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Sail Scene Mid-Atlantic

Charleston racers clean up at Key West Race Week

Sailors say the 2008 Acura Key West, held the final week of January, was among the strangest and most challenging in the 21-year history of the regatta.

Charleston-based racing yachts finished with some of the most impressive scores in the entire fleet at Key West Race Week.

In PHRF 2, Will Hanckel helmed his J/120, Emocean, to seven straight first-place finishes in eight races to win his class by 13 points, while Robert Hibdon’s SR-33, Temptress, scored seven bullets to handily win the PHRF 3 class.

“We’re a crew of ex-college sailors who all grew up racing against each other, and our communication level is near-perfect on board,” Hanckel says.“We sailed fast in Key West, though we were a little surprised to have had so many top finishes.We’re really looking forward to Charleston Race Week, where we know the competition will be at least as strong as we saw in Florida.”

With at least 96 boats entered, a record 40 of them newcomers to Charleston Race Week, 2008 should see some of the most competitive PHRF racing ever.

Once again, one-design classes will produce action, both inside the harbor and on the ocean courses. The Viper 640 will race its first-ever Charleston event as a one-design class, and with 11 boats already registered, racing should be very tight. The J/105, J/80 and J/24 teams continue to show strong registration numbers for these one-designs for 2008.

The harbor course presents some of the most challenging conditions of any venue in the U.S., and local knowledge is at a premium.

“We’ve got incredibly diverse conditions,” said Ward Cromwell, former college All-American and head coach of the College of Charleston’s high-ranked sailing team.“Frontal systems and sea breeze create lots of shifts, while current lines and eddies make tactical decisions especially important.”

Charleston Race Week is set to begin April 17.