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Charleston Race Week turns 20 years

Published on January 18th, 2015

What began as a local regatta with 29 entries nearly two decades ago has evolved to become the largest keelboat gathering of its kind in North and South America. Sperry Charleston Race Week turns 20 this spring and the organizers are putting a special emphasis on the two elements that have been pivotal to the regatta’s success – superb race management and exceptional shoreside fun. That’s apropos for an event taking place in what has been deemed the country’s friendliest city.

Each year, the organizers assemble the most experienced – and respected – team of credentialed race officers possible to manage the on-the-water activity. The officials who preside over the inshore activity on three separate race courses have to manage roughly 180 boats. And offshore, race officers orchestrate the activity of roughly 100 additional vessels. Collectively, their outstanding management in past years has earned the event US Sailing’s One-Design Award for Regatta Excellence (2013).

On shore, the story is no different. Race Week’s regatta village – where all of the shoreside activity takes place – is situated within one of the most desirable venues around. The Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina features a palm-tree-lined beachfront setting enclosed by a four-story hotel overlooking the harbor. Every day of the regatta is followed by a festive evening here, and in past years, Race Week’s organizers have arranged for a Mardi Gras-style parade, a 13-foot video screen, panel discussions featuring the sport’s luminaries and even an appearance by the America’s Cup trophy. Of course, the appropriate libations are always on hand, courtesy of longtime sponsor Goslings Rum.

To celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary, Draftz and his fellow organizers are planning a special evening for Saturday, April 18. “We haven’t finalized everything just yet, but rest assured, you definitely don’t want to miss the celebration,” he said.

As a way of further enhancing Race Week’s offerings, Draftz and the other organizers who represent Charleston Ocean Racing Association – the regatta’s owner – have devised a unique feeder race. The Fort Lauderdale to Charleston Race will enable sailors to make their way to Charleston in competitive fashion and enjoy the advantage of those offshore days as a tune-up for Race Week. That 408-mile race, which is being managed in partnership with the Lauderdale Yacht Club, the Storm Trysail Club and the Carolina Yacht Club, begins on Saturday, April 11.

In addition, the Fort Lauderdale to Charleston Race will serve as the first in a three-leg series that has been dubbed the East Coast Offshore Series (ECOS). Legs two and three will take competitors from Charleston to Annapolis (starting on May 22) and from Annapolis to Newport, R.I. (starting on June 5). For additional information regarding the Fort Lauderdale to Charleston Race and ECOS, log on here.

Racing for the 2015 Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week is on April 17-19.

Event website:

Report by event media.

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