Thursday, March 27, 2014
Just a few weeks remain before Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week kicks into high gear, and it's beginning to look like “bigger is better” will once again be the overriding theme. The event – which runs April 10-13 at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina – will feature nearly 300 sailboats on the water, hailing from all across the U.S. and several foreign countries. That means some 2,500 sailors will descend on Charleston for three days of top-notch competition and four evenings of superb Southern hospitality. But numbers of boats and competitors aren't the only metrics underscoring this theme. This year, the regatta looks to be a heavyweight on several counts.
Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week has long enjoyed support from its corporate underwriters and partners. For 2014, the list of companies helping to orchestrate the largest regatta of its kind in the Western Hemisphere surged to an all-time peak. More than 25 businesses have signed on, all of them leaders in their respective industries and market segments. In addition, the event benefits from important partnerships with nonprofit organizations, including all of the yacht clubs on Charleston Harbor as well as U.S. Sailing, the national governing body for the sport.
Huge numbers of boats in many of the classes are part of what accounts for the heightened competition at Charleston Race Week (the J/70 Class currently has more than 80 entries). But a pivotal factor is the level of talent aboard those boats. Professional sailors now make up a sizeable portion of the roster in many of the event's 18-plus classes. Last year, the fleet included five “Rolex Yachtsman of the Year” winners, half a dozen Olympic medalists, and numerous world and North American class champions. This year, a similarly talented turnout is expected, meaning that spectators will witness some of the best competitive sailing in the U.S.
Each evening on the beachfront venue at Charleston Race Week, competitors are treated to festive parties featuring live music, exquisite food and a variety of libations provided by Gosling's Rum.
And on occasion, the event organizers add a few special effects to the festivities, such as having the America's Cup trophy on site in 2012 and arranging for a Mardi Gras-like mini parade complete with a Dixieland jazz band and college cheerleaders. Adding to the shoreside fun this year, several sponsors will be raffling off big prizes. Torqueedo will raffle off an electric outboard engine, and Gosling's Rum will raffle off three 26-quart coolers. And U.S. Sailing will sponsor an espresso bar during the mornings.
In recent years, Charleston Race Week's organizers have included a number of educational offerings to augment the event. Post-race panel discussions headlined by some of the sport's most prominent figures have become a staple. This year, multi-time world champion and America's Cup racer Ed Baird will serve as the moderator. In addition, the regatta regularly offers performance-oriented seminars and coaching sessions. For 2014, a highlight will be a team racing exhibition organized by the College of Charleston Community Sailing Association, featuring members of the 2012 National Champion team racing squad from the college. The champions will compete against teams formed by Charleston Race Week competitors.
Given this diversity of component parts, it's not hard to understand why the organizers have adopted a tag line for their event – “a regatta unlike any other.” And it's easy to appreciate why Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week received U.S. Sailing's One Design Award for Regatta Excellence (2013). “That award was a clear validation of what we've achieved with this regatta,” explained Randy Draftz, Charleston Race Week's Event Director. “And it's also a testament to the three major factors that make this regatta such a success: our committed volunteers, our dedicated sponsors, and of course, the best group of competitors that any event could ask for.”
For more information about Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week, please visit www.charlestonraceweek.com. You can also follow the event on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.