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      Charleston Race Week sets sail on Friday

      Charleston Race Week on Friday (Joe O'Neill/WCIV)

      By Sonya Stevens
      sstevens@abcnews4.com

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Ready, set, sail! Charleston Race Week began on Friday and will continue through Sunday, so you can expect to see more boats in the harbor over the next few days.

      There are 264 boats registered for this event and roughly 2,000 sailors.

      "The regatta has really grown tremendously in the past six years. We have seen almost exponential growth in that time," said Dan Dickison, Media Manager of Charleston Race Week. "It's now in its 17th year."

      A majority of the participants, 80 percent to be exact, are from out of town.

      "It is the largest regatta along the east coast," said Dickison. "We also believe that it's the largest keelboat regatta in North America."

      Bob McHugh drove his boat down from Fairfield, Connecticut, to participate in the race for the first time.

      "My two sons are going to race with me today, in fact my 16-year-old son, Thomas, is going to skipper the boat and my friend Rob, he and I have sailed together for quite a long time," said MuHugh. "And my youngest son Conner is going to be up front with me, so it's a chance to sail with good friends and family and then have a lot of fun afterwards."

      Bob's friend, Rob, says this event was too good to pass up.

      "We've been lifelong sailors and this is just a great chance for competition so it's a treat really to sail a new boat like this into a new exciting class," said Rob Stephan from Fairfield, Connecticut.

      And most agree that the location is ideal for a sailing competition like this.

      "It's a wonderful venue especially for sailors because we have a lot of protected water in shore with good winds and challenging currents, so that is really appealing to a lot of sailors," said Dickison. "We have lots of offshore area for the bigger boats to race in, so we are able to accommodate a broad spectrum of boats and I think that's one of the key appeals of Charleston."

      But one variable that can't be controlled is the weather. If at any point this weekend the winds get too strong or there are thunderstorms, the races will have to be canceled.

      More offshore and inshore races are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The awards ceremony will be Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m.

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