Good Vibrations in Charleston

The wind gods giveth, and the wind gods taketh away—pity those poor sailors and regatta organizers whom they choose not to favor with a good breeze.

Fortunately, both the organizers of this year’s Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week and SAIL magazine’s Best Around the Buoys (BAB) crew, racing aboard the Beneteau Oceanis 37 BeneRound, received just enough of what they needed to count the three-day event a success. 

Even if they hadn’t, you can’t help but wonder if things would have been OK anyway. Every regatta has its own unique personality, and thanks to the enthusiastic support of the local sailing community and a great venue at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marine—not to mention plenty to drink, thanks to sponsor Goslings Rum—Charleston Race Week (CRW) has a vibe that’s hard to beat. 

As recently as 2009, the regatta hosted just over 170 boats, but this year there were more than 250 boats crewed by around 2,000 sailors, making it the fastest-growing event in the country. The event is also evolving in terms of the types of boats taking part. Although traditionally a mecca for sport boats, like the Viper 640, J/80 and various Melges classes, this year’s CRW played host to the likes of the mini-maxi Shockwave, the ultra-hot McConaghy 38 Carbonado and a handful of brand-new Farr 400s. There was also a new cruising division, which sailed a pursuit race from just off the marina out to the offshore jetties and back. (See “It’s a Great Way to Start” on page 21 for more on this type of racing.) 

SAIL’s BAB crew, which hails from St. Petersburg, Florida, where they sail the Tripp 38, Warrior, competed in the nine-boat PHRF G class. Skipper Grant Dumas and crew Joe Frohock, Danette Szakaly, John Jennings, Phil Smithies and Bobby Nobles beat out about 50 other crews to win a free berth in Charleston based on their outstanding PHRF record back home (other perks included all-new canvas for BeneRound from North Sails, a go-fast bottom from Pettit Paints, B&G hardware, full Gill race gear, commissioning help from OnDeck Sailing and a copy of the Racing Rules of Sailing from US Sailing) but they needed all their skills to prevail in Charleston. 

Day 1 of the three-day series saw sunny skies and building breezes that topped out in the mid-teens. BeneRound reveled in the conditions, and notched three firsts. 

Day 2, though, was a whole different story, with light winds from start to finish. According to Dumas, BeneRound was especially hampered by the fact that the only jib they had was a fairly small one, limiting their boatspeed. “Some of the other boats had much larger overlapping headsails, which made things tough,” Dumas said. 

Team Warrior (from left) John Jennings, Phil Smithies, Joe Frohock, Danette Szakaly, Bobby Nobles and Grant Dumas, celebrate their victory

Motoring out to the course on the third and final day of racing, the BeneRound crew encountered a nasty swell coming in from offshore and almost no wind—“dreadful” conditions, according to Dumas. Sure enough, Kenneth King’s Charleston-based Sabre 38 Quintette, which had been nipping at BeneRound’s heels from the beginning, won the first race of the day, while BeneRound finished third. 

In the final race of the series, BeneRound and Quintette sailed neck and neck as Dumas and company did their best to stay close. Team Warrior’s thinking was that if they could ensure no other boats finished in between them, BeneRound would still prevail on points.

On the final beat to the finish, though, Quintette tacked offshore despite the fact that, according to Dumas, boats had been making “huge gains” inshore all day. Hoping for more pressure, BeneRound took a chance and tacked for shore, where the crew found the wind they needed for another win. Meanwhile, Quintette sailed into a hole and finished seventh, although the team still held onto a well-deserved second-place finish overall. 

Elsewhere, race organizers also found just enough presssure to get in the requisite number of races and ensure everybody went home well satisied. For both Team Warrior and Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week as a whole, the wind gods had provided just enough breeze to make the week a winner

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