Charleston Race Week dodges storm for success
By Brian Troutmanbtroutman@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- As rain, wind and isolated hail hit areas of the Lowcountry over the weekend, somehow Charleston Race Week was spared.
Maybe it was luck. Maybe it was the science behind things that affect weather patterns. Regardless, Charleston Race Week finished strong on Sunday.
"The weather has been good," said Randy Draftz, event director for Charleston Race Week. "Charleston Race Week has been very lucky. Last year we actually had to cancel a day of racing. That, was pretty disappointing."
Near the end of the day Sunday, Draftz said it was safe to say this year marked one of the best race weeks yet.
"It's been a tremendous event this year. I'm really surprised at how we pulled a lot of innovative things off this year. Our attendance is up by about 20 boats over last year, and last year we experienced 30 percent growth. So, the regatta continues to grow."
The growth is surprising. Draftz said the rate at which Charleston Race week has become popular goes against the trend of all similar races in the country. The key, he believes, is the venue. Charleston offers food, lodging and fun within feet of the docks. He said the venue is something that has even impressed the organizers of the America's Cup -- arguably the most prestigious yacht race in the world.
Officials with the America's Cup attended events at Charleston Race Week on Saturday and with them brought the America's Cup Trophy, the oldest active trophy in international sport.
"We had a real special event last night," Draftz said of the display of the America's Cup Trophy. "It just speaks volumes about Charleston Race week."
Building the event doesn't come easy. Draftz said the success of Charleston Race Week is in the hands of hundreds of volunteers.
"It's an incredible event in that there's 300 volunteers that actually put this on," he said. "We have five courses, three courses inshore and two courses offshore. Then, we have the cruising course that races here just off the dock. All of those require race committees, boats, support boats. We'll have 37 boats out on the water. So, we have about 167 people out on the water running the races."
Draftz said the rest of the volunteers, about 150, are onshore and tasked with keeping everyone happy and the parties going well.
"We are really, definitely, building the event to a national scale," Draftz said.
With its 16th year, Charleston Race Week was the biggest it has ever been.
"I think the first year I was involved, we had a little over 100 boats," Draftz said. "...We have that many offshore right now. We have 257 boats out there."
Charleston Race Week events began on Friday and hosted roughly 2,000 sailors.
* ABC News 4's Scott Garrand contributed to this report.