Sperry Charleston Race Week concluded in spectacular fashion with strong winds producing exciting action and several classes being decided during the last race.
VX One, J/88, Viper 640, Melges 24 and ORC C were the windward-leeward classes that went down to the wire. Winners for five of the six Pursuit Hybrid and Pursuit Race, which were unable to complete any racing on Saturday, were also determined on Sunday.
Mike Bruno said following Friday’s racing that he’s been jinxed at Sperry Charleston Race Week, suffering problems that prevented podium finishes in 2018 and 2017. The Armonk, New York resident thought his bad luck would be extended when Wings was ruled on-course-side in Race 9 and had to restart.
“We came into the day saying we were going to be conservative and not make any mistakes then we got tangled up with another boat at the start and right out of the gate we were over early,” said Bruno, who did manage to battle back to finish sixth in the 10-boat fleet. “We were pretty glum going into the last race. I thought we’d blown it again.”
However, there was a happy ending as Wings redeemed itself big-time in Race 10, which was held in 20-22 knot south-southwesterly winds with gusts approaching 30. Wings rounded the first weather mark in sixth then moved up a couple places by the downwind rounding. Bruno and crew turned it on from there, passing the remaining three boats to get the gun.
That victory in the final start of the three-day regatta gave Wings a two-point victory over Albondigas (Justin Scagnelli, West Nyack, NY), leading Bruno to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
“What an exciting way to win a regatta. To come from behind like that was thrilling and I feel fantastic,” Bruno said. “We’re pretty darn good in heavy air so we were really happy when the breeze really came on for that last race. It was really exhilarating blasting downwind in planning mode and passing boat after boat.”
Bruno noted the average age of his crew is 60 with bow man Jonathan Asch checking in at 66. Stuart Johnstone called tactics, Chris Morgan trimmed the main while Steve Lopez and Tim Randall teamed to trim the headsails aboard Wings.
Skipper Travis Weisleder and his Lucky Dog/Gill Race Team rallied to victory in Melges 24 class, which attracted 37 entries. Anthony Kotoun called tactics for Weisleder, who steered Lucky Dog to first place in Race 10 to move into a tie with Monsoon.
Monsoon, skippered by Bruce Ayres of Newport Beach, California, was the Day 1 and Day 2 leader, but could not close things out after finishing fifth in the final race.
“We had to win the race and put four boats between us and that’s exactly what happened,” Weisleder said. “We led that last race from start to finish. We got off the line great, went left to find clear air then used our boat speed to climb away and extend. What an awesome way to finish things off.”
Weisleder, a marketing director for several car dealerships in Richmond, Virginia, has been sailing with headsail trimmer John Bowden for eight years. However, this was the first time Kotoun had been aboard while Jane Buckley was a fill-in on the foredeck. Caroline Main (floater) completed the revamped crew, which came together quickly.
“Anthony did a good job of putting us in the right positions and we’ve been really, really fast all week – both up and down,” said Weisleder, a former College of Charleston sailor who has been racing in the Melges 24 class since 2000.
The Bay Head Yacht Club member has missed just four of the 24 Sperry Charleston Race Weeks held to date and last captured Melges 24 class in 2008. This year’s edition will be memorable for Weisleder, who received the Charleston Race Week Cup, presented for best overall performance by a one-design entry.
“This is a tremendous honor and we’re very, very proud,” said Bowden after accepting the perpetual trophy on behalf of Lucky Dog/Gill Race Team, which had a black flag penalty overturned during a redress hearing. “It’s been a real roller coaster of a regatta and that makes this award even more rewarding.”
Teamwork, a J/122 owned by Robin Team of Lexington, North Carolina, earned the Palmetto Trophy for the fifth time at Sperry Charleston Race Week. Jonathan Bartlett called tactics on Teamwork, which won all six races in ORC B class on the Hybrid Pursuit course.
“We’ve been coming to Charleston for a long time and we absolutely love this regatta,” said Team, whose previous Palmetto Trophy wins were as top PHRF entry. Now Teamwork has another one for the shelf for best performance among ORC entries after duking it out with the J/111 Sitella (Ian Hill, Chesapeake, VA).
Mike Beasley and his team on Rattle-n-Rum was the two-time defending champion of ORC C, a class comprised of a nice mixture of sport boat designs. However, the Annapolis entry found itself sitting in second place behind the Farr 30 HeadFirst3 going into the last day.
Beasley’s GP26 performs extremely well in high winds and posted a pair of bullets on Sunday to force a tiebreaker with HeadFirst3, a Canadian entry skippered by Peter Toombs. Rattle-n-Rum won two more races than the Farr 30 and is now a three-time champion as a result.
“It was challenging from the get-go because the Farr 30 had an outstanding sailing team,” Beasley said. “It is so much more rewarding when you are pushed to the limit and have to win a regatta on a count back.”
Joe Gibson served as tactician aboard Rattle-n-Rum, which trailed HeadFirst3 by two points after two days of racing. Teddy Haaland (bow), Joanna Haaland (runners), Matt Weimer (main) and Ryan Rutkowski (floater) made up the rest of the team.
“We knew what we had to do today and decided to be very conservative and let the boat do its stuff,” Beasley said. “We didn’t engage the Farr 30, we didn’t wipe out, we hiked as hard as we ever had and we knew how to sail the boat in that type of breeze.”
Tudo Bem and Counterproductive traded the lead back-and-forth in VX One, which had 30 boats. Class newcomer Michelle Warner and her Tudo Bem team pulled somewhat of an upset by beating reigning North American champion Chris Alexander and the Counterproductive crew by a point.
Former College of Charleston All-American Reed Baldridge steered Tudo Bem, which finished fourth in the final race to overtake Counterproductive after Alexander absorbed an eighth.
“This class is extremely challenging with some amazing sailors,” Warner said. “Some of it was luck, but a lot of it was great crew work.”
Austin Powers was the third member of the Tudo Bem team, which was racing a chartered boat. After winning her first regatta, Warner is seriously considering buying a VX One. “We’re definitely coming back next year and hopefully I’ll be sailing my own boat,” she said.
Kevin McCarthy skippered Chance V to a one-point victory over NESS in Viper 640 class. The Fort Lauderdale resident had Steve Flam as tactician and Mike Pentacost, another Viper 640 owner, in the forward position.
“I had a great crew and we had the boat tuned up very well. Mike and Steve paid a lot of attention to detail in terms of rig tune and setup,” McCarthy said. “It’s all about teamwork and it is very comforting to go sailing with such good people.”
McCarthy made his Viper 640 at the Bacardi Cup, but lasted just one race due to a breakdown. He previously raced in the Melges 24 and Flying Dutchman classes.
Joel Ronning and his Catapult crew secured a surprisingly convincing victory in J/70 class, largest of the regatta with 56 boats. Victor Diaz De Leon served as tactician on Catapult, which won six of nine races in posting a low score of 20 points – 20 better than runner-up Rosebud (Pamela Rose, Aventura, FL).
“We had some really fortunate breaks this week. There is nothing like having luck on your side
Sometimes the karma is with you and this is one of those instances,” said Ronning, a resident of Excelsior, Minnesota. “I’ve always loved sailing in Charleston and this year’s regatta was an awful lot of fun.”
Diaz De Leon joined the team about six months ago and Ronning has been impressed by the way he’s blended in with holdovers Christopher Stocke (bow) and Patrick Wilson (headsail trimmer).
“Our team communication is the strongest I’ve ever seen on a boat. We’ve been clicking really well together and the chemistry is the best it’s ever been on the boat,” Ronning said. “Victor was getting great information from Chris and Patrick and was really on fire this week in terms of making the calls.”
Carter White skippered YouRegatta to the most dominant victory of 2019 Sperry Charleston Race Week, winning seven straight races in J/24 class after placing second in Friday’s opener. YouRegatta did not start Race 9 and still finished 12 points clear of Level Pelican (Crisp McDonald (Charleston, S.C.).
Molly White worked the bow for her husband, who has been racing a J/24 for more than two decades. Michael McAllister called tactics, Ted Wiedeke trimmed the spinnaker while Chris Lombardo trimmed the genoa.
“It’s really about our team. We’ve been sailing together for four years and do five to six major regattas a year,” said White, who hails from Portland, Maine. “We have a routine that really works and puts us in a different league. Our consistency and ability to adapt to changing conditions is crucial. We had to shift gears constantly and our crew is capable of doing that.”
Shenanigans came away as winner of J/80 class following a tight three-way battle with fellow Annapolis entry Eleven (Bert Carp). Shannon Lockwood steered while her father Bill trimmed the main. Jeff Todd handled headsails while his daughter Cassie worked the bow.
“We had a great battle with Bert, who we race against on Thursday nights in Annapolis,” said Shannon Lockwood, who was a member of the keelboat team at St. Mary’s College. “I thought our team handled the boat well and paid attention to the puffy and shifty conditions. We were also conservative and smart with our maneuvers. It’s always cool to win, especially at such a major regatta like Charleston so we’re super psyched.”
The high-performance M32 catamarans made a spectacular debut at Sperry Charleston Race Week, thrilling spectators by zipping around Charleston Harbor at high speeds. These amazing machines completed 13 races in just two days with Don Wilson skippering Convexity to a commanding 16-point victory on the strength of six bullets.
“We had eight teams here and they all had a fantastic time. We’re looking forward to coming back next year,” said Dave Doucet, Director of M32 North America. “We wanted to sail in close proximity of Patriots Point the first couple days to give the spectators a show. We sailed off Fort Sumter today and had big breeze with flat water, which these boats love. Charleston is a great location and it was really fun to race here.”
Amy Baxter completed a wire-to-wire win in RS 21 class, which also made its debut at Sperry Charleston Race Week. The Chicago resident won seven of nine races while taking third in the other two in totaling 10 points, 14 better than Zim Sailing (Bob Adam, Bristol, RI). Jake Sorosky (tactician), Kevin Coughlin (jib) and Danny Lawless (bow) crewed for Baxter.
Warrior Sailing 1, skippered by Sammy Hodges, led from start to finish in J/22 class – winning five races and having the luxury of skipping the last. Navy veteran Ruben Munoz (jib) and Army veteran Troy Rassmussen (main) were the warriors aboard the boat. “Tiger Woods won the Masters today, but that doesn’t even compare to what we did,” Munoz said proudly. “We came here to have fun and learn so winning is icing on the cake.”
This was the first sailing experience for Rassmussen, who gave credit to Hodges for helming and coaching at the same time. “Sammy was awesome about keeping us on point and teaching all the little nuances,” he said.
Finally on the last day of competition the wind gods permitted the ORC Hybrid Pursuit entries to enjoy the intended three-race daily format: a morning pursuit distance race from the harbor to the offshore course area, followed by a windward-leeward buoy race, and ending with another distance race to the harbor.
“This Hybrid Pursuit style was well received by all the boats and we enjoyed it,” Team said.
Principal race officer added a second windward-leeward race to make up for the fact Saturday’s Hybrid Pursuit was abandoned. ORC D was won by Skimmer, a locally-based J/105 team led by Miles Martschink and Ben Hagood.
“This was our first experience with ORC racing,” said Tucker, “and with some more measurements we probably could have optimized our rating a little better. Yet on the whole we thought the ratings were fair.”
A pair of Charleston entries came out on top on the regular Pursuit Race courses with Wadmalaw Island resident Bill Hanckel skippering Emocean to a two-point victory in Spinnaker PHRF A and John Springer leading Direction to first place in PHRF Non-Spinnaker by tiebreaker over fellow Mount Pleasant resident Mark Fanning on the Sabre 452 Sea Biscuit.
“We came out and sailed our best race with the regatta on the line. We know our competition, know how to sail inside the harbor and offshore and we fought hard,” said Caroline Baity, main trimmer aboard Direction, a 47-year-old design known as a 30/2.
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