For a second straight day, Charleston Harbor and the open ocean just offshore provided near-perfect conditions for over 200 competing teams at Sperry Charleston Race Week 2017.
Boats across all six courses faced brisk southerly winds of 15-20 knots, while the offshore boats saw five-foot waves and big gusts on the second day of the biggest multiclass keelboat regatta in the Americas.
There’s drama across all these highly competitive fleets, but nowhere more than in the Pursuit course today, where former Beneteau USA President Wayne Burdick leads the regatta with a group of longtime friends aboard his 18-year old Beneteau 411 Marion Maid despite being unable to locate the turning mark in their Saturday race. “Our Race Officer Frank Pontious was kind enough to provide us with his cell phone number, so we called Frank and suggested that maybe we round Rattlesnake as our mark, and he was fine with that. That saved the day!”
Burdick has been sailing with his crew for over 40 years, and he said their motto is “All Chiefs, no Indians” because they’ve each owned their own boats and no one wants to be the crew. “We’ve raced all over the world together, in the Med, in Bermuda, the Caribbean, and it’s a great group,” he said, adding that “now it looks like we have to stay pretty close to shore because at 66, I’m the youngest one of us.”
When asked about his group’s experience here, Burdick said it’s been wonderful. “The weather has been just spectacular. But like the rest of us on board, Marion Maid isn’t a spring chicken. I love this boat, she can be a great racer, but she was going a little sideways a lot of times today in that chop offshore. If we hadn’t had this strong breeze, I’m sure we wouldn’t be sitting in first right now.”
Charleston’s new ORC scoring classes allow ratings of dissimilar boats to be customized to the wind speed on the day, producing corrected time results that are closer and more fair than single-number rating systems. In today’s high-wind conditions (>14 knots), this closeness was demonstrated most clearly in the ORC C class, where the nine boats competing on inshore Circle 3 not only saw scoring places determined within seconds in corrected time, but even tied to within one second after over 30 minutes of racing.
With crisp boat handling, smart tactics, and blazing speed, Mike Beasley’s GP 26 Rattle n Rum continued to extend its lead from yesterday and is dominating the class. Yet in today’s first race, they had to share fourth-place points with sistership Hall Pass, Jim Carkhuff’s Jim Donovan-designed GP 26. And the winners of this race were the hard-fighting students of College of Charleston with the Melges 30 Cougar, but their margin of victory was slender; just 20 seconds ahead of Hawk Caldwell’s Henderson 30 Short Bus, which now shares a third-place tie with Marcus Durlach’s Charleston-based Melges 32 Fearless. “The racing here has been outstanding,” said Caldwell, “because we are fighting not only boat-for-boat, but closely in corrected time as well. The system seems to really be working well.”
Nearly as close is the ORC A Class, where Tony Langley’s TP 52 Gladiator – the fastest boat in the regatta – has been enjoying the big wind and big waves on the offshore course area with two bullets and a second today. And with six races completed, discards now apply to the score lines giving them a three-point lead going into tomorrow’s final two races.
Yet Robin Team’s J/122 Teamwork – the only four-time overall Charleston Race Week Champion – continues to be a giant-killer, being consistently close to Langley in corrected time and taking the win in the last race. “We’re glad to finally get one from the Gladiator guys, but we’re honestly just happy to watch that monster sail around the course,” said skipper Robin Team, who sees his chances for winning a fifth Palmetto Cup slipping away. “Those guys don’t make a lot of errors, so we’ll do our best and just enjoy watching them when we can see them.”
“This is a different kind of racing than one-designs,” said Teamwork tactician Jonathan Bartlett. “With ORC you are racing the clock, so we are focused on sailing our numbers and trying to not get tangled tactically. We’ve been together as a team for years, so we just need to sail clean and we can do well.”
In a totally dominating performance, Fred “Frickie” Martschink and Bill McKenzie’s J/105 Rum Front pulled another two bullets out of the hat today in that one-design class, but the local Charleston team’s best performance may have been their battling back to a second place after crossing the line early in Race 4. Rum Front bow person Naomi Van Den Bergh said they kept their heads down and sailed hard. “We just tried to sail fast and keep fighting all the way around the course,” she said. “I only moved here last year, but it’s a great sailing town and one of the best regattas anywhere in the world, and hopefully we can continue to sail well tomorrow.”
A highlight of this year’s regatta was Saturday’s Pro-Am event, which featured some of the most accomplished sailors in the sport. The pros and their amateur crews – made up of College of Charleston team sailors and high school racers as well as a few paying guests – battled it out just off the pier in front of hundreds of spectators who cheered them on. The No. 1-ranked match racer in the country, Christophe Killian, managed to outperform his esteemed rivals in 14 knots of wind and choppy seas. Sailing aboard the College’s fleet of J/22s, these pros put on a true exhibition with three short windward-leeward races. Killian’s scores (2, 2, 2) made him the victor by five points ahead of Dave Pritchard. The funds raised by way of this event go to benefit the College of Charleston Sailing Program. (For a full list of the pro participants, Click here.)
Sperry Charleston Race Week is now in its 22nd year. This regatta attracts sailors from all across the U.S. and around the world. This year, sailors from 24 U.S. states and nine foreign countries are competing, and they’ll all be back on the water Sunday for the final day of action. Follow the event on its website and on its social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube).
For full results, check here.
by Charleston Race Week