Just eight boats sailed in the last Charleston Bermuda race in 2009, and the wind was so light and shite that the Race Committee allowed them to use their motors to finish the race before time expired for the entire fleet. It was perhaps the end of an event that had been a fun cruising challenge for a dozen or two boats for 7 editions.
And oh how times have changed…
International charter and sail training company OnDeck took over the race earlier this year, and working with the South Carolina Maritime Foundation (organizers of Charleston Race Week – now with 213 boats registered), they decided to put some money and effort into the race in the hopes of reinvigorating an event that they saw value in. Ondeck is a very smart company with an exceptional business model and some real success overseas, but how would they translate that into a successful race?
They convinced comedy superstar Stephen Colbert to take one of the OnDeck Farr 65s and race it to Bermuda to help overcome his godawful experience in the 2005 race. Colbert’s people announced his participation on Friday, and already over 2000 media outlets have picked up the story and run with it. Remember something: This is the guy who told his audience to vote for his name on a bridge in Hungary, and he racked up 17 MILLION votes before the Hungarian ambassador came on his show and told him it wouldn’t work because he didn’t speak the language. 17 MILLION. You know how many people race sailboats in the US? Less than a million.
The Colbert thing is a massive coup, but there’s likely more to come; and we’ve got our ears to the ground and will keep you posted. In the meantime, the media maelstrom that Colbert will add to the mix (check out his show tonight for more on it) should give a big boost to everything going on in Charleston this spring. The Antigua to Charleston Race, Charleston Race Week, the Charleston Bermuda Race, and the 100,000+ strong Charleston Harborfest. Are we seeing the emergence of the new maritime destination of America?
Here’s Colbert telling Letterman about his 2005 race experience. Hilarious.