While many regattas worldwide are seeing the number of sailors shrink, Sperry Charleston Race Week is bucking the tide. The event hasn’t reached its goal of 300 boats, but the 287 boats that will begin sailing on Friday represent a slight increase over 2014 and a remarkable success story. Charleston Race Week began 20 years ago with just 29 entries.
“Most regattas are trying to survive, yet we keep growing,” said Charleston Race Week Event Director Randy Draftz.
The reason for Charleston Race Week’s success, Draftz said, is the support rolled out by the Charleston sailing community. More than 300 volunteers will be assisting with the event, more than 200 of them serving in an on-water capacity.
For the fourth year in a row, Charleston Race Week will be the largest keelboat regatta in North and South America. This year’s event features approximately 2,500 sailors who have come from 29 states and 10 foreign countries.
Registration and the skipper’s meeting will be held Thursday at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina at Patriots Point. Competition will be held Friday-Sunday over six courses in and outside Charleston Harbor.
Draftz said there are 20 different classes, including 11 one-design classes. The Audi Melges 20 Class will stage its national championship as part of Charleston Race Week.
The 86 entries in the J70 fleet is almost equal to the number that competed in the national championship last year in Newport, R.I., Draftz said, and is so large that they have had to break the competition into four groups that will rotate and race against each other.
There are three inshore courses and two more courses north and south of the Charleston Jetties.
The sixth course is for the Pursuit Class, larger boats that don’t do multiple leg racing as well. They will race out, round a mark and return.
“They start based on their handicap, with the slowest boat starting first and the fastest going last,” Draftz said. “The idea is that the first across the (finish) line is going to win. The first year we did it we had a finish where the first boat won by about eight feet.”
The first warning signal for the Pursuit Class will be 9:30 a.m. each day; for Offshore Circles 4 and 5 the first warning signal will come at 10:30 a.m.; and for Inshore Circles 1, 2 and 3 the first warning signal will be at 11 a.m.
Spectators will be able to watch the action from 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. each day on a Jumbotron at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina. It also will be streamed live on charlestonraceweek.com.