The Rockville Regatta holds a special significance and appeal for everyone who attends. Much of this stems from the fact that it's always been somewhat of a family affair, with its ranks populated by the descendants of plantation owners who annually sought refuge from the August heat in their summer homes here. In part it's the regatta's esteemed heritagedating back to a race between two cousins who allegedly sought to settle a matter of family pride out on the water aboard their scow-like work boats over 11 decades ago. And it's partially the fact that this series of races is the season-capping event for Charleston sailors. But it also has to do with the 400-plus spectator craft that anchor or raft up on the far side of the river, giving the proceedings a raucous, yet festive, atmospheresort of like NASCAR meets Wimbledon.
There's also the notion that for almost everyone competing here, the Rockville Regatta represents a chance to finally get it rightto finally put together all the aspects of a good race after a summer's worth of practice. Though the race committee gives itself the option of 10 possible courses to select from, the geography of the racing area (the narrow Bohicket Creek and the adjoining North Edisto River) makes the strategy fairly straightforward, even for out-of-towners. Staying out of the current when it's against you and in it when it's with you is essentially the key. Other than that, it's just a matter of staying in the breeze and staying fast.
For Rose Hamm Rowland, a local mathematics professor who stepped back into racing about five years ago after a 15-year hiatus, the tides don't present much of a problem. "I don't think there's anything secret about the current hereit's just wicked. Of course you can't get out of the tide and go where you'd like to go because of the spectator fleet."
After a lengthy postponement, the first race got started in a light, six to eight-knot breeze with a vicious flood tide sweeping up the creek. The start of each of the seven classes was almost anticlimactic as the boats crawled to weather against the brine. Among the nine-boat E-Scow fleet, Peter Hamm set the pace, finding breeze on the far side of the North Edisto River. After returning up Bohicket Creek, the fleet marched past the spectator boats several times, yielding cheers and jeers and at least a few rebel yells.
MacIntosh proved Durant right in the second race by posting a win of his own. With the breeze building to 15-plus knots, and the flood now turned to an ebb, the sailors sought lanes in the middle of the creek heading upwind, and stuck to the edges downwind. After tacking their way out of the creek, the E-Scows planed across the North Edisto River on a reach, passing most of the Sea Island One Designs in the process. The course took them back across the river into the creek where they set their spinnakers and sailed as close as possible to the spectator fleet to stay out of the ebb.
Local sailmakers Peter and George Durst succeeded in putting together their best race of the season; with flawless spinnaker trim and good mark roundings, they brought Dixie home to a win in Race Two by a fair margin. And John Townsend, a local meteorologist found his stride to win the race among the 10 boats in the Sunfish Masters class. In the Sea Island One Designs, it was all Dave Stanger as he and his crew on board Cygnet II nearly locked up the competition with two firsts.
With the August heat in full force, the sailors gathered up on the broad veranda of the hall for the awards. Sea Island Yacht Club Commodore Michael Storen addressed the rowdy, sun-weary group of competitors with praise: "Y'all should be proud. You've taken this event into its third century and you're continuing a very rich tradition of racing here." As the trophies were handed out and the din subsided, the powerboats across the river began to pull up their anchors and scatter.
Out on the lawn, Rose Hamm Rowland happily stows her Sunfish gear for some future regatta. "In the last year, I've gone to three away regattas," she says. "I sailed the Sunfish Nationals for Masters in Delaware, and the Sunfish International Masters, and then the Sunfish Women's in Texas. I'm learning things by going to those events, and that's good because I've got a lot to learn. Here at Rockville, I've learned to look at the leaders' boats and see how they're set up. I've followed them around the course, and now I'm spying on them," she concludes with a laugh. Musing back over the event, she appears satisfied. "The sailors take this seriously," she says. "For the folks out on the water and on the bank, it's a happening. Between those two extremes, I guess I'd say the atmosphere here is, well, wonderful."
|Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)|