Spirit of South Carolina leads the way

Charleston-Bermuda Race sets sail

Friday May 29th 2009, Author: Meaghan van Liew, Location: United Kingdom
With moderate southwesterly winds and partially cloudy skies setting the stage, the six vessels entered in the Charleston to Bermuda Race got under way at noon today. All of the entries, including the palmetto state's own traditional tall ship - the Spirit of South Carolina - made their way seaward against a waning flood tide, beating out through the Charleston Harbor jetties, and then bearing away slightly to sail due east toward Bermuda.

With Captain Tony Arrow manning the helm, the Spirit led the fleet, starting 10 minutes ahead of the other boats because she is competing in her own division (the Exhibition Class). Then, as the second cannon report echoed across Charleston Harbor, the remaining competitors harnessed what they could of the light breezes and made their way across the starting line at the Charleston Maritime Center with a shoreside crowd of well wishers cheering them on.

Many regard this event as much more than a sailing competition. Speaking at A Celebration of Sail on Thursday night - a reception in honor of this race - Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. and Bermuda's Deputy Governor Mark Capes in turn described the race as a catalyst that has cemented the "unique relationship" between their two communities.

At the reception, Riley reminded listeners that Charlestonians and Bermudians have much in common. He pointed out that the C2B sailors will be tracing a historic course, following a "well-traveled route that has long connected people, commerce and culture between Hamilton and Charleston....It's exciting to be reestablishing this relationship with Bermuda," continued Riley. "And most exciting that two weeks from now, the Spirit of South Carolina will be sailing back to Charleston, side by side with the Spirit of Bermuda, for the first time" both ships with students on board from their respective countries. Capes echoed those sentiments, calling the "very rich common history" shared by the two communities "extraordinary."

Capes' description would also fit the collection of entries competing in this biennial race. Apart from the Spirit, there's Jay Cook's Beneteau 423 Tohidu, which will be serving as an instructional platform for the Charleston-based Ocean Sailing Academy with four students on board. Ken Johnson's C&C 40 Grateful Red - the smallest boat in the fleet - may be crewed by inland sailors, but there's plenty of offshore experience among that group. Mark DiStefano and his crew on board his 56-foot Swan Nova, are hoping to settle some unfinished business. They competed in the 2007 edition of this race, but opted to drop out at the halfway mark. Another C2B veteran, Lee Edwards and his team on board the chartered Little Harbor 63 Spray, will be sailing in superb comfort (Spray is equipped with beaucoup amenities and a full-time captain). And Shelly and Dave Warters, who are sailing aboard their Able Apogee 50 Cadence, have done plenty of doublehanded sailing but chose to compliment their own sailing expertise with four friends for a total of six aboard.

As the fleet heads offshore, the boats stand to get a small but significant boost from a minor frontal system that was sweeping west to east over the Carolinas as of early Thursday morning. Though thunderstorms were forecast to accompany that system, more concerning to most of the fleet's navigators is the first tropical depression of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which had formed on Thursday some 300 miles east of Cape Hatteras.

The Charleston to Bermuda Race is sponsored by Bermuda Tourism, Gosling's Rum, the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel, and Bauer International. The event receives vital support from The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. The race is open to all seaworthy sailboats 30 feet and longer.

The owner and organizing authority for the Charleston to Bermuda Race is the South Carolina Maritime Foundation (SCMF). SCMF is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to offer unique experiential education for South Carolina students, encouraging responsibility, teamwork, and other attributes that are necessary for developing future leaders. The foundation's other programs include Charleston Race Week, Charleston Harbor Fest, The Spirit Ball and the Captain's Cup Golf Tournament.

Official Local Times Across the Start Line:
Spirit of South Carolina 12:00:00
Cadence 12:11:22
Nova 12:11:53
Spray 12:11:58
Tohidu 12:13:00
Gratefully Red 12:17:56

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