CHARLESTON: The year big fleets met big winds

Published on April 21st, 2013

It was on the eve of the 2013 Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week (April 19-21) when most weather models predicted big breeze for the start of racing on Friday, with Sunday promising similarly apocalyptic conditions. And that is exactly what the 2013 edition received.

With the 287 teams scattered about on harbor and offshore courses, race organizers were eager to seize the day, completing 3 to 4 races in Friday’s 20 knot winds. The stronger winds inshore accounted for broken masts on the Melges 20 course for Richard Davies Section 16 and Bob Hughes Heartbreaker, with both able to rig replacement spars for day two.

Saturday’s moderate breezes and calm seas allowed for some recovery, but it was another 3 to 4 race day to insure each fleet was given the chance to sort out the pecking order in the standings. With the 2013 U.S. Melges 24 National title, Bermuda’s Alec Cutler, aboard Hedgehog, opened up a three-point lead on 2012 Charleston winner and multiple continental/national champ Bora Gulari, with an 11-point cushion back to third place.

“One slow tack and you drop 10 boats; there is literally no room for anything but perfection or you’re always digging out,” said five-time Olympian Richard Clarke, who is with Cutler. Clarke noted how Charleston’s short courses and changing currents are a great equalizer for the teams.

With the podium positions far from certain, Sunday looked to be the determining factor if not for one thing: the forecast. If Friday’s winds were “monster” (the event’s own description), there really wasn’t an appropriate superlative to describe what happened Sunday morning n. 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.

Beyond the final results, here are three event perpetuals:

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.

Click here for full event recap.

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