Sailing Succeeds as a Social Sport

Published on February 16th, 2016

With the entry list growing, Sperry Charleston Race Week 2016 is on its way to being another dominant event. Scheduled for April 15-17, Melges 20 competitor Rhonda Joyce explains why the event and the sport work for her…

Rhonda Joyce is one of the most enthusiastic sailboat racers you’re likely to meet. A former aircraft maintenance engineer, she’s only been in the sport since 2009, but already she’s had a significant impact. Joyce was recently elected to the International Audi Melges 20 Class Association board, and for several years prior served as fleet captain in the class for the Toronto area. During her tenure, participation in that fleet grew from four active boats to nearly 15.

“I grew up around the water,” explains Joyce, “and I’m amazed that it took me so long to get involved in sailing.” However, for over a dozen years, she was heavily into skydiving. “That’s really what kept me from sailing,” she says. “I still do that, but I’ve broken so many bones that I’m now happy to be spending more time sailing and less time jumping out of airplanes.”

Joyce began her Melges 20 career with an all-women crew. She still competes with an all-female crew from time to time, but these days her fiancé, Mike Wolfs, is a big part of the Grinning Streak team. “He’s a great sailor,” Joyce says. “He was a silver medalist in the Star Class at the ’04 Olympics in Greece.”

Joyce is unequivocally enthusiastic about the Melges 20 Class. “I really love it,” she says. “It’s a fabulous boat to race and the people involved make it a wonderful class. I think all the Melges 20 owners who have registered are excited to be going to Charleston. I know I’m super excited. And it will be cool because there are several boats that we race against at home coming to the event too.”

For Joyce, this April will mark her second go-round at CRW. “I was there with my boat, Batteries Not Required, in 2012, and it was great. For me, Charleston is such a great place. And the regatta is so much fun. The last time I was there, I sort of overdid it. I had a little too much fun on Sunday after the event ended, and I woke up the next morning with a monumental hangover. All my crew had flown home, and I had to tow the boat all the way back to Toronto by myself.”

So, what are her expectations for CRW this year? “My big focus is on having fun. If it’s windy, that’s what I prefer. That’s when we do our best. And if that’s the case, we expect to be in the front half of the fleet. If it’s light and twitchy, well, I’ll be the one out there crying. But honestly, I love the social aspect of this event. The parties at Charleston are really fun and that fits my style. Sailing for me is 50 percent competitive and 50 percent social. If this weren’t a social sport, I don’t think I’d be involved.”

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