The biggest keelboat regatta in America… take a wild guess?
For the past 10 of its 22 years, Sperry Charleston Race Week has seen its popularity explode as more and more teams from the US and beyond have discovered the unique pleasures of springtime racing in a historic city known for its ambience of charm and its southern hospitality. After several years of very rapid growth, the combination of an attractive destination, excellence in event management, consistently great sailing conditions and a time-efficient format has all contributed to this event becoming the largest keelboat regatta in both North and South America. No wonder entries now reliably exceed 250 boats – divided into multiple one-design and handicap classes.
And then of course there are the beach parties… Charleston in the spring is a magical place: mild weather, Southern hospitality, history and culture, and azaleas in full bloom helped prompt Travel & Leisure magazine to name Charleston the ‘No.1 Destination city in the US and Canada’ for the past four years straight (Charleston was upgraded to No.1 Destination city in the world for 2016).
A wide variety of housing styles – from a newly renovated luxury hotel on site to rental houses on the beaches nearby to discount motels – are readily available for Race Week. With connections to all major airline hubs, in one stop Charleston is reachable from nearly anywhere in the world, which is why there’s been a noticeable increase in international participation as the event has grown. Accessible, affordable, enjoyable… that usually makes for an attractive offer.
Another attractive feature is a convenient, centralised venue: at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina – a key event supporter – there is space for entries and support boats plus the commute to the inshore race areas rarely exceeds 20 minutes. The casual racers in the Pursuit Class actually start and finish at the marina itself as they enjoy racing once a day on courses set in and around the harbour. The larger and faster boats have a little further to commute to an area just outside the harbour, where they can enjoy deeper water and the steadier winds of the coastal Atlantic.
Most one-design entries from around the US trailer their boats here, those who come from overseas either chartering locally or shipping to Charleston. Because of the timing and easy logistics, those coming from overseas with their own boats can participate at Race Week either at the end of a winter tour of the big events further south – and still ship out for their own summer season – or use Race Week as the beginning of a summer of fun as the fleets and favourable climate gently migrate north.
Regardless of where they come from and on which race area they compete, all participants pass alongside the shoreside venue where nightly seminars, live entertainment and daily awards are all held under the palm trees on Charleston’s immaculate sandy beaches. Meanwhile, a convenient race village gives sponsors and vendors a chance to meet and greet… and share the day’s stories in an open-air setting where plenty of food, music and libation contribute to evenings of serious fun to complement each day’s serious racing.
And how serious is the racing? Enough to attract the top talent in popular one-design classes such as the C&C 30s, J/70s, J/80s, J/22s, Melges 24s, Melges 20s and Viper 640s. Multiple races per day over four days mean 10 races or more, giving excellent bang-forthe- buck and testing skills through a range of conditions that can vary from nice to nuclear.
And a unique feature of Race Week is that it’s not uncommon to see top racers from these classes and elsewhere – such as from the Volvo Ocean Race, the Olympics, and the America’s Cup – walking the docks, out on the racecourse and in the sand each night…
‘We are fortunate to have a great venue, enthusiastic participants and a great history of partnerships with our supporters,’ says Randy Draftz, chairman of Sperry Charleston Race Week. ‘We listen to everyone – sponsors, sailors and industry members – to harvest the best ideas and use them to continue to improve our event. With some new classes coming in 2017, the new hotel completed and other new features we look forward to another great week.’
So put 20-23 April 2017 in the diary. An event as good as this in Charleston really is a bit special.
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