Sometimes there’s just too much wind: Race Week ends early due to gale force winds
Competitors in the Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week battled strong winds this past weekend. The event, which featured a record number of entries over 300, was abbreviated because of gale force winds on Sunday. Above, members of the “Redbeard” crew turn tightly around a buoy.
Charleston Race Week was held April 18-21, but the final day’s races were canceled because of gale force winds.
Over 300 entries were received for this year's Race Week, making it the largest event in program history.
Race Week ends early
By Tyler Heffernan
For sailors, it’s a trick question. What’s more frustrating: too much wind or not enough?
Gale force winds can snap masts, tip boats and injure crew members. Not enough wind keeps boats stationary.
Jacob Raymond, assistant dockmaster with the College of Charleston Sailing Assocation and among the participants of this year’s Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week said “that’s a long answer.”
“Both present challenges. Light wind can be frustrating because of its slow pace, and personally, my mind wanders. Also, making a mistake in light winds, you dearly pay for it on the race course,” Raymond said.
“Heavy breeze, of course, can be intimidating and the possibility for equipment to be damaged increases...Either extreme is challenging. But, that’s the great part about the sport – your race course is never the same.”
Race Week had too much wind. Three masts sustained major damage, according to reports, on Friday and Sunday’s action – the championship round of racing – was canceled due to winds gusting over 40 knots.
But, it’s just “part of the deal,” Greg Fisher, sailing director with the College of Charleston, said Sunday afternoon. Weather conditions are unpredictable and the sport of sailing relies on it.
“Everybody would have loved to race another day,” he said on the college’s dock amid the howls of the wind.
“But, when it gets that windy, everybody appreciates the safety factor, so it’s just a call you have to make.”
Offshore races were anbandoned just before 10 a.m. According to boaters coming back into the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, most only made it halfway out toward the course.
The inshore races were called about an hour later as gusts reached the low 30s. Soon after, white caps filled the Charleston Harbor and gusts continued to increase.
A rip current warning was also expected later that afternoon, as conditions deteriorated on the water.
Waves on the outer jetties of the harbor reached heights over 10 feet.
“When you have a big regatta like this, and you have that many boats out there and it gets this windy, it’s just not worth taking the risk,” Fisher said. “It’s a hard call to make, but it’s the right call.”
Raymond also agreed with the race committee’s decision. “(They) did an excellent job recognizing the conditions were too foul,” he said.
Fisher lauded the efforts of the Race Week organizers, which experienced its best participation numbers in history with over 300 entries. Sail Charleston, an expo-like event held Saturday for community members interested in sailing, had a large, inaugural turn out. The Charleston Explorer toured the public around the harbor, stopping close to regatta action and narrated by Fisher, who was among the winners of last year’s Race Week.
The leaders at the conclusion of Saturday’s races were declared the winners of the largest regatta in the Western Hemisphere.
“This regatta continues to grow in size and prestige,” Fisher said. “That generates a lot of enthusiasm for sailing, as well. “I think there’s a lot of growth going on for the sport. A lot of people are excited about it.”
To view the complete list of winners from this year’s Charleston Race Week, go online to www.MoultrieNews.com/sports.