Charleston Race Week: Brutal winds, mondo waves cancel most racing

Published on April 21st, 2013

Charleston, SC (April 21, 2013) – If Friday’s winds were “monster” (the event’s own description), there really isn’t an appropriate superlative to describe what happened this morning in Charleston. Rapidly increasing winds and huge seas offshore (8 feet at the mouth of Charleston Harbor) prompted the principal race officers to cancel all competition offshore. Inshore, the race committees set up courses and attempted to get races going on all three courses, but the action was quickly cancelled for everyone except for those racing in the Pursuit Class.

As of 9:00 a.m., nearby buoy data from NOAA was registering 17 knots out of the east-southeast, but those digits quickly increased. An hour later, the winds were closing in on 30. According to PRO Hank Stewart, who was directing all the action on the Melges 20 and 24 courses, the day initially looked promising.

“When we first got our anchor down, it was blowing 15 and looked fine, but as soon as the tide began to flood, the breeze just jumped up to 25 knots and was quickly going beyond our limit. I knew when I held my anemometer up and the wind nearly blew me over it was time to cancel…The whole idea of going out this morning was to try and sneak in one race, but it pretty quickly became clear that it wouldn’t be feasible.”

Stewart’s decision, along with those of his fellow PROs, was met with near universal endorsement across the fleet. Local racer Jeff Irvine, who was crewing aboard John Lucas and Marcus Durlach’s Charleston-based 1 Design 35 Fearless, called the conditions offshore and in the harbor “insane.” Adding,”we came in after the cancellation and just motored around the harbor. We saw some crazy action, Viper 640s flipping over and all kinds stuff like that. It was definitely hairy and I don’t think you’ll find one racer who’ll say cancelling was a bad decision.”

Despite the intensifying winds, it was just another day on the water for the competitors in the Pursuit Class whose action began on a fetch when the crew on board Francisco Davila’s Soverel 36 Houzee crossed the line with main, mizzen and headsail flying. The buffeting breezes were so strong that half the Pursuit Class entrants ended up dropping out. Among them was Jaime Walker’s Swan 56, which started with only its blade jib flying and made it out to Fort Sumter before retiring.

As the day wore on, the breeze continued to build out of the East, white-capping the harbor and effectively driving all marine traffic off the water. By mid afternoon, the winds surpassed 40 knots, which was just about when the final awards were starting to take place.

Final results:
Event website:

The Palmetto Cup, awarded to the best performer under PHRF, went to Robin Team and his crew aboard Team’s J/122 Teamwork.

The Charleston Race Week Trophy, awarded to the top boat in the most competitive one-design class, went to J/24 Class winner Kris Werner and his Rochester, NY-based crew on board Superfecta.

The Jubilee Perpetual Sportsmanship Trophy went to local J/24 racer and the Commodore of CORA, Mike Palazzo. Palazzo and his Jo Mamma crew rescued a man overboard in Friday’s heated action and never approached the jury for redress. In fact, the skipper of the boat that lost the man overboard tried to do that on Palazzo’s behalf.

The 2013 Melges 24 National Championship is Melges 24 Class victor Alec Cutler’s Bermuda-based team on Hedgehog.

Even with the lack of competition Sunday, most competitors were more than pleased with the overall experience in Charleston. Annapolitan Terry Hutchinson, who was in a jovial mood even after a 9th place finish in the Melges 20 Class, offered a widely shared sentiment: “This was a rockin’ event. We’re definitely putting this on the schedule for next year, so see you then.”

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