Perfect conditions for opening day

A report from South Carolina's Charleston Race Week

Saturday April 19th 2008, Author: Meaghan van Liew, Location: United Kingdom
At almost every regatta, local sailors frequently excuse too much or too little breeze with the familiar refrain: “It's never normally like this!” For day 1 of 2008 Charleston Race Week, that wasn't a problem at all. “Today's conditions are exactly what we love about Charleston,” said Event Director Brad Van Liew. “We saw just what we hoped for, and everyone got a lot of racing in today.”

A light, shifty land breeze met the sailors at 10:00, letting the light-air specialists shine as they picked their way through a minefield of windless holes and stronger puffs. By 1:00 in the afternoon, sailors on all courses were treated to Charleston's reliable 10-12 knot onshore wind, allowing close racing with exciting mark roundings and tactical duels.

In all but one class, visiting race boats sit atop the leaderboard - this despite the conditions reflecting Charleston's most common weather pattern. Bill O'Malley trims the mainsail on one of the fastest boats on the water this weekend - a modified Farr 40 named Yellow Jacket - and she leads her class by just one point: “The sea breeze is familiar, and similar to most of the daily weather on the East Coast, but we got burned pretty hard by the current on one of the races – it can make distances hard to judge,” O'Malley said. “We're looking for another good day tomorrow – we're certainly getting pushed by some very well-sailed boats.”

The modified J/109 Rush out of Austin, Texas took three wins in a fleet filled with Key West winners and local superstars - a rare result when sailing against the likes of Temptress and Emocean. Rush trimmer Bobby Brooks couldn't identify a single factor in their victories, though he did comment that all the winches on board were completely frozen and wouldn't spin at all. This makes trimming just a bit tougher than usual, and Brooks said the quote heard most often today was, “you just have to pull harder!”

The North Carolina-based Beneteau Echo had a strong day in the PHRF D class, while John Storck and the crew of J/80 Rumor, fresh off a dominating one-design performance in Key West, are sailing with a winning attitude to lead the J/80 class by a good margin.

Quantum sailmaker Scott Nixon helped Melges 24 Class VP Travis Wiesleder find the head of the pack in the biggest fleet at Charleston Race Week. He leads some extremely talented crews, and judging from the tight racing and close finishing today, bragging rights for this fleet will go down to the wire on Sunday.

Tomorrow's forecast shows stronger breeze in the morning, with rain and possibly a thunderstorm or two likely to keep things interesting for all competitors. Tides are also at their highest of the month, so strong current could be the factor that lets locals gain back some ground against the high-caliber visiting teams enjoying this marquis event.

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