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Sailing - 22. November 2007.

Taking home a memorable experience regardless of finish - wrap-up report

November 20, 2007

Sally Barkow of Nashotah, Wis. and her crew of Amanda Callahan (Canton, Mass.), Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.) and Annie Lush (Poole, U.K.) have won one of the world's most prestigious women's sailing regattas: US SAILING's 2007 Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship. Sailing as Team 7, the four women topped a 39-boat fleet that included many impressive competitors such as skipper Cory Sertl (Rochester, N.Y.), a Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, and skipper Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.), an Olympic hopeful in the Laser Radial class, who finished second and third overall, respectively. Racing took place on Galveston Bay and was hosted at the Houston Yacht Club, in Shoreacres, Texas.

"We feel good," said Barkow, who campaigns with Capozzi and Carrie Howe (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) in the Olympic Yngling toward a berth at the 2008 Games in China. "We were really excited about coming. There were eight to 10 boats that were really competitive in the regatta, and it's good to know there are really good teams out there, such as Anna, Cory and Derby (Anderson). The points maybe look like we stepped up to the top and stayed there, but in reality there's no way. Each race that we got out ahead of the fleet with enough distance, we didn't really have to feel stressed. To come back in some races, where we were really far back, means you have to be on your game."


Barkow and Capozzi were joined by Lush, also an Olympic hopeful in the Yngling in her home country, and Callahan, who had never sailed with them before this regatta. Barkow, Capozzi and Lush flew in from Brazil the night before the Rolex IWKC began fresh from a victory at the Vitoria Brasil Cup, a women's match racing regatta.

"Amanda is amazing," said Barkow about calling her friend less than three weeks before the regatta with a unique offer. "To call up somebody and say 'We have this big task for you. We might not come back (from Brazil) or we might come back'. She had a lot of responsibility. We haven't sailed with her before, but she took the bull by the horns. Everything was ready and registered, and we just showed up. The only thing we had to do was weigh-in and go race. We were tired, and she rolled with the punches. Because she hasn't sailed with us, it was a little tricky. We did one set before racing, never even jibed. She just rolled with whatever we asked, and that pulled together the team. It's nice to bring in someone like Amanda to show her that maybe next year she can drive her own boat."

Going into the last day and two final races, Barkow led the 39-boat fleet with 14 total points. "We went out and knew what we had to do," she said of her team's goal. "It was tricky and light and mind boggling. Instead of having to race the boat hard like yesterday, we had to make sure we were in the top eight. Then if we were beating Derby Anderson, we wouldn't have to sail the last race."

With light and shifty conditions on Galveston Bay, doing well meant keeping focus. "We didn't have a great start," she said of the final day's first race. "We were bow back and a little hesitant not to be over early. We fought through the fleet, and worked our way to the right side of the course. The left paid, but all the leaders went out to the right. One moment there we really hung behind three to four boats in a really bad lane to work back to the left and that was a really big move because the right really died out. On the first beat, we came in on port lay(line) with more pressure. That first beat was a little tricky, but with some patience, in light air you have to make sure it plays out slower. When that happens I really dial-in, and make sure the boat is going fast. We're always checking on gains and losses. The quicker we all see that then I think we know what to do quicker. If nobody else is looking around, then it's a little more stressful and I don't drive the boat well. I had really good comunication with the girls. By keeping everything low stress, we were able to work through the fleet and be where we needed to be."

Barkow finished fifth in the first race and elected not to sail the final race. "That was sort of the goal, but no real pressure," she said. "If we could do it, we would do it. Truthfully it's about getting the boat pulled out early. It was so close for second, so we thought we'd let them duke it out."

In second place overall was Cory Sertl, a two-time Rolex IWKC champion, sailing with teammates Amy Moran (Pittsford, N.Y.), Jane Mastrandrea (Webster, N.Y.) and Annemarie Cook (Rochester).

Going into the final day, Sertl was in third place overall and had to put enough places between her boat and Derby Anderson (Annapolis, Md.) and Tunnicliffe.

She did just that, taking second-place in the penultimate race with her Rochester Yacht Club Women's Sailing Team, a group of three friends Sertl describes as "each of us have two children, are over 40 and work in a variety of businesses." Moran raced with Sertl in two previous Rolex IWKCs in Newport, R.I., in 1991 and 1993. "Since we are big promoters of women's sailing at Rochester YC we decided to call ourselves the Rochester YC Women's Sailing Team," said Sertl.

Speaking of Olympians, in less than one year, third-overall skipper Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.) hopes to add that title to her already impressive resume. She recently captured the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the Laser Radial in preparation for the 2008 Games, and came to Houston Yacht Club to take a break from singlehanded sailing. "I use these events for tactical sailing," she said of sailing with a team. "The Laser is very physical, and if you're mad you hike harder and catch somebody with your strength. With these boats everyone goes a similar speed, so you have to be able to outsmart somebody and set your boat position up right. That's why I enjoy these events because it's a different type of sailing than Laser sailing."

"We're very relieved to finish in top three," said Tunnicliffe, who sailed with Liz Bower (Rochester, N.Y.), Ali Sharp and Molly Vandermoer (both Annapolis). Sharp raced on the team in the 2005 Rolex IWKC, but Bower and Vandermoer are both recent additions. "We definitely wanted top five and maybe top three. We had our ups and downs; the first day was a really rough day. We were glad we could climb back from it and really focus."

The regatta included so many remarkable young sailors including fourth overall Derby Anderson (Annapolis, Md.), who first competed in the 2001 Rolex IWKC as a high school sailor. "Katherine (Wade, Washington, D.C.) has never done a regatta at this level, or raced a keelboat before, so this was a serious crash course for her," said Anderson of her crew. Joining them was Jacqueline Scmitz (Annapolis, Md.), and Lucy Kupersmith (Washington, D.C.).

In fifth place was South Africa's Team Devonvale, led by skipper Dominique Provoyeur, an Olympic aspirant in the Yngling class. Her team will spend a significant amount of time in Miami, Fla. this winter preparing for the Yngling class's world championship in early 2008. Coming to the Rolex IWKC is part of their preparation. "It's more racing really," said Provoyeur, who was named South Africa's Sailor of the Year in 2004. "Two of my crew - Penny Allison and Kim Rew - are part of our Yngling crew. Sally (Barkow) is here and Sarah Bury is here. The competition is high here and really good racing for us. We have only been racing together in the Yngling for two years. It's a fantastic event; I love coming here."

Sixth place overall was Nicole Breault (Old Lyme, Conn.), who had taken a sabbatical in recent years from racing at this level. She and her crew Casey Williams (Kentfield, Calif.), Anne Jaeschke (Alameda, Calif.) and Mahalyn Lu (San Francisco, Calif.) put in one of the more impressive performances of the week with only two non-top-10 race results.

Jo Ann Fisher (Annapolis, Md.) finished in seventh overall. "We're really excited," said Fisher. "It was a really tough week with lots of challenging conditions, so we're happy to hang onto seventh." Her 'Black Socks' team was the only one to sail with five crew: Lynda Hiller, Lesley Cook, Phebe King and Margaret McChesney (all Annapolis). "We're happy," said Fisher. "We look at all the races we sailed well and learn. And all the ones we didn't sail well, we learn. It gets you excited and gets you thinking about improving. We all have kids and jobs, so hopefully to learn and improve from our mistakes is our goal."

Sarah Bury (Toronto, Canada) and her Sunrise team -- Martha Henderson, Katie Abbott and Jennifer Provan - finished in eighth place, while the Liten Up! team, skippered by Terry Schertz (Lakewood, Colo.) with crew Pam McCain, Susan Swisher and Donna Law, finished in ninth.

Top local team was led by 17-year-old Chelsea Bethancourt and her team RIFT, which included her mom Dana, Patricia Escorihuela and Sandra Baldridge, who competed in the very first Rolex IWKC in 1985. They finished the regatta in 10th place oveall.

At the Rolex IWKC, it is customary to hear remarkable stories from the competitors. Some share a common thread such as 13-year-old crew such as Sydney Pinegar (Sand Springs, Okla.) and adult skippers like Gosia Rojek (Brooklyn, N.Y.), who both were making their debut at this regatta with very limited racing experience.

"This is my first regatta," said Rojek, who finished an astounding 16th in the fleet. "Every day was day by day. I made progress. That was my goal for coming here, and hanging in with the crowd, which we managed to do. Also, I wanted to not be last and get better from one day to the next day. I think we accomplished all of our goals."

Like Tunnicliffe, Rojek was using this regatta as training ground for another endeavor. For her, it was to gain experience to one day take the wheel on her family's Swan 45 in a regatta. "It was fun," said Rojek. "I love my big boat. I'd love to do more sailing on a small boat, but I'm missing the steering wheel (in the Swan). This boat reacts immediately; the Swan you have to give it some time. This is my second regatta of my life. I asked Elizabeth (Kratzig, crew member) to teach me how to drive in the beginning of this year, in January. We went on the Sonar in Miami and had six days of coaching. Then we had three days in March, then two days of practice in September. That's it."

Rojek, who started sailing only four years ago, found the all-women's fleet a refreshing change. "It's a great event," she said. "I think actually it's a much nicer event in terms of friendliness in terms of competitors. We don't see that in the Swan 45 class. Everyone keeps to themselves and is serious. This was really fun for me to see all these women together, to sit down in the tent to exchange views on the course and how they dealt with it.

The 10th race of the series race was won by Susan Mattis Turnham (Duluth, Minn.) aboard her Stellar Jay. Sailing with Duluth locals Amy Carlson and Connie Bloom and Katherine Danielson (Richmond, Texas), Turnham led the race from the start, rounded every mark ahead of the fleet and won the race of her sailing career. "It was awesome," said Turnham moments after returning to the dock. "Truth be told, it's easier when you're in front. You have clear air, you can make choices. Once it was clear people were following us because it was the favored course, all we had to do is just cover. Going toward the finish line, Cory was behind us. We were waiting for her and she was waiting for us. It was the classic cover. We weren't going to go until we could peel her off on starboard or not let her in -- we'd let her in of course -- but she waved us to go for it, so we did. We got a lot of support from the other sailors, like Robin Jackson. We got cheers from Jo Ann Fisher. Cory came right over and so did our regtta winner, Sally. We had a lot of support from the other women. It's that kind of camaraderie that keeps us coming back."

This was Turnham's fifth time competing in a Rolex IWKC. "This was our best finish," she said. "We are almost always in the top half. We're club racers in Duluth, but there's a lot of deep talent in the J/22 class and here too. To think we beat Olympians!"

Some teams near the bottom of the scoreboard were far from disappointed. For Jennifer Grant (Destin, Fla.), today's move from 38th to 35th in the overall standings was satisfying, especially with a "regatta best" 12th-place finish to add to her score line. "We consider this a practice race for the next time!," said Grant, whose foursome practiced on a J/22 for only six weeks prior to the event. "Since there were no J/22s near where we normally sail," said Grant, "we located one in Mobile, Alabama, 100 miles away, and drove back and forth to practice as much as we could." Considering her circumstances, Grant claimed that being 35th in this world of women sailors "can sound pretty impressive."

For the last-place skipper, June Shaw, an accomplished big-boat sailor from Houston Yacht Club, the Rolex IWKC competition was humbling. "I thought I was a good sailor until this," she laughed, explaining that she'd hoped the J/22, which was new to her, would be a "little big boat" experience rather than the "big dinghy" learning curve it became. "But we had a wonderful time. I really put our team together because I wanted to support the club. I've heard from some of the other women that this has been one of the best Rolex Women's ever. That's because we Texans like to show our hospitality and the people here at the club have been working endlessly on this for the last year." One of Shaw's crew members, Bea Grimmitt (Bristol, R.I.), has competed now in three Rolex IWKCs, her last one being 1989. "The thing that has changed about the competition is there are a lot more big names and the fleet is tighter; I mean look at the Olympic medal hopefuls here and then all these other women that are still doing really well against them. The thing that has remained consistent, however, is that the girls really help each other. We didn't know how to tune a J/22 but Dominique Provoyeur's team gave us the help we needed."

All of this success can be attributed to the hard work of many, many volunteers including the regatta chair Ginny Garrett. As the first female commodore of the 110-year-old Houston Yacht Club - celebrating its anniversary with a year of special events - she stepped in to guide the 30+ member organizing committee during the past two years. "It's been an amazing experience for us," said Garrett. "As accustomed as we are to running big events, and we've done them a bunch, this one takes it to a new level. The women have just been extraordinary. The level of racing amazing, the parties, the camaraderie . I think our club is just freshly invigorated by the experience. Personally it is one of the milestones of my life."

When the HYC learned of its selection as host of the 2007 Rolex IWKC, it set out to get organized early. "I do love a big organizing committee," said Garrett. "We had people who fit into certain slots. There were a few hitches of course, over a year and a half anything can happen. We didn't want to disappoint Rolex, the US SAILING volunteers or the competitors. That was my goal and if early indications are anything, then I feel like we've met our goal."

Racing took place under the careful leadership of Jim Tichenor, principal race officer (PRO) and Taran Teague (Annapolis, Md.), the co-PRO.

With the Rolex IWKC founded 23 years ago to encourage women to step up to the male-dominated world of keelboat racing, the regatta has moved from New England to the Mid-Atlantic and now to the Southwest to host over 500 teams, 2400 women and 23 countries. Until its next edition in 2009, to be held at the Houston Yacht Club, its reach will be ever expanding through ongoing clinics around the globe and the Next Step to Rolex junior program, further fulfilling the mission of inspiring women to set new goals.

The Rolex IWKC title sponsor is Rolex Watch U.S.A. Other sponsorships to date include: Platinum level - James & Camille Tichenor, Vince & Margaretta Morvillo for Sea Lake Yacht Sales, and Societe Generale; Gold level - Kirby Inland Marine, Port of Houston Authority, Channel and Lynchburg Shipyards; Silver level - Sterling Bank, Houston Pilot's Association, Segue Websites, Mount Gay Rum, Veolia Water and KO Sailing. The Rolex IWKC is a US SAILING Championship and hosted by the Houston Yacht Club.

Final results, skippers with hometowns, total points for 11 races 2007 Rolex IWKC

1. Sally Barkow, Nashotah, Wis., 35.00 points
2. Cory Sertl/ Lucy, Rochester, N.Y., 42.00
3. Anna Tunnicliffe, Plantation, Fla., 55.00
4. Derby Anderson, Annapolis, Md., 56.00
5. Dominique Provoyeur, Capetown, RSA, 71.00
6. Nicole Breault, Old Lyme, Conn., 93.00
7. Jo Ann Fisher, Annapolis, Md., 100.00
8. Sarah Bury, Toronto, Ontario, CAN, 113.00
9. Terry Schertz, Lakewood, Colo., 120.00
10. Dana Bethancourt, Shoreacres, Texas, 123.00
11. Kathy Parks, Annapolis, Md., 123.00
12. Lynette Edenfield, Fort Worth, Texas, 124.00
13. Maegan Ruhlman, Jamestown, Penn., 127.00
14. Susan Mattis Turnham, Duluth, Minn., 129.00
15. Robin Jackson, Aspen, Colo., 130.00
16. Gosia Rojek, Brooklyn, N.Y., 133.00
17. Susan Taylor, Los Angeles, Calif., 141.00
18. Emma Paull, Tortola, BVI, 171.00 19. Corrie Clement, Houston, Texas, 176.00
20. Mary Anne Hopper, Houston, Texas, 191.00
21. Julia Goetschius, Seabrook, Texas, 197.00
22. Kathy Irwin, Heath, Texas, 199.00
23. Skeeter Chilton/, Sand Springs, Okla., 199.00
24. Shelby Aughtry, Edmond, Okla., 202.00
25. Linda McDavitt, Austin, Texas, 218.00
26. Nicole Didyk, Chicago, Ill., 225.00
27. Theresa Brandner, San Francisco, Calif., 231.00
28. Margot Pendleton, Aspen, Colo., 251.00
29. Jennifer Child, Minneapolis, Minn., 254.00
30. Linda McKee, Houston, Texas, 270.00
31. Louise Bienvenu, Metairie, La., 275.00
32. Carter McMahan-Wimberly, Houston, Texas, 278.00
33. Mamsie Manard, New Orleans, La., 307.00
34. Rachel Marsden, La Porte, Texas, 323.90
35. Jennifer Grant, Destin, Fla., 324.00
36. Anne Lee, Houston, Texas, 326.00
37. Renee Ruais, Austin, Texas, 341.00
38. Beverly Van Zandt, Shoreacres, Texas, 341.00
39. June Shaw, Houston, Texas, 342.00
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