Chuck “The Rookie” Woodruff: Local Boat Racing Legend Remembered

Check "The Rookie" Woodruff photo
Boat racing legend Charles "The Rookie" Woodruff was the driving force behind reviving the Stuart Sailfish Regatta.

STUART , FL – The unexpected tragic death of Jensen Beach local and hydroplane boat racing legend Charles Woodruff, also known as “The Rookie,” 64, stunned family, friends and the community Sunday afternoon, March 18, 2012. Woodruff, a national champion and Hall of Famer, was killed during the Spring Thunder Regatta in Tavares on Lake Dora when his boat, the Buckeye Kid, crashed with the boat of Dea Wiseley during the exhibition weekend. His wife Alena, his son Tristan, and his brother Kennedy Woodruff survive him.

Woodruff was considered a legend in the classic raceboat show circuit for winning multiple world and North American titles, as well as surviving a number of accidents throughout his career. His enthusiasm and passion for the sport led him from raceboat driver to owner. More recently, Woodruff has been associated with the revival of the Stuart Sailfish Regatta. In one of Woodruff’s last interviews conducted a week prior to his untimely passing, he talked about his career and the Treasure Coast’s rich history of boat racing.

Woodruff said, “My racing career started in Florida at the Miami Marine Stadium in 1968. At that time, the Stuart Sailfish Regatta was one of the best on the Florida Circuit. We came to Stuart from 1967 to 1984 and raced at the same location. Racers came from all over the United States to race in Stuart and have some fun. Boat racing continued in Martin County for nearly six more years after that.”

The retired boat racer was sad to see the end of the Stuart Sailfish Regatta, as it was one of his favorite races during his extensive career. It became his life’s mission to revive the event that had given him, other racers and families such joy throughout the years. He worked diligently along with the Stuart Sailfish Regatta Board of Directors to get the appropriate permits, environmental tests and other necessary approvals to bring this long-standing tradition back to the Treasure Coast.

Woodruff was very appreciative of the hard work of all of the people helping him to achieve his dream. He stated that the return of the races as the Stuart Sailfish Regatta “could not have happened if it wasn’t for the endless pursuit of one of our Board Members, Toby Overdorf, of Crossroads Environmental, who single-handedly worked for about 500 plus days on obtaining the permits from the USCG.

Just as all of the pieces were coming together, Woodruff passed away doing what he loved most, and the future of the race was uncertain. In the hours after his passing, an emergency Stuart Sailfish Regatta board meeting was held to discuss the future of the event. The Board voted to proceed with the Regatta that will take place April 13-15, 2012, at the Stuart Causeway as a memorial and tribute to Woodruff.

Rusty Sedlack, the president of the Stuart Sailfish Regatta Board of Directors said, “Chuck was a close and personal friend, and we’ll miss him tremendously. We have a legacy to complete, and the plans are to move forward with the Regatta as Chuck would have wanted and that his family insists takes place. It’s the best we can do, not only for Chuck, but also for the community. His heart was set on reviving the Regatta to help the local economy and bring the culture of boat racing back to the Treasure Coast.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: An American Power Boat Association sanctioned event, the 2012 Stuart Sailfish Regatta takes place April 14-15, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Stuart Causeway in Stuart, Florida. For more information, visit