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.
When Willy Schwenzfeier first competed in Sperry Charleston Race Week, there were about 15 boats entered and nightly awards parties were held at Carolina Yacht Club.
It was 1996 and Schwenzfeier, as one of the original members of the Charleston Ocean Racing Association (CORA), played a role in establishing the fledgling regatta.
Schwenzfeier has watched the event grow and develop significantly since then and has been a loyal supporter throughout. The longtime Charleston resident has competed in all 24 editions of Sperry Charleston Race Week, the only boat owner to do so.
“I remember the very first year there was this new sport-boat called a Melges 24 and it raced in PHRF and the skipper had to put a bow pulpit on it,” Schwenzfeier said with a laugh.
Schwenzfeier has always campaigned a J/35 named Arrow and has done quite well in Sperry Charleston Race Week over the years, capturing class honors numerous times and finishing on the podium more often than he can count. Perhaps his most notable victory came onshore.
“Beneteau sponsored Charleston Race Week during the early years and held a raffle for a five-day, four-night trip to Nautic Paris Boat Show,” Schwenzfeier said. “My wife bought the winning ticket and we got to go to Paris for a great vacation courtesy of Beneteau.”
Charleston Harbor was pretty much becalmed as sailors made their way to the docks on Saturday morning. Some of the professional tacticians encouraged event director Randy Draftz to post an onshore postponement in order to give the sea breeze time to fill in.
Draftz has been running Sperry Charleston Race Week for a long time and knows the conditions here better than anyone. He decided to send the 257-boat fleet out on time, but instructed principal race officers on all seven circles to error on the side of caution. “We’d rather have one good race than three bad ones,” Draftz said.
It turns out concerns about the wind velocity were unfounded. In typical Charleston fashion, the breeze built throughout the day and organizers got in four races again on Saturday - two light air starts in the morning followed by two medium breeze starts in the afternoon. Most importantly, all the racing was fair and fell into the category of quality.
“It was a very challenging day on the water,” said Pamela Rose, skipper of the J/70 Rosebud. “I give my crew a lot of credit for having the ability to tune the boat accurately for the changing conditions.”
This is Royal’s third year coordinating all the on-water volunteers, as well as managing the large fleet of powerboats needed to run a regatta that attracts almost 260 boats in 18 classes.
Royal, a first grade teacher at Mount Pleasant Academy, was recruited to help manage a volunteer army of almost 200 folks by Sperry Charleston Race Week Director Randy Draftz. Royal and Draftz both crewed on the same sailboat for a while and he asked if she would like to get involved with the prestigious international regatta.
“Randy and I had talked over the years about different ways I could help and he eventually approached me and asked if I would coordinate the on-water volunteers,” Royal said. “The first year I did it with a group of four. It was a good chance to learn about the job from people who had done it before.”
Royal referred to Lynn Swann and Fran Trotman as “great mentors” and is happy the latter remained part of the team when there was a transition last year.
“It is a team effort, definitely not a one-person job,” Royal said.