Fort Worth Boat Club, in Fort Worth, Texas, hosted its third annual Sundance Cup.
This developmental women's match racing clinic and regatta is an ISAF grade 4 women's event and was open to unranked and lower ranked women match racers by invitation. It's also a feeder to the Grade 1 Santa Maria Cup at the end of May.
While 8 teams were expected, last minute cancellations resulted in only 5 teams competing. Entries ranged from unranked newcomers Tammy Ouellette and Liz Hjorth to the more seasoned Charlie Arms, Lynette Edenfield and Liz Baylis, who were most recently world-ranked 67, 66 and 30, respectively. Baylis returned as the Sundance Cup defending champion from 2000, when it was she, who as an unranked newcomer, won the regatta last year.
The event was lead off with a developmental match racing clinic on Tuesday, March 27th, run by Betsy Alison. After an insightful morning chalk talk, where Betsy explained the fundamentals of match racing tactics, typical scenarios and escapes, everyone turned out on the water to try out what they'd just learned in a series of coached practice starts. With temperatures in the low 40's and a steady rain, competitors were cold and wet through the afternoon, but that didn't dampen their enthusiasm as each boat experimented with and practiced at their tactical maneuvering under Betsy's expert tutelage.
The uncharacteristically cold, wet weather continued on Wednesday and Thursday, the first two days of racing, but winds hung in between 5-10 knots and 4 round robins (of the six planned) were completed between the two days. On Friday, after completing the first 3 flights of the 5th round robin in light air (4-6 knots), the sky cleared, the sun came out and the wind vanished. Hopeful that the wind might return before the end of the day, competitors and umpires donned shorts for the first time that week, and distracted themselves with a spirited game of volleyball. Unfortunately, the net was set up a little too close to the water's edge, but a nearby Laser mast was handy for ball retrieval and the one Herculean shot that did splash out of mast range was retrieved by a fellow umpire in one of the ump boats.
Saturday morning was windless, but predictions called for a northerly breeze to fill in and build to 10-20, potentially offering the best wind of the week. The only question was when? When the breeze did fill in around noontime, it was a bare 3-4 knots, but the race committee didn't want to waste any of it and started the semi finals. Baylis was matched with Edenfield while Arms and Hjorth duked it out in a first to win 3 knockout series. After the first match, the wind went light, and Baylis later admitted she was very nervous. She had dropped her first semifinal match to Edenfield and she knew that if the wind died and didn't come back she'd be finished, after having led the racing all week. The race committee didn't relent, however, and managed to somehow squeeze the semifinals in, even though there was barely enough wind to move the boats at times. Baylis beat Edenfield in 4 matches, and Hjorth came out over Arms in 5 matches.
Almost on cue, as the final/petit final round began, the wind built to the promised 13-15 knots and the RC was just able to complete the round within the stated time limit. Baylis won the final round by sweeping three matches from Hjorth and Arms defeated Edenfield in 4 matches. During the awards dinner Saturday evening, teams were invited to share what they'd learned during the week. All were in agreement that the entire event was a tremendous learning experience and that clinic together with the open sharing of ideas and suggestions between teams and umpires helped move all the competitors further up a tough learning curve. With a big smile, Baylis added one other thing that she'd learned - ?I didn't know I could sail upwind in zero knots of breeze!?
1. Liz Baylis
2. Liz Hjorth
3. Charlie Arms
4. Lynette Edenfield
5. Tammy Ouellette.