Solid start for Charleston Race Week
Published on April 9th, 2021
Charleston, SC (April 9, 2021) – Charleston Race Week 2021 got off to a rousing start today with organizers completing multiple races for all classes in moderate to medium conditions.
It was a busy day for the four classes on Circles 1 and 3 and 4, all of which did four races in southeasterly winds that ranged from 8 to 15 knots. Over on Circle 2, the 35-boat Melges 24 and 29-boat J/70 classes started a fourth race, but it was quickly abandoned due to dying breeze.
“We were super psyched to be able to get four good races in today,” said Taran Teague, overall principal race officer for the regatta. “Early forecasts were kind of dicey, but the breeze turned out to be better than expected. Some areas of the harbor saw up to 15 knots.”
Skipper Michelle Warner and the Tudo Bem team took the early lead in VX One class, which has 26 entries and Circle 1 all to itself. Austin Powers and Reed Baldridge are crewing for Warner, the regatta’s reigning champion from 2019. They got the gun in Race 4 to post a low score of 12 points – eight better than Jack Jorgenson and his crew on SDR.
“Our PRO threatened us with Course 6 (six legs) in the final race. Fortunately, we wound up doing another four-leg course. It had already been a tough day,” Warner said.
Evidence of the balance within the VX One class came from the fact four different boats won races. Doug Clark (Angry Baboon) and Ian Maccini (Blue Lobster), who hold third and fourth place, respectively, also got the gun.
“I think the boats that did well today were the ones that were able to handle the current that came across the upper right-hand side of the course,” Warner said. “It was a huge factor during downwind spinnaker run.”
Co-owners Justin Scagnelli and Tim Price came to Charleston Race Week 2021 determined to sail Albondigas to victory in J/88 class after a heartbreaking runner-up result two years ago. They’re off to a good start toward achieving that goal, winning Race 1 then following with a second and third to set a strong early pace.
“We had really good speed today and the whole crew was just dynamite. We were just really dialed in today,” said Scagnelli, who steers the boat.
Stuart Johnstone is trimming the main and calling tactics, while Brian Burke is trimming the jib. Chris Manson serves as “speed wizard,” while Price works the bow and Simon Wills handles the mast aboard Albondigas, which has built a 10-point lead on Exile (Andy Graff).
“We have to approach tomorrow the same way we did today. We basically can’t look at the standings,” Scagnelli said.
No boat had a better day on the water than Final Final, which won all four races to send a strong message to the other eight boats in J/105 class. Skipper Ken Horne, a resident of League City, Texas, said the core of his crew has been together for 20 years and that familiarity showed through on opening day.
“The current was tough, but we seemed to figure it out. Our teamwork was fantastic, and we sailed really well today,” said Horne, who is making his Charleston Race Week debut as a boat owner. “We have not been on the boat for a while, but it was like riding a bike. Everything ran very smooth.”
Charleston holds a special place in the heart for Bruno Pasquinelli, who grew up in Chicago and now lives in Dallas. He’s always had close relatives in the city, which has been a vacation destination since boyhood.
“I’ve been coming to Charleston every summer for the better part of my life. This is one of the favorite places in the world for me,” Pasquinelli said.
Pasquinelli has competed in Charleston Race Week about 15 times in either the J/80 or J/70 class. He’s still looking for a victory here and took a big step toward accomplishing that mission. A solid score line of 3-3-1 has Stampede atop the J/70 standings
“We’re off to a good start in a really tough fleet,” he said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Pasquinelli is blessed with four former Olympic sailors aboard his boat. Brothers Charlie and Jonathan McKee, Seattle natives who captured the bronze medal in 49er class at the at the 2000 Olympics, are teaming on tactics and trimming. Joe Morris, who represented the United States in 49er class at the 2016 Olympics, is working the bow.
“It’s a very competitive fleet, so we feel very fortunate to be atop the standings. All credit to Bruno, who did a really good job of driving,” Jonathan McKee said. “We got some good breaks today and also capitalized on the opportunities we had. Today it was more about the wind than the current on Course 2. The shifts were the dominant factor.”
Skipper Travis Weisleder led Lucky Dog to a solid 4-1-3 scoring line and the Day 1 lead in the massive Melges 24 class. Zenda University, sailed by none other than Harry Melges IV, is just two points behind.
Bruce Bingman is serving as principal race officer on Circle 5, which consists of the five classes doing distance or pursuit racing offshore. Bingman succeeded in producing some terrific racing for the ORC A and B classes that did a 13 ½-mile course as well as the Spinnaker A and B and Non-Spinnaker classes that completed a 16 ½-mile course.
A total of 26 boats started the Pursuit Race, which got underway where the intracoastal waterway meets the channel entrance to Charleston Harbor. The fleet headed through the jetties to a pair of government marks (G13-14). It was a beat for part of the way out then a close reach. Boats were able to set spinnakers for the downwind ride back toward shore.
Celadon, a Moorings 51-footer skippered by Mount Pleasant resident Ray Spelleberg, took top honors among 12 entries in Spinnaker Class A. Spelleberg acknowledged there was a decided local advantage on this day.
“Our tactician and crew are well-versed in the tides and getting out of the jetties. We kind of strategized to stay out of the current as much as possible when not favorable,” Spelleberg said.
It was a four-boat race heading back toward the finish line under spinnaker and Celadon stayed on the south side of the jetties, a move that kept the big boat out of the current. “There was a set of boats on south side and set of boats on the north side. We were grateful to be on the south,” Spelleberg said.
Celadon made another important move when it turned at G19 and headed for the finish line, while the competition continued along the same track for a while longer before gybing.
“We knew we would have to cross that current eventually, so we went early. We were also taking the commercial traffic into consideration as well,” Spelleberg said.
“It was one of those moments in yacht racing when you’ve just made a brilliant move or a catastrophic move. Fortunately, it worked out well. We picked up a lot of speed and pulled away from the rest of the pack.”
Bingman was able to turn the distance race for the two ORC classes into two separate results by working in a four-legged windward-leeward section and adding a scoring gate. The fleet reached out of the channel then turned south and beat about two miles to a drop mark. It was a spinnaker run to another drop mark then a short reach/run to the finish.
The scoring gate was positioned at the leeward mark following the third leg. “With the way the course setup today, it worked perfectly to put in the scoring gate,” Bingman said.
Robert Cristoph, owner of the J/122 Loki that finished second in the first half of the race and first in the second half to win the day, liked the course.
“I think the race committee did an absolutely wonderful job putting the race together today,” Christoph said. “We got two great races all under one cupboard. It could not have been more fun and exciting.”
Loki had a good battle with Teamwork, the highly successful J/122 skippered by Robin Team. Teamwork also went 1-2 but is technically second in the standings based off getting beaten by Loki on the back end of the race.
“Our crew did an outstanding job and was right on top of everything. We had sharp maneuvers and sail settings,” Christoph said. “There is no question the competition is tough. Wings and Teamwork both have great reputations. I think it’s going to be a big-time battle for the remainder of the regatta.”
Racing is being held April 9-11.
Source: Bill Wagner