When regattas show value to their region
Published on March 13th, 2023
The popularity of Charleston Race Week has been a mix of right time of year, right region of the country, and right venue, the later of which had a hotel marina with beach space for socializing. But with no title sponsor and rising venue costs, the spring event needed a revision.
The town of Mount Pleasant and City of Charleston in South Carolina value the event which has become a fixture of the region, as Charleston Race Week has brought a huge economic boost to both municipalities for more than a quarter of a century.
So when longtime event director Randy Draftz determined that Charleston Race Week needed a new venue, he reached out to Mount Pleasant mayor Will Haynie who sprang into action.
He picked up the phone and dialed Mac Burdette, executive director of Patriots Point Development Authority. “Will Haynie called and asked if there was anything Patriots Point could do so the regatta could remain at its traditional home,” Burdette said.
The solution was to move the Race Village onto the USS Yorktown, the historic World War II era aircraft carrier that is berthed at Patriots Point.
“The USS Yorktown is an iconic warship and a landmark feature along the Charleston harbor waterfront,” Draftz said. “It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area and one of the most beautifully unique venues in all of Charleston.”
USS Yorktown is an Essex-class aircraft carrier commissioned in April 1943. Initially to be christened as the Bonhomme Richard, she was renamed while still under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company.
It replaced the USS Yorktown that was sunk during the Battle of Midway as U.S. Navy officials hoped the Japanese would think the original carrier was salvaged.
The USS Yorktown was decommissioned in 1970 and five years later was transformed into a museum ship at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. Burdette believes there is a natural synergy between the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum and Charleston Race Week.
“I think there is a natural connection between this regatta and our mission,” he said. “I would expect that a lot of the people participating in Charleston Race Week are interested in military history. Hopefully, being aboard the Yorktown this will make the event more meaningful for them.”
This won’t be the first time the USS Yorktown has been used as headquarters for a sailing regatta. When College of Charleston hosted the collegiate national championships in 2017, all operations were held aboard the aircraft carrier.
Charleston Race Week will conduct the Quantum Sails daily racing debrief aboard the Yorktown. Hangar Bay Three, which is where all the fighter jets were armed, repaired and protected, will serve as location for the nightly parties. As always, daily racing highlights will be streamed on a large screen aboard the USS Yorktown.
Quantum Sails also provides morning weather and local knowledge briefings to help competitors tackle the tricky breeze and fast-moving current of Charleston Harbor.
Sailors will be allowed to go up to the flight deck to watch Saturday night’s Pro-Am Regatta, which pairs prominent professional sailors with high school students from the greater Charleston area. Both the flight deck and fantail, which are 67 feet above the water, offer a spectacular view of Charleston Harbor and the city skyline.
Burdette said the USS Yorktown hosts upwards of 75 events per year and has been utilized for weddings, high school proms, and corporate dinners.
The 27th annual Charleston Race Week will be held April 20-23, 2023 with close to 200 boats in 20 classes competing. This year’s regatta will feature several new classes, including the Hobie 33 which will be contesting its national championship in conjunction with race week.