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Sailing - 27. July 2007.



Houston, Texas, USA (July 5, 2006) –Organizers of US SAILING’s Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship have announced that Houston Yacht Club (HYC), in La Porte, Texas, will host the next regatta from November 12-17, 2007 Held biennially as part of US SAILING’s adult championship schedule, the event provides women sailors of all ability levels with high-quality racing and an opportunity to compete against top national and international sailors, while providing skills development and mentoring to young women through the Rolex Next Step program.

Ginny Garrett (Houston), past commodore of the HYC, will serve as chair of the local organizing committee, while Liz Merrifield Filter will step into the role as chair of US SAILING’s Women’s International Keelboat Committee, which oversees the Rolex IWKC. Founded in 1985 by US SAILING and considered one of the world’s pinnacle events for women sailors, the Rolex IWKC utilizes the International J/22 class keelboat, suitable for four-person teams.

“Moving the prestigious Rolex IWKC around the U.S. is an important idea especially since it is a US SAILING championship,” said Liz Merrifield Filter, a five-time Rolex IWKC competitor and current member of the US Sailing Team in the Yngling class. “As a local Annapolitan, I saw what the event brought to our fleet and to the women in our area. Women who had never considered participating got involved; we had first-time sailors, first-time skippers and even had a couple of women buying their own boat for the first time. Rotating the Rolex IWKC brings that level of excitement around the country while maintaining a very special international event.”

Filter added that the regatta format has been shortened in response to suggestions from past competitors. “The 11-race format will continue, but we plan to race on three days. Racing will be preceded by two days for registration, measurement and a practice race,” said Filter. “As always, evening social events will culminate with the traditional Rolex gala and awards presentation where a Rolex timepiece will be awarded to the winning boat’s skipper.”

HYC was one of the first yacht clubs in the world to adopt the International J/22 class keelboat. Over 20 J/22s typically race in the popular local regattas such as the Leukemia Cup and Lands End NOOD Regatta, as well as on the Southwest Circuit where large fleets compete near San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and New Orleans, throughout the summer.

Local preparation is well under way in the Houston area, with HYC members stepping up to volunteer for the long list of related committees. “HYC has long been a pioneer in women's sailing,” said Garrett. “We hold two annual women skipper regattas ever year, one requiring all-women crew, and in the past we have hosted the U. S. Women’s Sailing Championship for the Adams Cup. We have also conducted an annual sailing camp for women for the last 25 years, as well as numerous clinics. We are very excited to be hosting the Rolex IWKC and believe it will be a crown jewel in the Club's history of supporting women's racing."

For past competitors the change marks a new challenge in the regatta’s 20-plus year history. “I think it is going to be a good change of scenery for the event,” said Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.), the defending Rolex IWKC champion who is currently training with her team of Debbie Capozzi and Carrie Howe for a berth at the 2008 Olympic Games. “Having sailed and coached there, I know what a great facility the yacht club has and how good the conditions can be. So overall, it should provide a fantastic challenge for everyone! We look forward to 2007.”

Leading the Race Committee will be Jim Tichenor (Houston), who will serve as Principal Race Officer. The Notice of Race will be available in November 2006 online at www.ussailing.org/riwkc.

While the regatta typically attracts between 30 and 50 teams representing eight to 12 countries, with foreign teams consistently finishing in the top 10, it does not require qualification for entry, only that each team become a member of its country’s national governing authority for sailing. Previous competitors have included Olympic medalists, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans, world champions and Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year, in addition to women of all ages with varying levels of racing experience.

For more information about the 2007 Rolex IWKC, contact Ginny Garrett by email at rolex07@houstonyachtclub.com or at (281) 471-6131.

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