Charleston Bermuda Race humble beginnings

Charleston Bermuda Race
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Charleston Bermuda Race - Only 10 days remain until the cannon fires to begin the biennial 777-mile Charleston Bermuda Race. The biennial even which began in 1997, was born of humble origins as the dream of two local sailors set on creating an offshore adventure for themselves and their friends.

With seven previous editions now in its wake, the event has matured, evolving from grassroots beginnings to become a fixture on the sailing calendar of the southeastern U.S. and a celebrated spectacle for the media.

This time around, 12 boats will start the Charleston Bermuda Race, which begins on May 21 in Charleston Harbor. 'That’s double the number of entries that participated in 2009,' explains Richard Speer, CEO of OnDeck Group U.S., the firm that is staging the race in concert with the South Carolina Maritime Foundation and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Speer credits this surge in numbers to several factors. 'We’ve seen a remarkable increase in interest regarding the race, both from the public and from potential participants. Much of that interest is due to the fact that Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report will be competing, yet it’s also due to the fact that both Charleston and Bermuda are exceptionally beautiful places to visit. In addition, the race also offers a challenging course that takes the boats across the Gulf Stream, which for many sailors is a treasured right of passage.'

Speer and his co-organizers have been diligent about attracting commercial support for the race, and their formula appears to be working well. The event’s principal sponsors include Bermuda’s Department of Tourism, Goslings Rum, Bauer International, Chelsea Clock, and Garden and Gun magazine.

'We’re truly pleased to have the support of these companies and organizations, all of which are among the most successful and well regarded in their fields,' said Speer.

Following that theme of quality, Speer and his OnDeck colleagues have secured the services of a seasoned race manager to ensure that the event run seamlessly. Bjorn Johnson is not only a veteran offshore racing sailor, he is also a highly respected management professional who served as Race Director for the 2010 Newport Bermuda Race (183 entries) and as the Chief Safety Officer for the 2008 edition of that same race (198 entries). He has also competed in the Newport Bermuda Race 12 times.

For competitors and race followers alike, these enhancements are all good news. It’s also good news for Rick Hennigar and David Browder, the two sailors who co-founded this race over 16 years ago. 'We’re really gratified to see that OnDeck, the South Carolina Maritime Foundation and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club are keeping this dream alive,' said Browder. 'Rick and I always wanted the race to grow and reach its full potential, and it clear, that’s where it’s headed.'

Charleston Bermuda Race: Website