Local regatta season sets sail Saturday at James Island Yacht Club

Ryan Hamm (tiller) co-owns the Lightning "Spiderpig" with Joe Menis. Photo by Priscilla Parker.

When it comes to sailing, Ryan Hamm adheres to the philosophy that what goes around comes around. That’s why he has marked his calendar for the five weekends that comprise the Charleston-area yacht club’s open regatta season.

Sailing starts Saturday and Sunday with the James Island Yacht Club Regatta, a change from previous years when Hobcaw Yacht Club in Mount Pleasant was the season opener. Hobcaw moved its dates to July in hopes of attracting more participants.

“I try to sail all the local regattas and if I can’t sail I try to help out. In my mind, that’s what keeps sailing going. It’s a tradition thing. I don’t like to miss,” said Hamm, who campaigns a Lightning along with co-owner Joe Menis.

Hamm, who coaches the James Island Charter High School sailing team, said he owns or is a co-owner in three boats, including the Lightning he and Menis named “Spiderpig.” The two take turns skippering the boat in the local regattas.

“I try to sail in the most active fleet and right now the most active fleet at the open regattas is Lightning. They even have a series for the boat that does best overall in the local regattas. That’s another reason not to miss the local regattas,” Hamm said.

Menis said the competition in the Lightning class is great, and he enjoys competing against top sailors such as Greg Fisher. The College of Charleston sailing program director was the 2014 Lightning North American champion.

“This community is so embracing and there are so many events that promote good sportsmanship. I think that’s what it’s all about. Ryan and I have had this boat together for three or four years, and we’re a pretty good fit,” said Menis, who grew up in California, burned out on sailing for a while but took back to the water when he married and moved to Charleston.

“The Lightning fleet here is close to 30 boats strong just in Charleston, and when you go out with that many people you get good quality racing and good quality sportsmanship. Everyone is helping each other out, and everyone wants to push the next person to be better.”

James Island Yacht Club Regatta Chairman Miles Stalvey said the club is expecting between 120 and 130 boats. In addition to the various classes, sailors also will be competing for the A.C. Hollings Award for winning the class with the most entries and the Clyde Easterling Award for winning the Sea Island One Design.

First warning for the junior course is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:55 p.m. for the open and secondary classes. Sunday’s races are all scheduled to begin at 11:55 a.m.