May 26, 2023

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Charleston Race Week, premier sailing event, back in Charleston Harbor | Sports

Charleston Race Week, premier sailing event, back in Charleston Harbor | Sports

If Charleston Race Week was a tennis or golf tournament it would be the equivalent of one of the four “major” events of the year.

Like the Masters in golf or Wimbledon in tennis, Charleston Race Week is one of the top sailing competitions in the world.

It’s widely considered to be the top regatta in North and South America.

In racing terms, the regatta is a combination of the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 all rolled into one.

But, of course, there are no crazy crashes and it’s on the water.

“There are so many different classes, so many different boats and so many different courses in the harbor and offshore that it’s like several regattas in one,” said former College of Charleston sailing coach Kevin Jewett, who will be competing in the J70 class. “There are professional crews with professional captains competing and then there are the amateur crews that are out there for the love of the sport, and they compete against each other. Everyone who loves to sail has these dates circled on their race calendars.”

Sailors from across the United States and around the world are gathering this week in the Lowcountry for the 2023 Charleston Race Week.

The event will begin April 21 and run through April 23 with racing in and outside of Charleston Harbor.

Charleston Race Week features more than 190 boats with 18 registered classes that will race in one-design and handicap racing on inshore and offshore courses.

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The regatta has grown since its humble beginnings.

The event, in its 26th year, will be headquartered for the first time at the USS Yorktown, which is celebrating its 80th year since it was commissioned.

Now in its 26th year, Charleston Race Week was established in 1996 by members of Charleston Ocean Racing Association (CORA). The event actually came into being when CORA’s officers opted to merge two area regattas into one – the South Atlantic Yacht Racing Association’s PHRF Championships and the Charleston Palmetto Cup, a local championship event.

In its initial year, there were only 29 entrants.

The first few editions of the regatta also took place during the summer. At the time, the roster was largely made up of teams from around Charleston, and occasionally from the Savannah, Ga., and Wilmington, N.C. areas.

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The event’s organizers wanted to expand the regatta and decided to move it to a spring date in order to attract boats that would be migrating north after the Caribbean regatta season had been completed. In addition, several back-to-back years of minimal winds during the summer reinforced this decision.

By 2006, the regatta was drawing entries from as far away as England, Canada, and California, with more than 70 percent of the competitors arriving from out of town.

The event has grown by an average of 15 percent in recent years and evolved to become the largest keelboat regatta in the Western Hemisphere.

John Cameron has been taking part in the regatta for more than a decade.

Cameron, 60, was the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston commander and captain of the port from 2004-07.

“I grew up racing in Boston Harbor on my uncle’s boat,” Cameron said. “When I was at the Coast Guard Academy, I raced dinghies and then was on the ocean racing team. There is an incredible amount of sailing talent in town and most of the best sailors in the U.S. are here in town this week.”

Race Week: One of sailing's biggest events returns to Charleston

This weekend, Cameron will be part of a 10-person crew racing in the offshore pursuit class.

“Charleston is the perfect venue for racing this time of year,” Cameron said. “It’s reliably great weather, with a pretty consistent sea breeze in the spring. Folks up north are more than happy to come to Charleston and race in this weather.

“The winds tend to roll in from the ocean this time of year. We’ve had too much wind most years, rather than not having enough. I think that’s why it’s such a popular regatta.”

Reach Andrew Miller at 843-937-5599. Follow him on Twitter @APMILLER_PandC