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Race Like The Wind
Published Tuesday, April 13, 2010 10:57 AM
By Paul Zoeller
Summerville Journal Scene
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"In sailing, it is not the destination but the journey that matters. In racing -- it is a fast journey." -- Deb Campeau

Watching the sailboats in the harbor, it looked as if they effortlessly skimmed across the water, carried by the wind. Seeing the sails gracefully dance across on the horizon made the sport look simple. That is the life, sitting on a boat all day, sipping a drink and letting the wind do all the work.

A group of Melges 24s sail by during Charleston Race Week.

Ask anyone of the almost 1,500 sailors competing on nearly 200 sailboats in 2010 Charleston Race Week and they might paint a different picture.

"My body is one long bruise," Deb Campeau says describing all her pains after the 3-day race.

Deb Campeau adds the race number to the front of their boat while preparing for race week.

Deb Campeau and her husband Ric, of Summerville, raced their J109 named "Hoodoo" this weekend with a crew of six others in the open waters outside the Charleston harbor.

Campeau says though the family only started sailing together about 8 years ago, Deb and Ric grew up sailing. She lived on the Gulf Coast and he grew up in Bermuda. When they decided to take up sailing again, they joined the College of Charleston sailing club before being asked to crew a race boat. The Campeaus had so much fun they looked for their own boat to race.

Crew member David Aymar tapes up the mast of "Hoodoo" before the start of race week.


Racing involves navigating the sailboat upwind and downwind twice and negotiating turns at both ends of the course. While sailing upwind, against the wind, the boats zig and zag along the course. While crisscrossing along the course, crews shift the sails from one side of the boat to the other to catch the wind. Sailing downwind, the boats unfurl an extra sail -- a spinnaker. This extra sail propels them across the water and is brought back down before the boats negotiate the next turn before sailing back upwind.

In theory, it seems simple but as Campeau points out so many factors are involved. First, you depend a lot on a crew that is knowledgeable and work well together. That crew team work and communication is essential to racing.

Crews pull their boats up to the starting line.

Racing also takes a lot of strategy. Sailors have to recognize where they are on the course, which way the currents are flowing and pick the right line to race.

Again, it sounds so simple until you witness the flurry of action taking place on the deck of a sailboat during a race. Crew members fling themselves to one side of the boat while ducking the sail as it shifts the other way. They literally hang off the side of the boat to keep it upright as the wind grabs hold of the sails. Almost immediately, they race to the other side of the boat, ducking the sails once more as they make a turn.

Sailors are a superstitious crowd -- the Lady of the Mist accompanies the crew of "Hoodoo" during race week.

Lots of strategy is involved in racing. Crews have to avoid, block and outmaneuver other boats. Campeau said she compares racing to business management. She uses the analogy often -- managers choose the right team, keep an eye on the competitors while focusing on their own task.

A line of Melges 24s race to the turn as crews lean over the sides of their crafts to keep them upright in the water.

Racing is very different from a day of leisurely sailing, Campeau says. She usually steers with one foot while Ric works the lines as they hold a course and avoid other boats while enjoying the journey.

Ric Campeau, on left, and his crew members attach the sail to their boat in preparation for race week.

The Crew

Though they sail on the weekends, the crew of the "Hoodoo" consists of a veterinarian, a mason, two engineers and one who works at a funeral home.

The race is physically and mentally exhausting on them. Campeau says it is cold and windy on the water, you have to keep your head in the game the whole time and -- most importantly -- hang on for dear life. The crew is whipped after a race, even more so after several days.

Crew members duck under the sail and jump to the other side of the boat to hold it steady as they change directions.

It is a good workout though, crewing on the boat is a good way to stay in shape. Hanging off the sides of the boat holding different positions is not unlike her Pilates class Campeau said.

Crew members work to flip a Viper back over during a race.

Race Week

Charleston Race Week began 15 years ago and has a record number of boats racing this year. Multiple classes and sizes of boats compete on courses in the harbor and in the open waters.

The nearly 200 sail boats come from all over the United States, Canada and Europe for race week.

Crews take advantage of the fewminutes they have between races to eat and rest.

The "Hoodoo" competed in open waters in a mixed class of bigger ships. Though they did not win, they were happy to finish in the middle of the pack.

The crew of "Hoodoo" line up for their next race while watching as another group takes off from the starting line.

So many things going on that at any point in the race their boat could be in the lead then finish in the middle of the pack. For two races, a rope was wrapped under the boat because they did not have the time to untangle it. Those are some of the mishaps that go with racing, Campeau said.

A beverage is hoisted up to a crew member as they prepare the boat for race week.

"We weren't last, nobody died and we had fun -- so it was a great race," Campeau said.


Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at

Comments (4)

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Sentences I thought I'd never say...
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 7:38 PM

Look! It's my sister the famous sports figure!

Posted by: (Brother) Dave
August is NOT the time to visit!
Sunday, April 18, 2010 11:12 AM

You guys make it look so easy....see ya soon.

Posted by: Millers of Toledo
Apple pie
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 9:53 PM

Hey Paul geat to have you aboard. Next time stay for the cigars and apple pie!!

Posted by: David
Next time -- try those parties!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 3:29 PM

Dang, Paul! For a newbie, you actually got a lot of this right. Impressed.
Lots of fun to have you "on board". Sounds like we'll have to do the cruisin' thing to get Chris out there.

Posted by: Mama Hoodoo

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