Charleston Race Week 2008

Bill Sweetser med sin J/109 Rush dominerde sin klass på Charleston Race Week. Lookin good! Foton: Tim Wilkes.

Skipper Bill Sweetser led Rush to a commanding victory in PHRF B, notching bullets in five races while taking second in the other three. Annapolis resident Mike Hobson called tactics while Tad Hutchins of the local Quantum loft served as lead trimmer on the J/109, which placed second in Charleston last year.

“Mike was brilliant in every race and our crew work as a whole was fantastic,” Sweetser said. “This was one of those events when we were always in the right place at the right time and everything just worked.”

Winston Kinard (trimmer), Bill Romano (mast) and Danielle Vileno (bow) were the other Annapolis residents on the team. Rush finished with seven points ahead of second place EmOcean, a J/120 owned by Charleston local Will Hanckel.

“We kept saying after every race, ‘Wow, we’re sailing well.’ Every hoist, every takedown, every mark rounding was perfect,” Sweetser said.

At almost every regatta, local sailors frequently excuse too much or too little breeze with the familiar refrain, “It’s never like this!” For day 1 of 2008 Charleston Race Week, that wasn’t a problem at all. “Today’s conditions are exactly what we love about Charleston,” said Event Director Brad Van Liew. “We saw just what we hoped for, and everyone got a lot of racing in today.”

A light, shifty land breeze met the sailors at 10:00, letting the light-air specialists shine as they picked their way through a minefield of windless holes and stronger puffs. By 1:00 in the afternoon, sailors on all courses were treated to Charleston’s reliable 10-12 knot onshore wind, allowing close racing with exciting mark roundings and tactical duels.

Out of towners top most fleets

In all but one class, visiting raceboats sit atop the leader board – this despite the conditions reflecting Charleston’s most common weather pattern. Bill O’Malley trims the mainsail on one of the fastest boats on the water this weekend – a modified Farr 40 named Yellow Jacket – and she leads her class by just one point. “The sea breeze is familiar, and similar to most of the daily weather on the East Coast, but we got burned pretty hard by the current on one of the races – it can make distances hard to judge,” O’Malley said. “We’re looking for another good day tomorrow – we’re certainly getting pushed by some very well-sailed boats.”

The modified J/109 Rush out of Austin, Texas took three wins in a fleet filled with Key West winners and local superstars – a rare result when sailing against the likes of Temptress and Emocean. Rush Trimmer Bobby Brooks couldn’t identify a single factor in their victories, though he did comment that all the winches on board were completely frozen and wouldn’t spin at all. This makes trimming just a bit tougher than usual, and Brooks said the quote heard most often today was, “you just have to pull harder!”

The North Carolina-based Beneteau Echo had a strong day in the PHRF D class, while John Storck and the crew of J/80 Rumor, fresh off a dominating one-design performance in Key West, are sailing with a winning attitude to lead the J/80 class by a good margin.

Quantum sailmaker Scott Nixon helped Melges 24 Class VP Travis Wiesleder find the head of the pack in the biggest fleet at Charleston Race Week. He leads some extremely talented crews, and judging from the tight racing and close finishing today, bragging rights for this fleet will go down to the wire on Sunday.

Tomorrow’s forecast shows stronger breeze in the morning, with rain and possibly a thunderstorm or two likely to keep things interesting for all competitors. Tides are also at their highest of the month, so strong current could be the factor that lets locals gain back some ground against the high-caliber visiting teams enjoying this marquis event.

Charleston Race Week is an event of the South Carolina Maritime Foundation and the Charleston Ocean Racing Association (CORA). All profits from the event support educational programs aboard the Spirit of South Carolina, a classic tall ship serving South Carolina’s youth. Charleston Race Week is sponsored by Raymarine, Gosling’s Rum, Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, Vineyard Vines, Gill North America, West Marine, the Town of Mt. Pleasant, Charleston Boatworks, and Azalea Moving & Storage.

PHRF B (PHRF – 12 Boats)
1. Rush, Bill Sweetser, J/109 – 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, [2] ; 7
2. EmOcean, Will Hanckel, J/120 – 5, 2, 3, 1, 2, 1, 6, [6] ; 14
3. Temptress, Robert Hibdon, SR 33 – 6, 4, 5, 4, 3, 4, 2, [6] ; 22