Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week off to a big start

Saturday, 21 April 2012


Stronger-Than-Expected Wind and Waves Ignite Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week
  
Charleston proved itself once again to be one of the world’s most reliable sailing destinations today, with mother nature unwilling to accept forecasts of a day with little breeze for the Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week 2012.
 
Offshore, around a hundred racing boats from 26 to 72 feet long set off into sporty conditions — an unexpected 12 to 16 knots of wind and large, choppy seas. The classes with the biggest, raciest boats both had a clear winner after Day 1, and George Sakellaris’ Reichel/Pugh 72 Shockwave was one of them, winning all three races in the IRC division. In PHRF A, the McConaghy 38 Carbonado ran away with a three-bullet day as well.
 
“That was just an awesome day,” said Carbonado crew Riley Finch. Skipper Rob Butler had an equally good time. “I can’t believe how hard this team worked the boat downwind, they just made us fly,” he said. According to tactician Marty Kullman, one of the keys was protecting the right side of the race course and working the boat hard downwind. “Charleston rarely disappoints if you go right when it’s sunny out, but working the boat through every wave downwind was just as important as playing the right side for a good result today.”

The PHRF Class C is proving a true clash of the titans, with local legend Bill Hanckel’s J/120 Emocean just a point ahead of 2011 Champ Tim Tucker’s C&C 115 Rock Star, while just one point separates the J/122Teamwork, the X-41 Sarah, and the OD 35 Fearless, the top three boats in PHRF B.  PHRF D is a reprise of the 15-round brawl of 2011, in which Gerry Taylor’s Cape Fear 38 Tangent lost to Bruce Gardner’s Beneteau 10 Meter L’Outrage by just a point.  Some battles are old and some new, but none are easy at Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week.

The Tartan 10, PHRF E, and PHRF F Classes featured similar battles after three races, while Sail Magazine’s “Best Around The Buoys” contest winner Grant Dumas and his talented crew proved their mettle with three straight bullets in PHRF Class G.
 
On the inshore race courses, Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week’s biggest ever inshore fleet fought and scrapped for every inch on the course, sometimes taking it too far. In the huge Viper 640 fleet (40 boats), competitors characteristically work so hard for an advantage that they frequently run aground, and Vipers hit bottom a few times today.  “We followed three boats right over the Middle Ground – they went through without incident and we hit it…hard,” said one sailor, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
 
A newcomer to the Viper fleet is just one point out of first place – 24-year-old Maine sailor Sara Fox at the helm of Kitsune.  “It was like a death trap if you got caught in the wrong part of the current,” she said. Fortunately, our tactician, Luke Lawrence, got almost every shift right.”  Fox sails along with her father Scott on the bow, and credits her upbringing with her success on Day 1 of 2012 Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week.  “We were raised sailing on a shallow, current-filled body of water that has a lot in common with Charleston. It definitely helped me deal with the trickiness of sailing here.”

2011 Charleston Race Week champ and many-time J/24 North American, National, and European Champion Mike Ingham had a tough day on the water, though not as tough as he thought. “With the current flowing out, we got caught in a couple of bad spots during the starts and ended up over the line early twice,” Ingham explained. “When we got back and found out we were in second place, we couldn’t believe it.”
 
Will it be a stormy Saturday? The forecasts vary, though most call for a strong Southeasterly flow of up to 20 knots tomorrow, as well as the potential for afternoon thunderstorms. That means wind, which means smiles on sailors’ faces.  

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 21 April 2012 )