The sailing in Charleston Harbor is so good that professional sailor Bora Gulari has made it a point to come here for the past seven years to compete in the Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week, which officially gets underway Friday and continues through Sunday.
Charleston Race Week
CHARLESTON RACE WEEK
Where: Race Village at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, 20 Patriots Point Rd., Mount Pleasant
What: Approximately 280 boats ranging from 21 to 51 feet competing in 17 different classes with races contested inshore and offshore. Visit charlestonraceweek.com.
The event draws all types of sailors from around the world. This year's event features more than 280 boats competing in 17 inshore and offshore classes. Last year's event had five former Rolex Yachtsmen of the Year award winners along with six Olympic gold medalists, 12 individuals who have sailed in the America's Cup and "more national, North American and world champions than we could count," said media director Dan Dickison.
Gulari, the 2009 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year winner and a two-time world champion in the Moth fleet, has been enjoying Charleston for well over a week. Gulari, who lives in suburban Detroit, said it's too cold to be sailing at home.
He won the Moth North American championship sailed out of James Island Yacht Club last weekend and also finished first in the inaugural Fort 2 Battery race. He said Charleston is one of the top U.S. sailing venues.
"If you're trying to outsmart your competition, there are plenty of ways to challenge. The wind is always good. You guys have great sea breezes. The water temperature is good. The hospitality and food is good. There's nothing not to like," said Gulari, who this weekend will race aboard the 40-foot Carkeek "Spookie," skippered by Steve Benjamin.
Normally Gulari would be sailing his Melges 24, but it's still on its way back to the U.S. from Australia where he raced in the World Championships. Gulari, 38, sailed collegiately for the University of Michigan and tried but was unsuccessful in earning a spot in the Olympics. Continued success allowed him to purse his passion professionally.
This is the 19th year for Charleston Race Week with the event showing a tremendous growth rate over the last seven years. Last year's event drew 269 boats. It is the largest keel boat regatta in the Western Hemisphere, Dickison said. The regatta is set up for boats from 21 to 80 feet, though the longest boat competing this year is 51 feet.
A highlight of this year's Charleston Race Week will be the J70s, a relatively new but extremely popular class featuring 23-foot boats with crew of three to five sailors. Last year there were 55 J70s sailing and this year more than 80 have registered, creating a pleasant problem for organizers, who may have to split the fleet for races.
This year's event also will feature a multi-hull, or trimaran, offshore class for the first time.