Shoreacres, Texas – For the third straight time, Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.) has won US SAILING’s Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship.
Racing took place November 14-17 in Shoreacres, Texas. At the gala Rolex Awards ceremony held this evening at the Houston Yacht Club, Barkow and her crew of Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.), Amanda Callahan (Canton, Mass.) and Annie Lush (Poole, England) were awarded with US SAILING’s Bengt Julin Trophy and a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Stainless Steel & Gold Datejust, presented by Colette Bennett, National Sports Marketing Manager of Rolex Watch U.S.A.
“Yesterday was really the day that made the difference,” said Barkow, an Olympic hopeful and 2005 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. “We feel really good.”
Going into today’s final two races, Barkow led the 39-boat fleet with 14 total points. “Today we went out and knew what we had to do. 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.”
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 both the 2005 and 2003 Rolex IWKC, Capozzi and Lush were with Barkow, along with her third Yngling teammate Carrie Howe (Grosse Pointe, Mich.), who could not attend this regatta. “The first time Annie sailed with us was the Rolex in 2003,” said Barkow. “Debbie is a good friend; I’ve known her for a long time. She’s always been there, working hard, there’s no question with her that she wants to win the race and give all she has. To have those kinds of people working for you, to sail as a team, I think that’s what makes us strong as a team.
“The only reason my name is up there (on the scores) is because of those guys,” said Barkow. “This team has been together for so long that they really carry me and that needs to be recognized.
In second place overall was Cory Sertl (Rochester, N.Y.), a two-time Rolex IWKC champion and Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. Going into today, she was in third place and had to put enough places between her boat and Derby Anderson (Annapolis, Md.) and Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.). At the end of today’s racing, she achieved her goal by scoring a 2-4, while Tunnicliffe finished with 7-2 and Anderson with 11-16.
“We’re very relieved to finish in top three,” said Tunnicliffe, who will represent the U.S. at the 2008 Olympic Games in the singlehanded Laser Radial dinghy. “That was my personal goal. 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.”
Although only 25, Tunnicliffe has accomplished a lot in her sailing career including competing in this regatta, her second time as skipper. “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.”
On making the transition from singlehanded sailing to being part of a team, Tunnicliffe said, “I think it’s about the trust. You have to trust yourself in the Laser and trust you crewmembers in the boat. If you don’t have the trust, you can’t work together as one. We did well toward the end of the event, working together as one.”
Today’s racing was challenging for her, even though Tunnicliffe finished the first race in second. “We had the points in mind of what was happening on the course,” she said. “We weren’t really focusing on Derby (Anderson) or Sally at all. We figured we were out of it, for second overall. We were focusing on the South Africans. We had a really good start and got below them, and pinched them off. The other boat we were looking for, Nicole (Breault), was to leeward of us and we burned over her, so we had a solid start and then we could play the shifts from there.
“It got really light in the last race, the lightest we’ve sailed,” she said. “All the other races, we just depend on our strength to do well, so we had to really finesse and get the sails set-up right. Because it was so light you couldn’t sail to the other side, you had to sail your own plan.” Tunnicliffe and her team – Liz Bower (Rochester, N.Y.), Ali Sharp and Molly Vandermoer (both Annapolis) – are relatively new. Sharp raced on the team in 2005, but Bower and Vandermoer are both recent additions. “We picked up Molly in early fall and she’s a great addition to the crew, exactly what we needed,” she said.
Anderson was in second overall going into today’s races, but finished fourth overall for the regatta with crew Jacqueline Scmitz (Annapolis, Md.), Katherine Wade and Lucy Kupersmith (both Washington, D.C.). Her best finish to date, before 2007, was 10th in the 2005 Rolex IWKC.
The top international team was led by skipper Dominique Provoyeur (Capetown, RSA). With her Team Devonvale of Penny Alison, Kim Rew and Lara Dugas, she finished fifth overall. “It’s a fantastic event, I love coming here,” said Provoyeur, who is an Olympic hopeful in the Yngling class.
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, that included Mom Dana, Patricia Escorihuela and Sandra Baldridge, who competed in the very first Rolex IWKC in 1985.
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.”
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, 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.
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