heck to repeat; there are probably six different teams that could win."

Keane added, "CRW does such a fantastic job with the social events; it's really a destination for so many teams and the many diverse boats that participate. We love going back every single year."

After taking second in the North American's last year in a tightly contested regatta, Bill Zartler, owner/skipper of the J105 Deja Voodoo, is dusting off the cobwebs and using Charleston Race Week as a warm-up to the Annapolis Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in early May. This is his second time racing CRW, and first time in the J105, a fleet that has grown significantly at CRW this year.

"It looks like we have a good solid one-design fleet to start the season with," Zartler said. "This is our first race for the season in the J105. I haven't been on a one-design racecourse this year, so we're really looking forward to unpacking the boat, which has been packed away since the NAs, and dusting off the cobwebs. Our goal this year is to have the same crew through to the North Americans, although we have a few substitutes this week. We know the boat really well; our boat handling is very good, and in a fleet this tight, it's about the boat that makes the fewest mistakes."

George Masson, owner/skipper of Temeraire, is back to defend his winning title, cognizant of the contest he'll have with Zartler and his crew now in the mix.

"We have a bigger fleet, and it's going to be more competitive than last year with Deja Voodoo, but I'm looking forward to three fantastic days of racing," Masson commented. "It looks like the weather is going to cooperate, and we'll have a great time; it's a great way to kick off the season in Charleston!"

Just a point separated each of the top three finishers in the J/88 fleet in 2023, with Justin Scagnelli, owner/driver of the J88 Albondigas, prevailing. He claims he hasn't raced a lick over the winter and that most of his racing last year was with remote-controlled boats. He's excited to get back among it with rivals Iris Vogel on Deviation, and Andy Graff on Exile.

"We're going in cold, but it should be fun," Scagnelli laughed. "I'm hoping for the same results as last year. We have a good crew again, I have a new mainsail, and we did some work on the boat this past summer. Iris, Andy, and I swapped places at the North Americans last year, with Andy taking first, Iris second, and myself third. The breeze looks like it will be in the lower teens, with gusts in the mid to upper teens, which is good for us. I just want no wind when I am stepping my rig!"

The Melges 32s are back in larger numbers, making CRW the highlight event for the class in North America, commented Canadian Jonathan Bamberger, owner/driver of Spitfire and also back to defend his title.

"The success of the event last year has encouraged more of the Melges owners to turn up, which is great," he said. "I don't think there is another event that competes with it. We really enjoyed the event last year, and the proof of that is we're willing to pack the boat up and drive a thousand miles. We have two vehicles with eight of us driving down from Canada, towing the boat. We're looking forward to the combination of wonderful sailing, spending time in the city, and the weather, because it's cold in Toronto right now. We'll get in a few days of practice beforehand; after all, we have a title to defend!"

CRW is proud to note the growth in classes this year, like the sixteen-strong Melges 24 fleet, where newcomers include Olympian Bora Gulari, driving Kingspoke, a boat filled with talent. Meanwhile, Anthony Kotoun has chosen CRW for his coming out regatta in his brand-new boat, Stepping Razor, also deep in talent. Three-time Charleston Race Week Champion Travis Weisleder will be helming Lucky Dog, with his crew including four-time Olympian Charlie Ogletree.

Returning is the Melges 20s fleet; CRW is a warm-up to their Charleston Yacht Club Invitational event in May. Three Melges 20s from the San Francisco Bay Area are competing for the first time, representing the Corinthian Yacht Club, including Ron Epstein, helming Baccanal, who is not only a newcomer to CRW but also a relatively new racer. Epstein was challenged to take on CRW by friends Daniel Thielman and Jennifer Canestra, who are also competing.

"My first sailboat race as a skipper was literally two years ago," Epstein smiled. "It's too late in life to learn the slow way, so I'm trying to learn by throwing myself into the middle of a heated battle! I'm up against some really experienced sailors, but my crew are skilled Melges 20 sailors, and I'm hoping to get enough out of it to become a better sailor and enjoy the camaraderie of my friends."

Warrior Sailing will field twelve vets from around the country on two boats - a Jeanneau 43 and a J95 - racing in the Pursuit divisions. Warrior Sailing is an important nationwide program that teaches ill and wounded veterans how to sail, taking on people with any sort of disability, from cancer survivors to spinal cord injuries, who have served in the US military.

Ben Poucher, Warrior Sailing's National Director and a pro sailor, commented, "Sailing is a wonderful opportunity for us to learn something new and meet new people. We've had some success in the Pursuit class and podium finishes, but honestly, when everyone shows up and is happy just to be there, we play down the competitiveness and just look forward to getting out on the racecourse and meeting other sailors. Sailing is a new community for these people, which is one of the things missing from veterans' lives - the camaraderie that they have with other veterans."

Competitors are invited at 8am each morning for the online weather briefing presented by Quantum Sails. Join forecaster Shea Gibson from Sailflow Weather with Quantum Sails pros for interactive forecasts, local knowledge, and expert tips. Get your questions ready and prepare for your day on the water!

Join the excitement of Charleston Race Week at Patriots Point:

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