Beaufort News

National sailing event cuts through Beaufort waters this week

John Potter doesn't know much about the MC Scow, the one-design sailboat class that will take center stage in Beaufort this week.

But he knew if there was a national regatta in his backyard, he wanted to participate. And so he borrowed an MC and this past weekend raced the class for the first time, finishing fourth at Augusta Sailing Club's Halloween Regatta.

Despite his lack of experience with the class of boats -- Lasers are his specialty -- Potter will be considered among the local favorites when the MC Scow Masters Championships begins Thursday at Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club.

"It's a boat," Potter said. "And we're going to have a bunch of them, so it's going to be fun."

Thirty-eight boats had pre-registered to race at the beginning of the week, said regatta chairman Frank Pontious. Racing will be held in front of the club on Lady's Island, or down closer to Port Royal, depending on wind conditions.

Sailors from 10 states are registered. Eight sailors will represent Beaufort, including Potter, Pontious and 83-year-old Guy McSweeney, who is one of two racers in the "Old Salt," division for those 80-plus.

The Masters championship is open to sailors 50-and-older. The club is hosting the national event for the first time.

The club applied to host the regatta more than a year ago. The boat started in the Midwest, and many of the its regattas have been held there.

"We have a number of active fleets of this type boat in the Southeast," Pontious said. "We thought it would be good to have it down here."

Racing starts Thursday and finishes Saturday morning, with cumulative points determining winners. All boats will race at one time, but there will be divisions for those in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

McSweeney, a longtime Beaufort resident who has sailed since he was 5, said Potter was among the club's top sailors and that he should fare well despite the new class.

"He's king of the hill," McSweeney said.

The MCs are heavier than the popular, high-performance Laser, Potter said. And they feature more sail and two centerboards instead of the Laser's one.

"Most of the boats I sail, you have to sail very flat and have to be very fit," Potter said. "This boat, you actually want it to heel a good bit so you don't have to work as hard as you do most of the other boats that I sail. That part is a little bit easier."

Pontious said wind conditions earlier in the week would have made sailing difficult. Class rules limit how fast the boat can travel.

But the wet weather is expected to give way to clearer skies and warmer weather on race days.