Charleston was a busy place this weekend, with 270 boats and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War all happening this past weekend. The venue was quite impressive. Sitting in the shadows of the USS Yorktown, complete with a nice hotel, large marina and sandy beaches the Charleston Harbor and Marina sits on the riverside of Mt. Pleasant, just over the bridge from downtown. With live bands and tiki bars greeting you as you came in, there’s not much more you could ask for after a long day of sailing.
My first visit to Charleston for this year’s race week was one that will keep me coming back. The harbor was lovely and full of pelicans, fish and even some dolphins. Race Committee was efficient, well run and showed a good helping of the not so common-common sense. Racing had everything that people could ask for.
The competition was intense but instantly relaxed on shore as the South Carolina easygoing nature was contagious among all of the competitors, (possibly aided by the freely flowing rum swizzles). The food at the party was all good with the exception of the evil Mahi at Friday’s dinner.
My favorite part of the regatta however may have been the weather induced lay day. Often times with regattas we go all of these great places but never get to really see the towns that we are sailing in. The lay day allowed the competitors to do things like see the city of Charleston and tour the famous WWII carrier Yorktown.
We took advantage of the day to visit the Saturday farmers market at King and Calhoun streets and enjoyed some local flavor including shrimp and grits, local unpasteurized whole milk, fresh veggies and local favorite pickled okra. We also took in some rays on the nearby postcard beaches on Isle of Palms.
|Photo by Shannon Hibberd|
The wind gods were a little too generous at this years Race Week. Saturday’s races were called off due to a large storm system that swept across the entire East coast scattering grapefruit sized hail and tornadoes about. Luckily for Charleston, we only received the 30+ knots of breeze and no rain or apparent tornadoes.
It would have been an awesome day for sailing but many were convinced rigs would fall and boats would inevitably break down. Less carnage is a good thing.
Being stuck in Charleston was no problem for a lot of the sailors. Most of the crew aimlessly wandered downtown and found ourselves at a roof top bar watching the wind rip through the streams.
Friday proved to be the best day for racing. The inshore courses had plenty of strong breeze that picked up as the day went on. The current ripped boats down the river. Getting off the docks in the morning was more challenging than expected. The J/80s shared a course with Vipers and Ultimate 20’s. We had several wipe outs on our course, but it felt good to be waterborn downwind. Glad I packed my new Musto spray top.
Sunday was a floater thanks to the stormy conditions on Saturday that cleared out any hope of breeze. Only 7 of the 25 boats finished in my fleet. The current to wind ratio was so awful that some boats were being pushed away from the finish line and others had to tack 20+ times to get around the windward mark!
Onshore, familiar and unfamiliar faces filled the crowds. It was a lot of fun seeing friends from college and beyond, as well as many from Annapolis, with around 20 boats from local clubs in attendance. We even had a flyover too, check out the picture to the right…
By Friday night, the winds were already up, as were rumors of some bad weather rolling in. By early on Saturday morning winds were already in the 25 – 30 range, so races were cancelled. We got to enjoy a day off, with the thunderstorms missing Charleston, it was a nice day. Sunday handed us light, shifty breeze. We were able to complete 2 races, in steadily increasing winds. It was a great weekend of sailing and a nice way to start off the spring sailing season.