GLORIOUS START SENDS BERMUDA RACERS ON THEIR WAY
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA (May 21, 2011)-The 11 boats racing in the 777-mile Charleston Bermuda Race got under way today beneath bright blue Lowcountry skies with freshening breezes ranging from 8 to 12 knots. Borne by an ebb tide, the boats all crossed the starting line on starboard tack, and headed upwind out of the harbor, chased by a 50-strong fleet of spectator boats. Shortly before, the eight race boats berthed at the Charleston City Marina had received a rousing sendoff by a crush of well wishers, many of whom had amassed on the dock to say farewell to native Charlestonian Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report."
The day started nearly windless, with an oppressive southern sun bearing down, but almost like clockwork, the seabreeze slipped into the harbor at noon, gifting the fleet with enough wind for an exciting start. As the boats made their way out toward Ft. Sumter, the winds increased, adding to the excitement.
The three boats entered in the Cruising Class started first, with local sailor Bernie Schapiro and crew on board his 41-foot Pied-a-Mer getting the best start. They were 10 seconds off the line when the horn blew, chased closely by George Maloomian's larger and faster Hylas 53 Gratitude.
The four yachts sailing in the Doublehanded Division started next, and it was clear that the boat to beat would be Noel Sterrett's J/130 Solarus. Sterrett and his crew Matt Henderson were constantly trimming the sails, eking every bit of performance out of the boat as they handily pulled ahead in the initial minutes of the race.
And then came the four Racing Class boats, with Stephen Colbert on board the Spirit of Juno anticipating a heated duel with his friend Steve Wherry on board an identical Farr 65 the Spirit of Minerva. Both crews could only watch as Hank Hofford and Susan Ford and their family team on board the Shipman 63 Tucana sped away. Tucana is a lighter, slightly faster design, but she also has the benefit of substantial racing talent on board. Former Olympic dinghy campaigner Michael Miller and delivery captain Dan Valoppe - both Charleston residents - will play pivotal roles in keeping this steed at the head of the fleet.
As the boats moved past Ft. Sumter, Colbert engaged his friend Wherry in a tacking duel. Colbert and company tacked just beneath Wherry's boat and at one stage the two titans were neck and neck with Juno only 10 feet to leeward of the Minerva. Wherry's team won that initial exchange, and Colbert's crew had to tack away. But on the next exchange, Colbert and company had played it perfectly, sailing out to the right farther and getting the advantage. As the boats sailed out of the harbor jetties and moved off toward Bermuda, the leader of Colbert Nation had gotten his first little victory in this contest. He sat aftmost on the weather rail, a grin on his face and gleam in his eye.
Earlier in the day, before the boats left the dock, the race organizers had to orchestrate a last-minute switch of on-board personnel. (Each of the Farr 65s carries a paid captain and two mates.) The Spirit of Juno's captain, Rory Faulkner, had experienced severe chest pains. Local physician Dr. David Warters evaluated Faulkner and quickly took him to the Medical University of South Carolina for emergency X-rays. The diagnosis was a collapsed lung, which is a life-threatening condition, meaning that Faulkner could not participate in the race.
OnDeck's logistics and shore support team worked quickly to resolve the situation in the best possible way. Ultimately, Faulkner's role as captain on the Spirit of Juno would be filled by Timothy Scarisbrick, who until 10:30 that morning had been the skipper of the Spirit of Minerva. Scarisbrick's role would be filled by Minerva's first mate Mark Schultz, who has the training and credentials to serve as captain. Tucana's captain Pat Maflin helped out and agreed to transfer crew member Andrew Jasso to join Jonathan Blansfield as mate on Minerva.
Mid afternoon, as the fleet moved offshore, the southwest winds were intensifying, giving each crew hope for a speedy passage to Bermuda. If those winds hold, the lead boats should encounter the Gulf Stream by Sunday morning. Keep an eye on the Charleston Bermuda Race website (www.charlestonbermuda.com) for updates and on the race's facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/charlestonbermudarace.
The 2011 Charleston Bermuda Race is presented by OnDeck Group U.S. in affiliation with the South Carolina Maritime Foundation and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. This race is part of an extensive maritime celebration in historic Charleston that includes the Antigua Charleston Race, the Velux 5 Oceans Race, and Charleston HarborFest. Over 15,000 people are expected to visit Charleston's waterfront Maritime Center the week before and during the start of the 2011 Charleston Bermuda Race. The arrival of the fleet in Bermuda will trigger a three-day celebration, with events sponsored by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the Bermuda Ministry of Tourism, Goslings Rum and OnDeck.
Other sponsors of the 2011 Charleston Bermuda Race include Bauer International, Chelsea Clock, and Garden & Gun Magazine.
OnDeck Sailing and OnDeck Ocean Racing are part of the OnDeck group of companies with bases worldwide: UK: Gosport Marina and Cowes, Isle of Wight. Portugal (Vilamoura); Antigua (Falmouth); USA (Charleston, South Carolina)
From its newly-established U.S. base in Charleston, OnDeck offers a comprehensive range of sailing services including adventure sailing and transatlantic crossings; racing in UK and Caribbean regattas; match racing and regattas organized for corporate and private groups; team building and leadership development and corporate entertaining as well as RYA registered sailing schools (US Sailing-registered at the Charleston office); charter; worldwide boat sales and boat management.