If you’re out around Charleston Harbor this weekend (April 12-15, 2018), you’ll notice a striking sight. Nearly 250 sailboats will be on the water competing in what has become the largest multiclass regatta in North America – Sperry Charleston Race Week.
Each spring, nearly 2,000 racing sailors from around the globe descend on Charleston to compete in this signature event. Now in its 23rd year, the regatta is among the most popular and influential in the sport. And students and staff from the College of Charleston Sailing Program are integral to making it all happen.
According to Greg Fisher, who directs the College’s sailing program, supporting this mega-regatta is consistent with his program’s mission.
“We’re very keen to promote sailing in Charleston and sailing in general,” Fisher says. “Having this esteemed event here in our home waters is a big pride point for the College.”
Fisher says the College’s docks in Mount Pleasant will host over 40 out-of-town boats, and nearly 30 members of his varsity sailing team will be crewing various boats in the competition. In addition, Mitch Hall, the assistant coach of the sailing team, along with former sailing world champion Ed Baird, will provide a pre-event presentation on local maritime knowledge, such as harbor tides and commercial boating traffic.
“Those are just a few of the ways that our program is helping to support the regatta,” explains Fisher. “In addition, our entire Development Team will be volunteering to assist with the sustainability efforts, recycling and composting, etc., at the regatta village. And sailors from the Warrior Sailing Team (a nonprofit that helps military veterans reintegrate into society) will be racing on board six of our J/22s.”
In fact, all 12 of the College’s keelboats will be competing in Race Week. Student-athletes from the College’s Offshore Team will be on board the program’s two largest boats and members of the Development Team will race on board a pair of the College’s J/22s.
That same fleet of J/22s will also appear in one of the regatta’s marquee events – a pro-am competition that takes place on Saturday evening. And several of the featured “pros” will include members of the College’s varsity team. Olympic racer and CofC sophomore Paris Henken along with senior Christophe Killian will compete in the pro-am competition, as will two-time All-American and CofC Athletics Hall of Fame member Steve Hunt ’98.
“Our program’s involvement with Sperry Charleston Race Week is a win-win,” Fisher explains. “We help the organizers stage the event, but our program benefits a great deal as well. Our student-athletes have been super successful in collegiate competition, and we’re proud of that. But it also means a lot to them that they can gain additional experience by competing at the country’s largest multiclass regatta. They not only enjoy the chance to sail with and against some of the best sailors in the world, they also have the opportunity to give back to the sport and the community that they enjoy so much.”
Sperry Charleston Race Week runs Thursday through Sunday, April 12-15, 2018.
Feature photo: Charleston Race Week/Rick Walo