Game time at Charleston Race Week

Published on April 21st, 2023

When Steve Attard took charge of planning the Hobie 33 National Championship, his thoughts immediately turned to Charleston Race Week. Priority one was picking a venue and Attard realized being part of an existing regatta would dramatically reduce the logistical challenges.

“It made a lot of sense to me because Charleston Race Week provides all the on and off the water support,” Attard said. “I heard the currents and conditions were challenging and figured that would be a nice change of pace.”

Hobie 33 will become just the latest in a long line of classes to contest championships at the 27th Charleston Race Week, being held in 2023 on April 21-23 in Charleston, South Carolina. Ten one-design classes along with ORC divisions will compete on three separate circles set on Charleston Harbor.

Veteran regatta manager Taran Teague will once again serve as the overall principal race officer. Chip Till will handle PRO duties on Circle One (VX One, J/24, RS 21, J22/Inshore PHRF), Mark Foster will manage Circle Two (Melges 24, J/70), and Matt Hill will oversee Circle Three (J/88, J/105, Melges 32, Hobie 33). Bruce Bingman and Ray Redness return as principal race officers for the offshore courses being sailed by the ORC A, Pursuit Spinnaker A, Pursuit Spinnaker B, and Pursuit Non-Spinnaker classes.

As usual, the J/70 class is the largest of the regatta with 40 boats roughly evenly split between professional teams and Corinthian crews. Dallas, Texas skipper Bruno Pasquinelli is the defending champion at Charleston Race Week and will have a top-flight crew aboard Stampede. Last year, Morgan Reeser called tactics as Pasquinelli notched two bullets and finished fifth or better in five others on the way to winning by a comfortable 14-point margin.

Other top contenders include Empeiria (John Heaton; Wilmette, IL), Very Odd (David Jannetti; Miami Beach, FL) and Nine (Oivind Lorentzen; Stamford, CT). Henry Filter is a veteran J/70 skipper who races Corinthian but has proven more than capable of competing on even terms with the pro teams.

Last year, Filter and his team aboard Wild Child finished 18th in the overall standings – two spots behind Corinthian champion Francisco Van Avermaete (Juicy).

“Charleston Race Week is one of our favorite events as it is typically the first big regatta to kick off the spring season,” Filter said. “The venue is extremely challenging with shifty breeze and tricky currents running in several directions. Throw in the competitive, deep J/70 fleet and you have the recipe for great days on the water.”

The second-largest class at Charleston Race Week 2023 is VX One, which will have 29 boats on the start line. Skipper Doug Clark will be making his third straight appearance at Charleston Race Week and seeking his second title after winning by tiebreaker over Chris Alexander in 2021.

“Charleston Race Week is a premier event for our class. It’s unlike any event in the country and always attracts a very competitive fleet and the racing is top-notch,” said Clark, who placed third last year. “It’s a tricky place to sail. It’s a very unique venue because you’re dealing with three different currents.”

Melges 24 is another class that draws numerous pros to Charleston Race Week. Travis Weisleder, who has dominated the regatta of late, winning three straight editions, is not attending this year due to personal reasons but has chartered his boat to two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year nominee Laura Grondin. She now bears the responsibility of skippering Lucky Dog to a fourth consecutive crown.

“I’m well aware the pressure is on. I’ve been asked to drive the boat that has won the last three Charleston Race Weeks and would like to continue that streak,” Grondin said. “I’ve sailed against Travis for many years and Lucky Dog is a good boat that is always well prepared. John is doing everything possible to ensure the standard stays high, so we’re going there to win.”

Melges 32 class will make its Charleston Race Week debut with a solid fleet of seven boats. Back in its heyday, the class held stand-alone events and did not join other regattas. Now participating as part of an elite regatta is a way to boost the class numbers.

Clarke McKinney raced his Melges 32 at Charleston Race Week in 2019 as part of an ORC class. He was thrilled to see there would be a one-design class this year and did not hesitate to register Wild Horses, which he co-owns with Hawk Caldwell.

“When I saw a handful of boats were already registered, I jumped on the bandwagon,” McKinney said. “I think we’re all looking forward to racing one-design as opposed to ORC, which is where we are for most regattas these days.”

Eight of the 13 boats entered in J/24 class are from South Carolina with most coming from the immediate Charleston area. Dan Rogge, a Carolina Yacht Club member and skipper of Matadora, said the local fleet is always extremely competitive and coming together at Charleston Race Week only raises the stakes.

“I think all the boats from the area want to win this regatta in particular because of its history and tradition,” he said. Rogge steered Matadora to a third-place finish at Charleston Race Week 2022 and is hoping to take the next step to the top of the podium. “You would like to think that each year you make some improvements and show some growth. We feel like we have the talent to be very competitive again this year.”

The J/88 class has been a longtime staple of Charleston Race Week and always draws a strong fleet. That is certainly the case again this year with Exile (John and Jordan Leahey), Albondigas (Justin Scagnelli) and Deviation (Iris Vogel) all returning after placing second through fourth in 2022. Deviation was runner-up at the J/88 North Americans that were held off Chicago in September and featured 25 boats. Exile and Albondigas finished third and seventh in that event.

“Deviation is always a solid boat to beat, while Exile has a very good program as well,” noted Scagnelli. “I would like to consider our boat a top contender because we have a really good team this year. But, just like every Charleston Race Week, any boat could win.”

Blow Boat!! was the surprise performer at Charleston Race Week 2022, coming out of nowhere to win J/105 class. Skipper Rob Marsh got the old gang back together and proceeded to place first or second in six of 10 races to edge Skimmer (Miles Martschink) by two points. J/105 class was considered the most competitive among one-designs and Blow Boat!!was presented with the prestigious Charleston Race Week Cup as Boat of the Week.

“We lost one of our main men, Jeremy Macan, which is tough. Our whole goal this year is to honor Jeremy,” Marsh said. “We’re excited for some great competition. The J/105 class is filled with great people and is very Corinthian.”

Event informationRace detailsEntry list

Source: CRW Events

comment banner


Back to Top ↑

Get Your Sailing News Fix!

Your download by email.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ll keep your information safe.