Charleston Race Week: Strong winds predicted

Published on April 19th, 2013

Monster Winds Will Challenge Big Names And Average Joes Alike
20+ Knots Forecast For Start Of Sperry Top-Sider® Charleston Race Week

From professionals to novices, you’ll find the full spectrum of sailors among more than 2,500 participants at 2013 Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week (April 19-21). And while there’s plenty of strategizing and practicing going on down at the welcome party, the real talk among the nearly 300 teams here is the forecast. Most models predict up to 25 knots of breeze for the start of racing on Friday, while Sunday promises similarly apocalyptic conditions.

“We’re excited to race in such a fun fleet, and even more excited to really light it up downwind in the Viper when the breeze pipes up,” said dinghy sailor and Viper crew Luke Lawrence. Toronto female skipper Sandy Butler won her offshore class in last year’s mostly light-wind affair aboard the 38-foot Carbonado, and this year, she’s back on the inside course in the big Melges 20 fleet with Touch2Play. “After a season of racing in the breezy Caribbean, I’m ready for anything,” she said. Event Director Randy Draftz predicts a great day for ‘getting to know’ Charleston’s waters. “There are bound to be a couple thousand smiling faces tomorrow along with more than a few bruised bodies and egos,” Draftz said.

Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week has become the most important event of the winter for many classes, and it’s reflected in both the size of the fleets, and the level of talent throughout them. With the new, massive J/70 fleet (55 boats), the tough Melges 20 fleet (33 boats), the Melges 24 fleet (38 boats), the Viper 640 fleet (33 boats), double digit entries in the Ultimate 20, J/22, and J/24 fleets, and the new High Performance Rating fleet, 2013 brings in the most talent-laded gathering in the event’s history, with literally hundreds of America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race, Olympic, and College stars on the water.

Among the sport’s luminaries who will be on hand to compete when racing starts on Friday morning is San Diego’s Mark Reynolds, a three-time Olympic medallist who last year was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame as one of America’s most successful sailors. On the water, he’ll share space with former Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and long time America’s Cup veteran Terry Hutchinson, who will be racing in the Melges 20 Class with multiple Farr 40 World Champion Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad. Elsewhere, Volvo Ocean Race veteran Kimo Worthington will do a cameo appearance with Bryan Huntley and his crew from Sandusky, OH, on board a brand new Beneteau First 35. (Huntley and company won SAIL Magazine’s Best Around the Buoys contest, giving them use of that boat, accommodations, dockage, free entry to the regatta, a new suit of North Sails along with instruments by B&G, gear by Ronstan and bottom paint supplied by Pettit Paint.)

Worthington is just one of 23 industry professionals who will be on the water representing North Sails, a regatta sponsor, and the roster of pros stretches well beyond. Three other Rolex Yachtsman of the Year recipients will be competing: Chris Larson (a former College Sailor of the Year at the College of Charleston), Bora Gulari, a perennial trophy grabber in the Melges 24 Class, which is holding its National Championship this week in Charleston, and one-design guru Jud Smith (racing in the J/70 Class). And the list goes on, and on, and on.

As much as these guys garner the limelight – on the racecourse and often at the beachfront parties – the majority of competitors this weekend are sailors whose names most of us will never learn. “That’s a special trait of this regatta. It was born as an everyman’s event, and that’s definitely the core. But what’s really cool about Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week is that you might be completely new to the sport, yet you get to be out there right alongside guys who are featured in sailing magazines. It’s like lining up to play golf in a foursome with Tiger Woods.”

And what do those pros have to say about sailing here? Let’s leave it to Terry Hutchinson, who will be sailing in this event for the first time: “Why Charleston? Great competition in a great venue. This regatta has the reputation as one of the best one-design events in the country. For our Melges 20 team, this is our first competition and we pushed hard to get the boat ready to be here. We’re really glad we did!

The competition gets underway on Friday morning when the full 285-boat fleet will face building breezes throughout the day due to a strong frontal system sweeping across the country. For more information or updates, log on to You can also follow the event on Facebook and Twitter.

Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week runs from April 18 through April 21 and is open to all monohull sailboats 20 to 80 feet in length. The event is owned and managed by Charleston Ocean Racing Association, and is supported by Sperry Top-Sider, the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, Vineyard Vines and Gosling’s Rum. Additional sponsors include the Town of Mt. Pleasant, Gill, Coral Reef Sailing Apparel, North Sails, B&G/Simrad, Dimension Polyant, Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Eelsnot, Marlow, Bainbridge, Newport Shipyard, and Torqueedo Outboards, New England Ropes, along with Charleston Community Sailing, West Marine, Pierside Boatworks, College of Charleston Sailing Association, Florida Hydraulics and Rigging, Harken, Cricket, Lewmar, Azalea Moving and Storage, Other Brother Entertainment, Sail Charleston and

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