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13 March 2005, 08:55 pm
Riveting End To Women's Regatta
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Harken Women's International Match Racing Regatta
Sydney, Australia

In the final day of racing the eight crews did battle not just against each other, but against the freshest nor'easter of the Harken Women's International Match Racing Regatta. The breeze gusted up to 20 knots and an opposing run-out tide churned up the Harbour, leaving much with which the girls had to contend.
Highly competitive, every race was fought out until the very last, and New Zealand crews managed to upset the Australians in each of their position-determining races. Nevertheless the Aussies came out on top with an all-Australian final between Jacqui BONNITCHA (AUS) and Katie SPITHILL (AUS) who passed comfortably through the semi final, each with two wins, which made a third race unnecessary.

Jessica SMYTH (NZL) who had sailed against Bonnitcha in the semis moved through to the petite final against Nina CURTIS (AUS). Curtis had earlier been defeated by fellow RPAYC skipper, Spithill.

Another crew from RPAYC, skippered by Nicky SOUTER, sailed New Zealand's Amanda HARGREAVES (AUS) for fifth place. Hargreaves took the first match by two boat-lengths after a very tight race, before Souter won the second by a similar distance, forcing a tie-break.

Similarly, experienced RZNYS skipper, Jan DAWSON (NZL), won her first match of the day against Tasmania's Clare BROWN. Brown (RYCT) stole in the inside at the bottom mark and went on to win the second match, resulting in two Australia vs New Zealand place deciders. In both races the Australians had early leads, but the Kiwi crews each came from behind to win by considerable margins.

Peak performances in the finals showcased the girls' skills in managing the conditions. Showing it wasn't necessary to have a crew of four to win, Smyth's New Zealand team out-sailed Curtis in three gripping matches, to take third place overall.

Two races into the final Bonnitcha and Spithill were a match apiece. In the first Spithill controlled the pre-start, holding the port-entered CYCA boat to the port end of the start. In the second match the team of international umpires awarded a critical instant second penalty to Spithill at the bottom mark. Bonnitcha lengthened out, despite a last minute Rule 42 penalty at the finish, and levelled the score.

Spithill's experience in pre-start and boat-handling skill really shone through in the final races and the third match came down to a gybing dual to get inside the mark. Bonnitcha was unable to get a clean gybe, and Spithill came in with the pressure, taking the lead.

A consistent 18-knot breeze produced thrilling sailing from the girls in match four. As in the last race Spithill was unrelenting during pre-start, pressing for a tactical advantage. All eyes were fixed to the two boats. Bonnitcha and her crew put in a superb effort to try to push the final to a fifth match, but the RPAYC team managed to hold on.

As Spithill crossed the line in the final race to take out the regatta, a cheer went up from New Zealander Amanda HARGREAVES' crew, who had stayed out to watch the last matches. All spectators had appreciated the quality of sailing, in the finals and throughout the regatta.

At the prize presentation which followed, Matt ALLEN, chairman of the CYCA Training & Development Committee, and member of the CYCA Board, praised the level of competition and skill of the competitors. Allen committed the CYCA to continuing the fostering of women's match racing and assured everyone, 'the CYCA Board are 100% supportive.'

It was a lovely completion to three wonderful days of sailing. Sailors joked with the crowd, highlighting the good sportsmanship of teams during competition. Several skippers remarked on the success of the regatta. Bonnitcha called it, 'fantastic racing… lots of fun' while Kiwi Smyth said, 'I had a great time.' Winning skipper Katie SPITHILL took the opportunity to thank HARKEN for their sponsorship of the event, commenting, 'we don't get enough support as a women's match racing group,' and she also thanked the spectators and the CYCA for organising the event.

Harken has already pledged their support for next year's regatta, and Matt ALLEN acknowledged this, saying, 'We look forward to continuing this relationship next year and into the future.'


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