Race Week battles flare up

Tim Wilkes / Sperry Charleston Race WeekEven the biggest boats found the massive waves offshore to be a challenge on Day 2 of Sperry Charleston Race Week.

Friday’s wintery conditions were barely a memory after Saturday’s picture-perfect Day 2 at Sperry Charleston Race Week, with 15-20 knots of wind inshore and over 20 outside the jetties. The conditions allowed for racing across all the courses at the spring’s premier event despite seas that ranged from “bumpy” to “scary,” according to crews returning from the offshore race course.

Overhead waves against the tide caused problems for even the most seasoned sailors, but it was the crew of the Circle 5 Race Committee boat that faced the biggest challenge on Saturday. After the first race of the day, a huge wave launched the 36-foot offshore fishing boat into the air, seriously injuring two crew. With transfer to a safety boat impossible in the rough water, the race officials were forced to return to shore, ending the day for Circle 5 after one race.

Event Director Randy Draftz expects to move the racing deadline to help get in as much racing on Sunday as possible.

“While we’re extremely sorry that racing was called early on Circle 5, we’re glad our on-course volunteers are safe and sound on shore after a freak accident,” said Draftz.

Sailing in handicap racing Class B, Frickie Martschink and Bill MacKenzie’s crew on board their J/105 RumFront out of Charleston said the racing was great.

“The ride out was pretty rough, but once on the course, conditions were not easy, but good for racing,” said Martschink.

Among Martschink’s competition in the 10-boat class is his brother Miles, who helms an identical J/105 named Skimmer.

In the Pursuit Class, the boats started near Sullivan’s Island and sailed out between the Charleston Harbor jetties before turning upwind for a four-mile beat. “For me,” said Eddie Evans, a Charleston racer who is sailing his Beneteau 381 Naut-on-Call, “today was a brutal race. I loved it, but having a four-mile beat, that was physically taxing.”

Also in the Pursuit Class, Jim O’Connor and Eric Dejager were crewing on Charleston skipper Scott Strother’s Sabre 30 Destiny. They say the team performed well in the sporty conditions in the 24-mile race for the Pursuit/Non-Spinnaker Class today. “The conditions were intense to say the least, but it was everything you could want in an offshore race: Big waves, big wind, a serious challenge, and in the end, we had a real sprint to the finish trying to hold off the fourth place boat,” said O’Conner.

Destiny beat that boat by just three seconds.

Richmond, Va.’s Travis Weisleder (Lucky Dog/Gill Race Team) last won Charleston Race Week nearly a decade ago, before taking a hiatus from the Melges 24 class, and thie College of Charleston alum is returning to the class with a bang in 2016. He sits just a point behind former world champ Bruce Ayres (Monsoon) after eight races, including a nearly four-minute smashing of the fleet in the final race of the day — an unprecedented victory in a fleet that usually sees dozens of boats cross the finish line within a minute.

“That race was a lot of fun, but look — the forecast was right, the current relief was right, and so we went as far right as we could,” said Weisleder, who attributes his good success despite some rust to lots of recent work on speed and tune and lots of local knowledge. “John Bowden, one of our crew, lives and makes sails here, I raced here, so we’re not going to miss that one.”

Thirteen year-old Gannon Troutman continues to lead the huge J/70 fleet despite blowing up a spinnaker.

“A little hole at the top mark held until the very end of the last race, and it tore to pieces in seconds,” said Troutman. “We still got first place, though,” he said.