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31 August 2011, 09:40 am
Early Winners Set The Pace In The Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship
Idyllic Conditions
Idyllic Conditions As Sailing Commences

US SAILING's Rolex International Women's Keelbot Championship
Rochester, USA

There were smiles all around when five races were sailed on Lake Ontario as competition at the 14th edition of US SAILING's Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship (Rolex IWKC) got underway in earnest.
With no races able to be held on the first day due to lack of breeze, the official first championship races held under abundant sunshine with temperatures in the upper 70s. More importantly, the breeze, ranging from 8-12 knots, was "idyllic" according to Regatta Chairman Chris Dorsey who said that the Rochester Yacht Club Race Committee, spectators, and the competitors especially, were all happy with their day on the water.

Four winners in five races, along with a tight mix of competitors finishing second and third in individual races, has resulted in a tight battle at the top of the scoreboard, as some of the most elite women sailors in the U.S.A. strutted their stuff in J/22s on Lake Ontario.

Defending champions Anna Tunnicliffe, Debbie Capozzi, Molly Vandemoer and Liz Bower (USA) won the first race of the day and were followed across the finish line by the local team of Donna Faust with crew Sarah DePeters, Joy Martin and Jennifer Norton (USA).

Sally Barkow (USA), who has won this championship three consecutive times ('03, '05, and '07) before sitting out the 2009 event because of scheduling conflicts, drove to a third in the race. She is competing with Annie Lush (GBR), Alana O'Reilly (USA) and Jackie Campbell (USA).

The second race of the day was won by Olympian Carol Cronin, who has Kim Couranz, Margaret Podlich and Karina Vogen Shelton (USA) in crew. Cronin, who finished the 2009 Rolex IWKC in third overall sailing with Couranz and Podlich, is sailing the championship for the tenth time. She won the title in 1991 as a crew. Second in the race was the young team of local sailors Katja Sertl, Christine Moloney, Merritt Moran and Julie Wiesner (USA). Another local sailor, Kristen Werner (USA), was third in race two with help from her Canadian crew of Brandy Cocoroch, Katelyn Thompson and Samantha Webster.

According to one observer Barkow's team "crushed it" in race three to edge out Tunnicliffe's team for the win. Third in that race was JoAnn Fisher, Lesley Cook, Linda Epstein, Terry Hamilton and Lynda Hiller.

Cronin's team took their second win of the day in the fourth race, with the local team of Cory Sertl, Amy Seymour Moran, Annemarie Cook and Jane Mastrandrea (USA) finishing second. Third in race four was Kristen Lane, Molly Carapiet, Genny Tulloch (Tiburon) and Jennifer Morgan-Glass (USA).

Sertl, who has won this championship twice and is a two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, won the final race of the day, while Donna Faust's local team picked up their second second-place finish for the day. Third for the race was Elizabeth Backus Barker, Kate Backus Keane and Taylor Robinson (USA). Barker and Keane are cousins, and have been friends with Robinson since age four or five. The trio, who grew up sailing together on Lake Erie, has a unique relationship with this event.

"Our mothers first introduced us to the Rolex IWKC at a young age, not by having us sail with them, but rather always missing the first week of us going back to school,"
said Barker. "From an early age, we knew this regatta had to be something special."

Overall standings after five races have Barkow's team holding the lead. Their 18th-place finish in the final race of the day has been counted as their drop score, for a total of 13 points. Tied at 17 points each is Cronin Racing followed by Sertl's Team Lucy. Tunnicliffe's Team McLaren stands fourth overall with 18 points and Faust's Team WWJD is fifth with 21.

"It was really hard sailing today," said Carol Cronin explaining that the breeze was very shifty with streaks of pressure that were narrow across the course. "Because it [the breeze] was off the land, there were puffs and lulls and streaks of breeze and you've got to stay in the puffs and out of the holes." She commended her crew for a great job spotting the breeze, adding, "All I had to do was get off the starting line and drive." Of her position in the overall standings, she said that she was not feeling any pressure and was just happy to be here. "There are a lot of good sailors here."

Racing at the 2011 Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship continues Wednesday 30 August, for the 36 competing teams, with the warning signal for the first race sounding at 10:00 local time.

Racing concludes on Thursday, September 1, and will culminate with the crowning of a new champion. The Rolex Gala closes the event with the presentation of US SAILING's Bengt Julin Trophy and a Rolex timepiece to the winning boat's skipper.

For recaps, results, photos and more, visit the event website at http://riwkc.ussailing.org/RIWKC_Home.htm.
Jake Fish
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