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Sail Charleston opens door for potential sailors

  • Thursday, April 11, 2013

College of Charleston Sailing Association members navigate a course last summer. FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF DAN DICKISON

Think of sailing like a family.

Label the Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week as the father of regattas. It's been around for 17 years, and officials are perfecting the art of running an event relying on unpredictable weather.

Then, consider the new Sail Charleston event – in its first year – as the helpful uncle.

Sail Charleston is a free, one-day exhibition of sailing for people unfamiliar with the sport. It will be held Saturday, April 20 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Charleston Maritime Center. Raceweek, as a whole, runs from April 18-21.

“We are really excited about this whole program, because there's so many great opportunities to sail here in Charleston,” Greg Fisher, director of College of Charleston sailing, said. “We think it's just being able to get them (the public) out in front of people (sailing representatives) to take advantage of it.”

Representatives from local yacht clubs, sailing associations and sailing-oriented businesses will be on hand to talk about opportunities to get involved in sailing. Visitors will also have the opportunity to check out a wide range of boats, from single-person dinghies to world-cruising yachts. Giveaways, including hats and bags, will take place throughout the event.

Visitors may also pay $10 to take a brief tour of the Charleston Harbor via the Charleston Explorer and view Raceweek -- the largest regatta of its kind in the Western Hemisphere -- up close. Fisher, who started sailing at age 4, will be leading that boat tour, narrating the race and pointing out points of sailing interest in the harbor.

Fisher added that "if this goes as well as we're hoping it will go,” the inaugural event could be held more often than just annually in conjunction with Raceweek. “A lot of people want to see the sport grow here in Charleston,” he said.

Three hundred sailboats with competitors from the United States and 15 other countries will compete for the Raceweek title. The College of Charleston Sailing Association (adult programs and rentals), Charleston Community Sailing (junior and adult programs), Sayre Sailing (retailer of small sailboats and performance sailing gear), St. Barths Yachts (dealer) and Charleston Yacht Club (one of five area clubs) are a few of the organizations that will be available at the Maritime Center.

The center is located at 10 Wharfside St. near the South Carolina Aquarium. For more information, visit www.sailcharleston.org.

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