Harken Derm

Variable winds for Charleston Race Week

Published on April 13th, 2019

Charleston, South Carolina (April 13, 2019) – Charleston Harbor was pretty much becalmed as sailors made their way to the docks this morning for day two of Sperry Charleston Race Week. Some of the professional tacticians encouraged event director Randy Draftz to post an onshore postponement in order to give the sea breeze time to fill in.

Draftz has been running the event for a long time and knows the conditions here better than anyone. He decided to send the 257-boat fleet out on time, but instructed principal race officers on all seven circles to error on the side of caution. “We’d rather have one good race than three bad ones,” Draftz said.

It turns out concerns about the wind velocity were unfounded. In typical Charleston fashion, the breeze built throughout the day and organizers got in four races again today – two light air starts in the morning followed by two medium breeze starts in the afternoon.

“It was a very challenging day on the water,” said Pamela Rose, skipper of the J/70 Rosebud. “I give my crew a lot of credit for having the ability to tune the boat accurately for the changing conditions.”

Joel Ronning and his Catapult crew had a dominant day within the J/70 fleet, largest of the regatta with 56 boats. Ronning steered Catapult to victory in all four races, an extremely difficult accomplishment considering the caliber of competition.

Class veteran Victor Diaz De Leon is calling tactics on Catapult with Charleston local Patrick Wilson trimming the headsails and Christopher Stocke working the bow. Factor in a win to close out yesterday’s action and Catapult has posted five straight bullets en route to a low score of 14 points.

“One thing about this team is that we have a tremendous amount of fun together. It’s a very harmonious group,” said Ronning, who captured J/70 class and earned the Charleston Race Week Cup in 2017. “Victor Diaz is a brilliant tactician and the communication on the boat is tremendous. Patrick and Christopher are fantastic about feeding information to Victor.”

Rosebud holds second place in J/70 class, 19 points behind Catapult and six ahead of Victory (Buddy Cribb). This is Rose’s third time at Sperry Charleston Race Week and this is the highest she has been in J/70 class.

Today marked the debut of the spectacular M32 catamarans at Sperry Charleston Race Week, racing just off the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina as the M32 class completed eight races. Skipper Don Wilson and his Convexity crew were on fire, winning four races while placing second or third in the others. That strong outing gave the Chicago entry a formidable 19-point lead over Team Vikings, skippered by Hakan Svensson of Sweden.

“We had typical Charleston conditions,” said Wilson, who previously competed in this regatta in the Melges 24 and J/105 classes. “It was a little up and down throughout the day. It was soft at first then built as the day went along. I’d say the low end was even knots and the high was about 12 knots.”

“This race course was plenty big enough, and it actually worked out well with that wind direction,” said Wilson, referring to the south-southeasterly breeze. “The starts were a bit tricky and we did so-so in that department. Taylor (tactician Taylor Canfield) did a great job of picking sides of the course and we were just super-consistent with our maneuvers.”

There was a shakeup in the standings in VX One class, which has attracted 30 entries. Reigning North American champion Chris Alexander had been dominating the fleet, but a disqualification in the opening race today along with a sixth in Race 8 dropped Counterproductive to second behind Tudo Bem.

Michelle Warner, out of Dillon Yacht Club in Boulder, Colorado, closed out today’s racing with a 2-5-1 score line to take over the top spot. Former College of Charleston All-American Reed Baldridge is driving Tudo Bem, which has finished fifth or better in seven of eight races so far and leads Counterproductive by one point.

“We had variable pressure today so understanding where the wind was filling from was important,” Warner said. “Recognizing what was happening with the current was also crucial. The starts in this class are full-on so you must keep cool in some pressure situations. Reed is doing an awesome job of driving.”

There is an equally good battle going on in the Viper 640 class with Chance V and NESS tied atop the standings with 15 points apiece.

Both boats have been consistent with Kevin McCarthy skippering Chance V to victory in four races and posting no result worse than fifth. Meanwhile, Mark Zagol has led NESS to second in four races and third in two others in addition to winning Race 6 on Saturday.

“There are some pretty significant oscillations on the course, which is making racing very close, very tight,” said Zagol, a Pawcatuck, Connecticut resident. “These types of conditions can leave you vulnerable at times and put you in a powerful position at others. This is a very tough fleet and there are a lot of boats capable of winning races. Every single point has been hard-fought.”

Entourage, skippered by Nick Amendola is hot on the heels of Chance V and NESS with 17 points. “There are three of us in the thick of things so tomorrow is going to be intense. We’re going to stick with the same approach and just sail our own race.”

Shenanigans, sailed by the husband and wife tandem of Bill and Shannon Lockwood, has set a strong pace in J/80 class – getting the gun in five of eight starts. The Annapolis boat has a couple seconds and a third for a low score of nine points, but is still just three clear of the second place boat. Eleven, another Annapolis entry skippered by Bert Carp, has also posted a steady string of top three finishes highlighted by three bullets.

Monsoon maintained the lead in Melges 24 for the second straight day, but it didn’t come easy. Skipper Bruce Ayres and company absorbed a 27th in Race 5, but rebounded to win Race 6 then took third in Race 8 and has 23 points.

MiKEY, skippered by Kevin Welch of Anacortes, Washington, is three points behind in second. Defending Sperry Charleston Race Week champion Brian Porter and his Full Throttle team are lurking in third – just six points astern of the leader.

Skipper John Brown steered Blind Squirrel to a solid score line of 9-2-7-2 on Saturday and made a major move in the Melges 24 standings.

“We worked extremely hard and every member of the team did their job perfectly,” said Brown, a Philadelphia resident. “It was a highly stressful, but very rewarding day.”

There might be a major upset brewing in ORC C class where two-time defending champion Rattle-N-Rum is getting a stiff challenge from HeadFirst3. Skipper Mike Beasley has captured the prestigious Palmetto Trophy the past two years, but his GP 26 currently trails the Farr 30 by three points.

HeadFirst3, owned by Peter Toomb of Charlottetown, Canada, won the initial race today while Rattle-N-Rum suffered a seventh. The Prince Edward Island entry finished second in Race 6 then notched another victory in Race 7 to extend its lead before Rattle-N-Rum closed the gap a bit by winning Race 8.

“This is the first time we’ve come here to Charleston and it’s been an interesting challenge. There is a lot of tide and a lot of shifts so we’ve had to keep our heads out of the boat,” Toomb said. “We know the GP team is very good so we’ve been watching them closely. It’s been a heck of a battle with those guys and we have one more day to go.”

Darren Jones is serving as tactician on HeadFirst3, a nearly 30-year-old design that is racing for the first time in six months. “We are being conservative in our decision-making and being careful to never take ourselves out of it,” Toomb said. “Racing has been very close and we’ve had to work hard for every result we’ve gotten.”

Carter White and his crew on YouRegatta have put forth a masterful performance in Melges 24 class, winning six straight races after beginning the regatta with a second. White, who hails from Portland, Maine, has built an eight-point lead on Level Pelican (Crisp McDonald).

Racing for the two PHRF Pursuit Course classes and the three Hybrid Pursuit classes was cancelled due to light winds offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

The 24th edition of Sperry Charleston Race Week is on for April 12-14.

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Source: Bill Wagner

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