Chilly temperatures greeted a record fleet of racing sailboats Friday morning for the first day of Charleston Race Week.

More than 185 boats braved 55-degree morning temperatures as they sailed to the race course, but their reward was a surprise 20-knot breeze that made racing "a serious adrenaline rush," as Melges 20 competitor Peter Crawford put it.

Temperatures reached the 70s by noon, providing picture-perfect sailing conditions to start race week off with a bang.

Jam-packed inshore courses saw plenty of heated action and tight racing across the one- design fleets, and major drama as skippers struggled to control their overpowered boats in a gusty breeze. British-based Viper 640 Hijack found its pre-regatta practices to be invaluable to its performance in Friday's first of three days of competition.

"Both Wednesday and Thursday were plenty breezy, so we really got the practice we needed to keep the boat from going over," said owner Matt Sole. Like many of the racers on hand, Sole "wasn't overly concerned with results," instead focusing on the fun that fast sailing brings.

While many of the ultra-light Vipers broached and capsized in strong wind, smiles were frequently seen on crews hanging on for dear life until their boats righted themselves. The Michigan-based Viper 640 Jackpot leads the class --which includes 30 entries -- with three first places out of four races.

The largest fleet in the regatta is Melges 24 with 31 boats, and Flying Elvis, with Bora Gulari , leads by three points over Conejo Racing, with David Dabney. Tiamo, with Bruno Pasquinelli, leads the 20-boat fleet in J80 by four points over Le Tigre, with Glenn Darden and Reese Hillard.

The race committees squeezed in four races inshore on the first day. Today's racing begins at 10 a.m. offshore and 11 a.m. inshore.