Spookie finish

Charleston, SC – On a day that started with an AP flag but finished in a perfect 11-knot seabreeze, and with three more races on the scorecard, yesterday’s winners in the HPR class have extended their lead at Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week. Steve and Heidi Benjamin’s Carkeek HPR 40 Spookie once again won all three windward-leeward races today with the kind of error-free racing that comes from lots of practice and refined teamwork.

“This is the most fun we’ve had on the boat, it's a really great team,” said Heidi Benjamin, who is sharing strategic and tactical decisions with Rolex Award-winning Moth champion Bora Gulari. “We have been sailing together for quite some time now, and put a lot of practice and effort into learning and tuning the boat. The mood is great, everyone is positive and helps each other out, and everyone contributes.”

But in addition to the strong teamwork it was Heidi and Bora who found a lane of building pressure on the left side of the course in the second race that vaulted them ahead of even the largest and fastest boat in the class, Jim Grundy’s new Carkeek 47 Grundoom, to take the elapsed as well as corrected time win.

Fleet start day 2

Similarly, in the last race of the day Grundoom found better pressure on the left side of the last beat to the finish of the five-leg course to save her time to earn third place, her best finish yet in the series.

“Today our teamwork was 50% better than yesterday, and boatspeed 10-15% better,” said Grundy. “We are still learning to tune the rig for the conditions, and got half a knot faster on the upwind legs. In the last race this all started to come together, so we had a better result.”

On racing against the more experienced teams with a new boat and crew, Grundy said “This has been fantastic for us: we will learn more this weekend than in weeks of practice on our own. It’s been great having the other guys as a benchmark, they are at the top of their game."

This same sentiment was expressed by current runner-up Stephen Murray, Jr on his HPR Carkeek 40 Decision: “Benj and the Spookie team are providing for all of us a top-level reference in performance, where when we make a mistake, we get punished for it. I think this is fantastic, its exactly what we were looking for in this class.”

Bill McKinley’s Denali^2 team has been racing in the Great Lakes in the last two seasons, and this is their first time up against their HPR Carkeek 40 sisterships. While coming to within 15 seconds of defeating Decision in the second race of the day, the Michigan-based team is also seeing value in being up against stronger teams.

“We came here a few days early to be tuning and practicing,” said McKinley. “We don’t see this at home, so it’s been great to have this level of racing.”

Denali 2 crew hike

Two more races will be held tomorrow, the final day of the 2014 edition of Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week, followed by final awards at the main venue at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.

For more information, results, videos, and photos from Meredith Block and Karen Ryan, visit www.charlestonraceweek.com.