EXCLUSIVE MELGES INTERVIEW: Crayton Walters
19 February 2005
EH: Crayton congratulations on your outstanding performance at the 2005 Charleston Easter E Scow Regatta. Wow, winning that last race and keeping up the sprit boat of Pat Hughes was very impressive. Give us an idea of what this years racing was like at Charleston.
CW: This year we had an early Easter, which always makes us nervous. A lot of fronts seem to blow through in March, and depending on the days of the regatta relative to the fronts, we have the chance for a lot of different race conditions. Despite the limited number of races this year (three versus our usual six), we were lucky to get them in. Light breezes of 8 to 10 kts out of the southeast for only about two hours were all we got on Friday. Saturday saw a better 10 to 12 kts steady breeze out of the east for a few hours before it died. It was all tied to the front which absolutely drenched us with 5 inches of rain on Easter. The current was a strong ebb tide for both days which always gives the lakes guys a tough time. We were always trying to be towards the pin end area to get the current on our lee bow at the start, which helped later with some nice left shifts up the course.
EH: You have always been a big part of Charleston Sailing. You have seen all the classes over the years. The Carolina Yacht Club has three strong classes now with the E Scow, MC Scow and Melges 24. Tell us about scow growth at your club and in the area. Charleston Harbor seems to be a perfect fit for Scow sailing.
CW: It really is. E Scows have always been big in this area. I can remember Barry Lux and a group of guys from Columbia and some from Savannah always brought them to Charleston for the summer regattas years ago(25). We thought they were massive. One day, about twelve years ago, Ross Griffith and some guys bought one and talked us into buying one. That was three boats ago. There are now close to twenty in Charleston with some new boats in the fleet. Tommy Harken really took the reins for the MC class and built it to be a significant part of Charleston and southeast sailing. Of course, the Melges 24 class here is strong with some great leadership. They have hosted the nationals and a lot of district regattas.
EH: We know over the years you have done some pretty exicting things in the world of big boats including 12 Meters. Tell us a little more about some of those experiences.
CW: I have been truly lucky. My job has given me enough time to do some great programs. I started sailing with Edgar Cato about twelve years ago on his first "Hissar", a Swan 70, in Sardinia at the World Cup. We sailed that for a couple of years doing Swan events and races like the Marblehead/Halifax. After that, the Farr 40 was ramping up and we sailed that "Hissar" for a few years, doing all the major regattas. Mike Toppa was kind enough to take me on another boat, Irvin Laidlaw's "Highland Fling", where we sailed the Swan 60 and eventually the Farr 60 in a lot of European and Caribbean events including the World Cup and the Maxi Worlds a few times. Edgar has always enjoyed warm weather racing, so it seems we are always doing the Caribbean circuit in the spring on one of his boats or a charter. Edgar also took the 12 meter, KZ5, one of the fiberglass 12's of Michael Fays for the late 80's Americas Cup, and put it back together a few years ago to sail in The Americas Cup Jubilee in Cowes in 2001. They also had a circuit all through Europe after the Jubilee. That was a great time. We still campaign KZ5 in Newport, Edgartown, and Nantucket. Edgar has now acquired another "Hissar", a Farr 60. We will do the NYYC regatta, Block Island, and Halifax this year prior to the 12 regattas later in the summer preparing for the 12 meter worlds in September. I still have to mention the Worell 1000 when I was 19. Never been on a Hobie since.
EH: You are a harbor pilot for one of the largest and most interesting ports in the U.S. . For those who have not been to Charleston they may not understand but can you give us some insight to the things you have learned about Charleston Harbor and how it has helped your sailing. For those of us from non-current situations we need all the help we can get. The Easter Regatta as we know always falls on the first full moon after the spring equinox. How does that effect the current?
CW: After piloting about six thousand ships in and out of Charleston, I still have moments where I scratch my head about the current. We have a usual range of tide about 5.5 feet. During the spring equinox, we will see ranges of up to 7 feet. That is a lot of water in and out every six hours. Some of our currents run as much as 3 1/2 knots. I am always looking over at the racing area trying to see what the current is doing on any given time of the tide. In Charleston, you have two rivers, The Ashley and the Cooper, converging at the battery (some say to form the rest of the world), where they meet and develop tide rips which move across various parts of the harbor during different stages of the tide. Being out there every day certainly is an advantage, but the old Pros like Lenny Krawcheck are still the wise men about the harbor.
EH: We know you just switched to some new North Sails for your E Scow. What can you tell us about that experience?
CW: I have always used North in the past. My new (to me) boat came with a new set of other sails. Last summer I was disappointed in my speed. I sent the boat to Melges this winter and ordered a new Jib for the Easter regatta. I felt like the boat was a new show in town. I used the med/hvy jib the entire weekend. We were fast off the line and able to keep our speeds in all wind pressures. Our gauge, of course, was Augie Barkow. After Saturday, I felt we were as fast and sometimes lifting off him with speed in the same breeze. (Of course, he told me how to trim) My chutes were always North, and even with two year old sails, we were moving nicely. Those boats I lost downwind had nothing to do with the horrible jibe and my inability to sit still on the low side.
The best part of all this racing has been the people that Edgar and Mike have put together to form some incredible teams. I have been able to sail with some of the most talented sailors in the world as well as develop some very close friendships that will last long after the last race on Sunday afternoon.
Patrick Hogan, David Dabney, and David Hood were solely responsible for getting me around the race course. I never opened my mouth and listened to them. I could not have done it without them
EH: Again, from everyone at North Sails One Design and Melges Performance Sailboats we congratulate you on the outstanding performance at the 2005 Charleston Easter Regatta. The last race win was a great race victory.