Charleston Race Week: Excellent Sailing and Harbor Views

Charleston Race Week: Race Village's move onto the USS Yorktown

The town of Mount Pleasant and City of Charleston are rightfully proud of the grand prix sailboat racing regatta that has become a fixture of the region. Charleston Race Week has brought a huge economic boost to both municipalities for more than a quarter of a century.

Charleston Race Week sailing with USS Yorktown in backdrop
Racing on Charleston Harbor during Charleston Race Week with the USS Yorktown as a backdrop. Photo by Priscilla Parker

When longtime event director Randy Draftz determined that Charleston Race Week needed a new venue, he reached out to Mount Pleasant mayor Will Haynie. Mayor Haynie, an ardent supporter of the regatta, quickly sprang into action. He picked up the phone and dialed Mac Burdette, executive director of Patriots Point Development Authority.

“Will Haynie called and asked if there was anything Patriots Point could do so the regatta could remain at its traditional home,” Burdette said. “Charleston Race Week is very important to Patriots Point. We appreciate what this event does for our town and region. Our goal is that the aircraft carrier will become the home of Charleston Race Week for many years to come.”

So it was that a deal was struck for Charleston Race Week to move its Race Village onto the USS Yorktown, the historic World War II era aircraft carrier that is berthed at Patriots Point.

Iconic warship now a National Historic Landmark

Draftz is excited about the new venue and believes regatta participants will enjoy attending post-race parties aboard a floating museum that has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

“The USS Yorktown is an iconic warship and a landmark feature along the Charleston Harbor waterfront,” Draftz said. “It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area and a unique venue.”

USS Yorktown is an Essex-class aircraft carrier commissioned in April 1943. Initially to be christened as the Bonhomme Richard, she was renamed while still under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. It replaced the USS Yorktown that was sunk during the Battle of Midway as U.S. Navy officials hoped the Japanese would think the original carrier was salvaged.

The USS Yorktown was decommissioned in 1970. Five years later, it was transformed into a museum ship at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. Burdette noted that fast sailing vessels such as clippers, frigates, and schooners were used for maritime military operations.

“I think there is a natural connection between this regatta and our mission,” he said. “I would expect that a lot of the people participating in Charleston Race Week are interested in military history. Hopefully, being aboard the Yorktown will make the event more meaningful for them.”

This won’t be the first time the USS Yorktown has been used as headquarters for a sailing regatta. When College of Charleston hosted the collegiate national championships in 2017, all operations were held aboard the aircraft carrier.

Charlestown Race Week events on the aircraft carrier

Charleston Race Week will conduct the Quantum Sails daily racing debrief aboard the Yorktown. Hangar Bay Three, which is where all the fighter jets were armed, repaired, and protected, will serve as location for the nightly parties.

Sailors will be allowed to go up to the flight deck to watch Saturday night’s popular Pro-Am Regatta, which pairs prominent professional sailors with high school students from the greater Charleston area. Both the flight deck and fantail, which are 67 feet above the water, offer a spectacular view of Charleston Harbor and the city skyline. All the evening parties will feature southern-style small plates prepared by Southern Bear Catering, which was just voted best caterer by readers of Mount Pleasant Magazine. Of course, there will be the traditional Dark-N-Stormies made with Gosling’s Rum and craft beers from Plankowner Brewery. As always, daily racing highlights will be streamed on a large screen aboard the USS Yorktown.

The 27th annual Charleston Race Week will be held April 20-23 with close to 200 boats in 20 classes competing. Quantum Sails returns for its 10th straight year as the Official Sailmaker of Charleston Race Week and will once again be supporting sailors with service, resources, and expertise. Quantum Sails provides educational opportunities with its morning weather and local knowledge briefings, providing competitors the information needed to tackle the tricky breeze and fast-moving current of Charleston Harbor.

B&G will once again be on site for service and have their latest instruments on display, while Team One Newport will have a tent filled with all sorts of great gear for the 2023 sailing season. “We are very fortunate to partner with many loyal sponsors that bring great value to the event,” Draftz said.

The boats!

This year’s regatta will feature several new classes, including the Hobie 33. That one-design class will be contesting its national championship in conjunction with race week and a strong fleet is expected.

Charleston Race Week sailing
The Annapolis-based Rattle 'n' Rum team at Charleston Race Week in 2022. 

Charters are available for those sailors looking to check Charleston Race Week off their bucket list without having to bring their own boat. At print time there were already eight entries in the RS21 one-design class, and RS Sailing has more of the keelboats to offer. College of Charleston has a fleet of J/22 racers ready to launch.

Returning to Charleston Race Week after making a breathtaking debut in 2022 are the cutting-edge 69F foiling catamarans. Sailors interested in learning about foiling can put together a team and race these high-tech racers, which will glide across Charleston Harbor at heart-pumping speeds.

Convenient launching and hauling will be provided at James Island Yacht Club, Charleston Yacht Club, and Cooper River Boatyard, the latter of which offers special rates for race week participants. Dockage options also include Charleston Harbor Marina and Resort, Safe Harbor City Marina, and College of Charleston. Boats being transported from the various winter regattas in Florida can utilize the storage facility at East Coast Hydraulics, which offers a fenced-in yard with reasonable rates. Learn more at