AN AUDACIOUS IDEA: LAUNCHING A NEW EVENT
By Brian Gleason – Event Chairman
In February 2009 at a meeting of the Punta Gorda Boaters Alliance in Florida, two questions were posed to members of boating and sailing organizations from all around Charlotte Harbor: Could and should Charlotte Harbor host a national one-design sailboat regatta?
The answer was a resounding, “Yes!” and the Charlotte Harbor Regatta was born. Word spread of this audacious idea – starting a new regatta with no money, no host site, a thin one-design tradition and no strong local fleets amid the worst global economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Rather than shy away from the daunting challenge, one club after another rallied around it. The Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club, the Punta Gorda Sailing Club, the Charlotte Harbor Community Sailing Center, the Isles Yacht Club, the Punta Gorda Boat Club, the Port Charlotte Yacht Club all jumped on board, their members and many of their officers joining an ad hoc organizing committee.
Charlotte Harbor, which lies between Tampa Bay and Key West on Florida’s Gulf Coast, had reason to believe it could hang with the big boys. It had been named by SAIL magazine as “one of the 10 greatest places to sail in the United States” in June 2004, just before Hurricane Charley devastated the area. Area clubs had played host to a number of well-attended regattas, including the Conquistador Cup, the Golden Conch Regatta, the Leukemia Cup, the Valentine’s Day Massacre, the U.S. Olympic Soling trials, the U.S. Olympic windsurfer trials and a number of one-design midwinter events for Sunfish and other small boats. Charlotte County has repeatedly been cited by national magazines, such as “Money,” as one of the best places to live in the country, due to its affordability, natural beauty, small-town charm and laid-back atmosphere.
Even before dates had been set or classes targeted, officials from Fishermen’s Village Resort & Marina offered their award-winning facility as regatta host site and the Charlotte County Visitor & Convention Bureau threw its support behind the venture. Local businesses jumped on board from the beginning, especially the Sun newspapers, where I work as editorial page editor. The Sun provided staff time, Web site hosting, back-office support and extensive publicity. Sponsors included Fishermen’s Village, Mosaic, PG Insure, Microtel, Kitson & Partners, West Marine, the boaters alliance, Knighton Sailmakers, the Charlotte County Parks Department, Peace River Distributing, Winn-Dixie, Centennial Bank and Everglades Farm Equipment. All told, the regatta raised more than $25,000 in cash, services and in-kind contributions even before the first registration was received. The outpouring of support allowed the board to brand itself as the “fun, affordable regatta.” Hotel rooms under $100 (some under $65) even at the height of the tourist season, reinforced that reality. — Read on: http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/news/10/0302/