Monday, April 15, 2013

Charleston Race Week Preview

J/70 one-design speedster- fleet sailing at startJ/70s Debut With Monster Fleet
(Charleston, SC)- Starting on April 18th, a massive navy of J/Teams will descend upon the beautiful sleepy town of Mt Pleasant, South Carolina and transform the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina into "J/Town".  Of the 295 boats participating, 117 J/Teams (40% of the fleet) are sailing in the event coming from all points of the compass, by far the dominant boat brand for Charleston Race Week.

Making its debut as the single largest fleet ever since CRW began, the J/70 class will have 56 teams vying for both Fleet and Corinthian class honors.  The depth of the competition is quite extraordinary, as it has been since its debut in Key West Race Week in January of this year. As more J/70s are delivered there will be more new faces showing up for the first time enjoying the fun, camaraderie and amazing sailing that is on offer from the world's best 23 ft sportboat!

Many of the top teams from the first three 2013 J/70 regattas to date will be participating, making this event a good indicator of what the competition may be like for the J/70 North Americans in Annapolis in September (100 boats, maybe?).  One thing is certain, Brian Keane's SAVASANA team are proving to be incredibly consistent, tough competitors no matter what the weather conditions or where they've buried themselves on the race course-- seemingly always "rolling 7's and 11's" to take the pot at the end of the day!  Key West winners and top teams include Tim Healey (Newport, RI) sailing with Will Welles on RASCAL; Bruno Pasquinelli (Houston, TX) on STAMPEDE; Dave Ullman (Newport Beach, CA) sailing USA 32; Cole Allsop (Annapolis, MD) on MOXIE; and Corinthians winner David Franzel (Boston, MA) on SPRING. In addition to this tough crowd, St Petersburg NOOD winners Joel Ronning (Minneapolis, MN) will be
racing CATAPULT and Kerry Klingler (Larchmont, NY) will be sailing MENACE. The entire fleet of twenty boats that raced Bacardi Miami Sailing week will be attending, including top five finishers like Joe Woods (Torquay, GBR) on RED; Brian Elliott (Sayville, N.Y.) on B-SQUARED; and Peter Duncan (Rye, N.Y.) and Jud Smith on RELATIVE OBSCURITY.  New teams participating in their first major J/70 regatta that could easily be factors in the top ten include champion Etchells 22 sailor Peter Vessella (San Francisco, CA) on RUNNING WILD; Richie Stearns (Chicago, IL) sailing TYLISHAN; Ryan Ruhlman (Cleveland, OH) on SPACEMAN SPIFF; Henry Filter (Stevensville, MD) on WILD CHILD; and Nick Johnstone (Charleston, SC) sailing CAT'S PAJAMAS.

Next up on the big J fleets are the classic J/24s with over two dozens boats! Fielding one of the strongest fleets in Charleston, it's about as deeply talented as any fleet.  Contenders include Mike Ingham (Rochester, NY) sailing USA 5443; local sailor Tommy Smith (Mt Pleasant, SC) on PUFF DADDY; Aidan Glackin (Huntington, NY) on MENTAL FLOSS; Chip Till (Wrightsville Beach, NC) on MURDER INCORPORATED; and Clark Dennison (Richmond, VA) on KOBAYASHI MARU.

Not far behind the 24s are the J/22 gang with a solid showing of thirteen boats.  Several 22 champions are present along with competitive locals. Perhaps best known is J/22 World Champion Greg Fisher (Mt Pleasant, SC) who is not only a local, a Lighting World Champion too, but also Sailing Director for the local hosts- College of Charleston!  Giving Greg a run for the money will be a cadre of very experienced 22 teams, including Jack King (Coconut Grove, FL) on HOT STREAK; Ryan Flack (Fenton, MI) on BLIND PIG; Kurt Swanson (Media, PA) on SLINGSHOT; and Chris Doyle (Youngstown, NY) on THE JUG 41.

J/80s sailing will have spirited competition between Jim Kershaw (Leesburg, VA) on COOL J; Brad Bertram (Augusta, GA) on ROCKET DOG; Rick Donn (Thornwood, NY) on SUPERFLUOUS; and Bert Carp (Annapolis, MD) on USA 11.

On the "outside" courses are the big PHRF handicap fleets.  Leading the way in PHRF A will certainly be past winner and long-time local contender Robin Team (Lexington, NC) and his merry bandits aboard the J/122 TEAMWORK.  Chasing them hard will be a trio of J/111s including Kristen Berry & Fast Eddie (Annapolis, MD) aboard FIREBALL, locals Bob Stein (Charleston, SC) on KINETIC and Doug Curtiss (S. Dartmouth, MA) on WICKED 2.0.  A trio of J/120s will be aiming to upset the apple cart of their modern siblings, including John Keenan's (Mt Pleasant, SC) ILLYRIA; Rick Moore's (Charleston, SC) MOOSE DOWN; and Glenn Gault's (Houston, TX) well-traveled, gorgeous flag-blue REBECCA.  To say this fleet will be highly competitive would be a slight under-exaggeration.  With 7 of 12 boats all very well-sailed J/Teams, it's about a complete toss-up as to which "horse to ride" in this race.

In PHRF B, the J/Teams include the J/109 HEATWAVE sailed by Gary Weisberg (Marblehead, MA); the J/105 DEAD ON ARRIVAL sailed by Joe Highsmith (Bluffton, SC); and the J/35 ARROW skippered by Willy Schwenzfeier (Charleston, SC).  The betting is that one, if not all, of these teams are capable of sweeping class.

The "sleeper" division always seems to be PHRF C in Charleston Race Week.  It's a fleet made up of good performance boats built over the past few centuries in the 26 to 30 foot range.  An eclectic mixture, but the J/Teams showing up on the starting grid are very experienced and with enormous amounts of "MoJo" they can certainly kick some booty!  Leading the charge should be Dave Pritchard's (Atlanta, GA) J/92 AMIGOS. A trio of J/29s are certain to give the AMIGOS boys headaches, including Steve Thurston's (Bristol, RI) MIGHTY PUFFIN; Jim Mackevich's (Edison, NJ) FOR SAIL; and Alex Miller's (Erie, PA) PAGAN.  The real sleeper in the bunch is Robert Key's (Columbia, SC) J/27 AUDACIOUS.  Yes, it would be audacious if AUDACIOUS stole the PHRF C title from this band of pirates!

Finally, Charleston Race Week has included an entire "pursuit" division, based on the fact you start right off the marina, race around the track and hopefully everyone finishes together in time for the party on the beach!  Wow.  Not a bad idea.  And, it has certainly attracted a LOT of boats to this novel concept.  Chalk one up for CRW organizers!  In the Pursuit Spinnaker Class is Charles Coyer's (John's Island, SC) J/36 SOUL and a highly regarded northeast double-handed circuit competitor, the J/105 JADED sailed by Peter Rugg (New York, NY)!  The fact that both SOUL and JADED are rated dead-even at 84 PHRF means they're in for a "run for the roses", who beats who!! Cool.  Sailing photo credits- Tim and Onne Vanderwal.   For more Charleston Race Week sailing information