Bumper turn out
"It is exciting to see the entries still rolling in at this late stage when we already have 40 more registered boats than last year," said Danny Havens who handles registration. "I guess people are starting to realize how truly amazing Charleston is, both as a town and a sailing mecca. Even nicer is how easy all the racers have been to deal with on the phone - it seems that everyone is completely enthused to be here, and we're just as excited to have them."
Sportboat turnout unprecedented
With almost 100 sportboats registered in both one-design and PHRF fleets, 2009 Charleston Race Week will likely contain the largest sportboat fleet of any buoy regatta in US history, and the Melges 24 should, once again, be the largest class at the 2009 event. "I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Charleston Harbor is one of the all-time best places to race sailboats," said Travis Weisleder, the US Melges 24 Class President who won overall honors in the hotly contested class in Charleston last year. "With up to 40 boats on the line, we're excited to be the biggest class again in what has become the ultimate sportboat regatta in the United States. I'm also bringing my wife this year, since there's no better place for southern hospitality and a family-friendly attitude."
As the racing gets closer, organisers face the daunting task of managing the huge fleets inside Charleston Harbor, though Race Director Randy Draftz believes it will go smoothly. "The huge sportboat fleets complicate things, but the new course we're using for the Viper 640s, Laser SB3s, and brand new Melges 20s should work out well and alleviate the pressure on the Middle Ground course," said Draftz. "Splitting the circles also gives a great benefit to spectators along the Charleston Battery - they'll be able to see all sorts of racing action from the water's edge."
Handicap Fleets Just As Strong
With 60 boats registered to race under PHRF or IRC ratings systems, 2009 Charleston Race Week will also become the Southern Circuit's most well-attended mixed-fleet regatta, surpassing the popular Key West Race Week for the first time. From Maryland-based Robert Billings' 25ft Crazy Bob to Sam Byrne's 60ft Captivity, the handicap fleet should provide small ratings bands, logical splits, and tight racing action in the ocean swell and sea breeze off the harbor jetties.
Philippe Paturel is the North American importer for the hot French Archambault 40rc, an IRC-specialized design that excels in stiff breeze and good waves - just the kind of conditions usually seen during Race Week. "One of our new A40rc owners lives and races in Charleston, and we're glad to bring her sister ship, 'CIAO!' to town after a successful showing at the Miami Grand Prix," said Paturel. "Our sailors are anxious to match up with another Archambault both in practice and during racing, and everyone is excited to enjoy Charleston's famous hospitality and great racing conditions."
Charleston's Spring Filled With Sailing Action
In the four years since the South Carolina Maritime Foundation joined forces with the Charleston Ocean Racing Association to manage Charleston Race Week, Charleston has truly become the 'Sailing Capital of the South', and Race Week's strong growth is only one part of it. Next week, round-the-world sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston visits the United States's friendliest city to introduce the Velux 5 Oceans Race to local media and special guests. This is the new incarnation of the famous Around Alone race that once started and finished in Charleston - the same race won in dominating fashion by Charleston Race Week Event Director Brad Van Liew. "A visit from Sir Robin is a privilege at any time, and his support for solo ocean racing is sorely needed, especially with the recent resurgence in US interest for this tough sailing discipline," commented Van Liew. "We're all anxious to learn of the new crop of brave adventurers ready to take on this grueling race." Charleston is the North American stopover for the 2010-2011 race.
May offers still more high-profile racing with the challenging 777-mile Charleston to Bermuda Race. Run every other year, the harbor comes alive to wish the race boats off on their long voyage. 17 boats are pre-registered for the 2009 race.
This year's Charleston Harbor Fest is also shaping up to be the most ambitious and memorable maritime event in the city's history. The event will open June 26, with access to docks and tours of tall ships from around the globe - ships like the USCG Barque "Eagle" and the second largest sail training ship in the world, the Kruzenshtern. From the classic beauty of sailing ships, wooden boats and pirates giving their best "Argh" to interactive educational exhibits, Charleston Harbor Fest offers an array of activities from the tame to the adventurous. Up to 80,000 visitors will descend on the city for Harbor Fest, the largest such festival in the South.
Charleston Race Week is an event of the South Carolina Maritime Foundation and the Charleston Ocean Racing Association (CORA). Profits from the event support educational programs aboard the Spirit of South Carolina, a classic tall ship serving South Carolina's youth. Charleston Race Week is sponsored by Raymarine, Gosling's Rum, Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, Vineyard Vines, Gill North America, the Town of Mt. Pleasant, Pierside Boatworks, Charleston Yacht Club, and Azalea Moving & Storage. Check out www.charlestonraceweek.com for more information, including the Notice of Race, shoreside events, and logistical information.