College of Charleston and Sperry Charleston Race Week: A Unique Sailing Partnership

Each spring, nearly 2,000 racing sailors from around the globe descend on Charleston to compete in Sperry Charleston Race Week.

Now in its 22nd year, the event is the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the Americas — and the College of Charleston’s sailing program is an important player.

Hundreds of sailboats will dot Charleston Harbor during Sperry Charleston Race Week (April 20-23, 2017), and students from the College will be on board many of them. (Courtesy Charleston Race Week/Tim Wilkes)

Students and staff from the College are involved in numerous aspects of the three-day event. According to Greg Fisher, who directs the College’s sailing program, many student-athletes from the College’s varsity sailing team compete in the regatta as crew members. And Fisher and his staff are thickly involved, supporting the event in a variety of ways.

“Our coaches have been giving the pre-event local knowledge briefings at Race Week for several years,” he says. “And we’ve long offered our J/22 sailboats (a popular design used in racing) for use by competitors. One case in point is the adaptive boat we have that is used by the Warrior Sailing Team led by alumnus Ben Poucher ’05. We try to do whatever we can to support the regatta because we feel it’s an important event for the sport, for Charleston and for our sailors. By way of our participation, our student-athletes end up with formative opportunities for growth and connection.”

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One important way that Fisher and his program are supporting Race Week this year is by partnering with the event to put on a pro-am regatta, a fundraiser for the College’s sailing program.

“This is a new component for Charleston Race Week,” says Fisher. “We’ve invited 10 top-level sailors to skipper one of our J/22s on Saturday evening. Each team will have a member of our varsity sailing team on board and the other crew positions will be filled by either a paying guest or a local high school racer. They’ll all do a series of really short races right of the beach so that spectators can take in the action. We think it’s going to be really fun.”

Fisher says he’s really pleased that two of the pro sailors who will be driving these boats are members of his varsity team.

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“Sophomore Paris Henken, who competed in the Rio Olympics, will lead one team and junior Christophe Killian, who is currently the No. 1 match racer in the U.S., will also steer a boat,” he says.

The College’s sailing program has supported Race Week in a number of ways throughout the past seven or eight years.

Students from the College have assisted the regatta’s green team, helping to ensure that food waste and service materials are composted. Others have served as media interns, helping to maximize the public awareness of the event. And Fisher reminds us that each year over a dozen members of his varsity team compete as crew members aboard sailboats throughout the 220-boat fleet.

Learn more about Sperry Charleston Race Week here.

Photos provided