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Charleston SC

The largest city in South Carolina on the east coast of the USA, Charleston was one of the  stopovers of the 1994/5 and 1998/9 editions of the race. The fleet will be heading back to the welcoming American port in this edition of the race for the first time since in 13 years.

Harborfest, one of the biggest marine festivals in America, will greet the VELUX 5 OCEANS skippers when they arrive in Charleston. Harborfest is a four-day maritime festival celebrating the sea, attracting over 100,000 visitors each year to the Charleston waterfront.

Drenched in southern charm, Charleston is a compelling place to visit, its historic district lined with tall, narrow houses of peeling, multicoloured stucco, adorned with wooden shutters and wide piazzas. The Caribbean feel is augmented by palm trees and the tropical climate, while the town's hidden gardens, leafy patios, and ironwork balconies evoke the romance of New Orleans. The cradle of the Civil War, Charleston is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the southeast. In the high season the scent of gardenia and honeysuckle mixes with the tang of horse from the innumerable carriage tours that clip-clop down the cobblestones day and night.

Founded by a group of English aristocrats in 1670, Charles Towne swiftly boomed as a port serving the rice and cotton plantations. It became the region's commercial and cultural centre with immigrants including French, Germans, Jews, Italians, and Irish, as well as the English majority. One-third of the nation's enslaved Africans passed through Charleston, sold at the market on the riverfront and bringing with them their ironworking, building, and farming skills.

Charleston is known as the Holy City due to the prominence of churches on the low-rise cityscape, particularly the numerous steeples which dot the city's skyline, and for the fact that it was one of the few cities in the original thirteen colonies to provide religious tolerance to the French Huguenot Church. It is also home to the fourth largest Jewish congregation in the USA at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.

The start of the VELUX 5 OCEANS will form part of the 2011 Charleston Harbor Fest. The Charleston Harbor Fest is an annual event hosted by the South Carolina Maritime Foundation, a public nonprofit organization that owns and operates the tall ship Spirit of South Carolina. This festival is a true harbor-wide celebration of the sea.  Attracting visitors and locals alike, this event is family-friendly and loads of fun for all ages.  From the classic beauty of sailing ships and pirates giving their best “Argh” to the interactive educational exhibits, Charleston Harbor Fest offers an array of activities. You can be as hands-on as you want with activities ranging from tame to adventurous. Tour the ships, enjoy the scenic waterfront and relax with a beverage and fine Lowcountry fare. For those with more adventurous spirit head out on the harbor for a sailing lesson.

www.charlestonharborfest.org