Written by Justin Scott

The growing Viper 640 sportsboat class made their first appearance at Charleston Race Week with ten Vipers sharing the starting line in Charleston harbor. The most important trophy for the three day weekend was awarded to Simon Eve. Simon is 14 and this was his first regatta in a Viper.

Simon won the Ronstan/Selden award for “Viper Sportsperson of the Regatta”. The award is determined by each competing skipper voting on which competitor most represented the corinthian spirit of our sport by making the regatta the most fun for all other participants.

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Fourteen year old Simon won by a landslide. In his first ever race in a Viper, he led Race One of the regatta from the start until a few boat lengths from the finish, and finished second.  The panel of Viper owners that presented the award noted that his congratulations to the winner and whoop and genuine pleasure at coming second was indistinguishable. His glowing enthusiasm on shore after racing was infectious. The twinkle in his eyes reminded us all why we love this sport. Most imporantly, he was sailing with his Mom and his Dad, and it was clear there were not two people in the world he would rather be sailing with. Simon got a stunning and well earned Ronstan top of the line stainless steel race watch, a Selden jacket and a standing ovation.

The runners up included David Guggenheim for inviting the Vipers to come to Charleston and unexpectedly showing up with 400 lamb chops from his native New Zealand and setting up the “Viper shoreside grill”. Julie Marie as outstanding crew of the regatta, Len Burke with a combination of Aussie humor and titanium hip, and Charlie Goodrich who made trailors miracuosly disappear after launching and then reappear at the hoist after the regatta was over.

ImageThe Viper 640 is a modern, high performance, easy to sail, 21 foot sportsboat. The renaissance of this class began in Marblehead and has quickly spread down the East coast and across the country. There are fleets on the South East Lakes and most recently a fleet formed at Savannah Yacht club.

 

ImageCharleston Race Week exceeded all our expectations. Every team in the Viper class, no matter the end result on the race course, had a wonderful time. The regatta base is a charming resort and marina overlooking the race area. After racing each day we sailed into the marina, tied up at our slips next to the Naval Museum, walked to the resort where we were greeted by root beer floats, took a dip in the swimming pool and a soak in the hot tub and then strolled down to the party on the beach sponsored by Goslings rum.

ImageThe sailing was superb. The Vipers were racing on the “inside” course on the large sheltered bay that comprises Charleston Harbor. The entrance to the ocean lay to the East and a spectacular suspension bridge to the North. Every afternoon a strong sea breeze would set in bringing 12 to 18 knots and on at least one day gusts into the mid 20s. The seas stayed mostly flat with some tidal chop, enabling tight racing upwind and great rides downhill. The racing was very technical, required thought, and was a whole lot of fun. Two tidal channels ran across the racing area and there were reasonably predictable recurring shifts. There was no such thing as a “Horizen job”.  A premium on tactics enabled teams to figure how to get back into the game, and a momentary lapse by the leaders would leave them back in the pack again.  No less than six Vipers had finishes in the top 3.  Interestingly, half of the Viper skippers were new owners attending their first regatta, including David Guggenheim’s boat that had just been delivered 2 days previously.

ImageWith the benefit of more time in the boat with the carbon mast, the eventual winner was your author and team “Mambo”.  Paul Zimmerman, Andy Gale and Charlie Goodrich in “Playstation” relished the tidal and windpattern combinations of the “thinking man’s regatta” and had a strong finish to the regatta to finish second overall.  David Guggenheim took his boat out of the shrink wrap for the first time at the dry sailing area and was going faster in every race to finish third. It was a tight race for third through sixth with only four points seperating four boats and the final result had two boats tied at fifth.

Full results at  http://www.yachtscoring.com/event_results_cumulative.cfm?eID=161

ImageA word on Charleston’s hospitality. The license plates say “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places”  It sounds too cute. But they are not kidding. Our class was made so very welcome. The Race Committee have been emailing us pictures of our boats since we got home. Charleston Yacht club volunteers helped us launch and hoist our boats. Ronstan- South East, Selden, Charleston Sail Loft (Quantum) and Hammer and Sickle Vodka threw a party for the Vipers at Salty Mike’s on Saturday evening. The staff at the Charleston Harbor resort were thrilled to have us. The entire regatta staff seemed on a mission to ensure that we had fun!  A big thank you to…..Raymarine, Goslings, Vineyard Vines, Gill, West Marine, Hall Marine and all the other sponsors . Above all a big thank you to CORA (Charleston Ocean Racing Association).

ImageThe Viper class will be back at Charleston Race Week next year. The regatta will be a fixture linking our Winter circuit and Spring Circuit. There are a lot of new boats going into the growing South East fleets and this year’s visitors from the North East will be bringing friends next year. We are promising our Charleston hosts that we will be twenty plus boats next year.

Both of your author’s crew were newcomers to the Viper. I think they must have enjoyed themselves.  Jon liked it so much, he went home and plunked down a deposit for his own boat and Kipp is thinking of doing the same. Its going to be hard to keep good crew if they go off and buy their own boats all the time.

Video by Alan Block http://www.blocksail.com/Blocksail.html