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Sailing - 15. November 2007.


November 13, 2007

Shoreacres, Texas, USA - All of the women sailors gathered here at the Houston Yacht Club on the eve of US SAILING's 2007 Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship share a love of sailing and see competing in this regatta as an achievement of a lifetime. There are many who have competed before and some who are new to sailboat racing. What keeps them coming back is the unique sense of camaraderie and the feeling that they are taking part in something really special on the international sailing stage. They are part of sailing history.

photo Rolex Dan Nerney

The winning skipper will receive a coveted Rolex timepiece and see her name engraved on the Bengt Julin trophy, donated to US SAILING for this regatta in the 1980s and named for the beloved late advocate of keelboat sailing. Two past champions are competing this week, Cory Sertl (Rochester, N.Y.) the regatta's first champion in 1985, and Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.), the two-time defending champion. Both have attained much success in their own careers, both named Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year for their achievements in years that included victory at this regatta.

Fresh from representing US SAILING at the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) meetings in Estoril, Portugal, Sertl described the preparations her team is taking for this, her 10th time competing. "We will try and put together everything we have learned as a team over the past few months and hopefully if we're patient and consistent we can have a good result here," she said of her teammates Amy Moran, Jane Mastrandrea and Annemarie Cook. "First of all, we're going to go out and have a good time." The four women - drawn together by a link through their children's sailing activities - are all good friends, happy to be a team. "They're all really fun people to spend time with. We sailed a bit together over the summer to make sure we can get the spinnaker up and things like that."

For Sally Barkow it is - quite literally - a long trip back to the Rolex IWKC. She and two of her teammates - Debbie Capozi and Annie Lush - will arrive at HYC tomorrow morning after a flight from Brazil where they recently won the Vitoria Brasil Women's (match racing) Cup. They will join fourth crew Amanda Callahan who has been in Texas preparing.

For Susan Mattis-Turnham this is the third time she has made the trek to the Rolex Women's from her home in Duluth, Minn. With her husband David serving as crew support, her Stellar Jay team - Amy Carlson, Connie Bloom and Katherine Danielson - can concentrate on racing, knowing that all the logistical details are taken care of after a 24-hour drive to Galveston Bay.

As a tribute, Carlson brought with her the burgee for Britain's Narrow Seas Yacht Club (Burnham on Crouch, Essex), where her great-grandfather Henry Allingham sailed for many years, as a symbolic nod to her family's love of sailing passed through the generations to her. It is also being flown in honor of Allingham who is the last surviving founding member of the Royal Air Force and was recently honored as Britain's oldest citizen. Born in 1896, Allingham gave his granddaughter the flag after he received the Pride of Britain award in October.

Another British tie is with Emma Paull, who is representing her home of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Her team "Loose Cannon" is taking a unique approach to realizing their dream of competing in this regatta. "Bitter End Yacht Club graciously donated a week's holiday for two at their well-known resort for us to sell," said Paull. "Most people know what a wonderful facility Bitter End has and this is a great way to experience it. And it's tax-deductible."

Never having sailed on Galveston Bay, Paull and her team - Rebecca Paull Roulette, Linda Phillips and Clair Burke - arrived over the weekend and began practicing. "We went out yesterday and had some practice starts and our boat speed seemed good," she said. "So now it's down to tactics. I have to say, I think everyone seems to be fairly even. We noticed yesterday, no one was slow, nobody was really fast. Whoever is the best sailor, really, has the best brain will do well." Paull admitted that nerves were a factor, but she has a way of keeping her head in check. "I think I'm going to have a (gasp) tomorrow morning on the starting line. I'll be a bit funky; I think everyone will be. You start to see all these people and the nerves build. If you don't have the nerves, you don't have the adrenalin and that's what makes you a good sailor, doesn't it?"

The Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship is celebrating its 12th anniversary of offering women of all abilities the opportunity for top-level competition. The 11-race series - held November 14-17 and hosted by the Houston Yacht Club - features evening social activities and culminates with the traditional Rolex gala and awards presentation where a Rolex timepiece will be awarded to the winning boat's skipper.

Additional information as well as a full list of competitors and the regatta schedule can be found on the websites www.ussailing.org/riwkc and the Houston-specific www.riwkc.com. Daily racing videos will be available each evening at 9pm (CST) on www.t2p.tv/index.php.
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