After several years with lost days and poor racing offshore, the 22nd edition of Charleston Race Week delivered 3 days of full-on racing, with moderate to big air inshore and big wind and seas outside the harbor for 212 boats at the biggest event on the calendar for many teams. After losing around 30 boats for both 2017 and 2016, organizers are doing what others often haven’t – they listened to their critics and moved things around significantly, and the 2017 event seems to have rewarded their moves.
The first move was working with the Coast Guard and Port to add a fourth circle in a harbor that many used to think couldn’t even fit two, and the result was not only sailable, but it showed that there’s easily room for another new fleet or two. Stars and Lightnings are both perfect candidates, and both fleets are looking for some new venues, so we expect next year to begin growing once again. They also moved the smaller handicap racing fleets – now all sailed under ORC – inside the harbor, and every team we spoke to will be back now that they don’t have to face the long slog offshore in little boats.
As usual, Charleston reminded us that it’s the only regatta party we know of with more women than men, and the diversity on the water was just as good; boats fully crewed by women, fully crewed by kids, and fully crewed by military vets and wounded warriors were all over the place, with some even winning their classes despite their bow guy/main trimmer being blind.
The overall winner was reigning J/70 World Champ Joel Ronning, who dodged a last-day protest to hang on in the biggest fleet at the event. They almost lost it all though, when the forestay let go just before the final race. Listen to the full story from Catapult trimmer and longtime SA fan Patrick Wilson here.