Preserving 128 Years of Tradition

Published on August 5th, 2018

Through the summer season, a group of yacht clubs along the South Carolina Lowcountry coast of Charleston host weekend regattas for a range of sailboat classes, with this circuit annually coming to a close with the Rockville Regatta at Sea Island Yacht Club in Rockville, SC.

Unique to coastal Charleston, the Sea Island One Design (SIOD) is the champion of the Rockville Regatta. This special racing class reflects the flat-bottomed working boats of the area’s days of old, ones that navigated shoals smoothly while carrying heavy loads. The boats also represent a time when sailboats were commonly built with wood.

The fleet’s first four boats were built in 1947 for the local Charleston yacht clubs based on sketches by Lowcountry resident Oliver Seabrook, with naval architect Henry Scheel from Mystic, Connecticut adding the final touches. The boats may have slight variations but are very similar, with the same type of sails, mast, rudder, and centerboard.

Through the years, the boats might have faded away and become extinct if it weren’t for the devotion of Rockville resident and local businessman Van Smith and SIOD boat owner Stan LaRoche.

Five more Sea Island One Design boats were built later, closely following the originals, making a total of nine altogether. Individuals now own all but one, which belongs to the James Island Yacht Club. Collectively, the fleet calls Sea Island Yacht Club home.

The Rockville Regatta, held this year on August 4, extends beyond the racers as it is hugely popular among the spectators too. Bohicket Creek is packed with all forms of boats, leaving little room in the narrow creek as they raft up along the race course for a floating weekend party.

The scene is more settled on land where generations watch the races from the lawns of Rockville’s homes and from the Sea Island Yacht Club, which is the hub of a reunion for many generations of folks, from the Friday night shrimp dinner to the awards on Sunday.

What’s most significant about the Rockville Regatta is how it is a family tradition, to sail with your family and celebrate the end of the summer with your family. They have been doing this since 1890 when two neighbors challenged each other to see who could sail faster up the Bohicket Creek.

Story and photos by Priscilla Parker.

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