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19 October 2009, 09:59 pm
World's Best Race To St. Petersburg For ISAF Grade 1 Women's Match Racing
Giulia Conti on her way to victory in St Petersburg in 2008
Giulia Conti on her way to victory in St Petersburg in 2008

Rolex Osprey Cup 2009
St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

St. Petersburg Yacht Club has announced the list of invited skippers for next week's ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Osprey Cup.
Topping the list at the ISAF Grade 1 match racing regatta is world #7 ranked match racer and 2008 Olympian Anne-claire Le Berre (FRA), Olympic gold medallist Anna Tunnicliffe (USA), who last week won the 2009 Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship, and 2008 Olympian and Rolex Osprey Cup defending champion Giulia Conti (ITA). Racing will take place from 21-24 October on Tampa Bay in Sonar class keelboats. The format consists of a double round robin, with knockout (first to win three points) semi-final and final rounds scheduled at the end of the round robins.

"The best thing about the Osprey Cup is it is one of the few match races where you can sail a lot of races throughout a day, since they have 10 boats per 10 teams," said Conti, a two-time champion (2008 and 2005). Along with crew Giovanna Micol, the team placed fifth at the 2008 Olympics (470 class), and are world #1 ranked in the Women's 470, having won the class European Championship, the Mediterranean Games and Eurolymp Garda 2009.

"Rolex Osprey Cup is a fun regatta, which means no stress! Its purpose is to break the 470 routine, and normally when you are relaxed you also manage to win! So the goal is to have as much fun as possible and enjoy the Sunshine State. Plus, I'm really looking forward to seeing Pat [Seidenspinner] and Tom [Farquhar]; they are almost a second family to me." Conti participated in three other match racing regattas this year, with a personal-best second place at the Rolex Miami OCR bringing her rank to #21. Her crew includes Micol, Alessandra Marenzi, and Alessandra Angelini, the same team that won the 2008 title.

One of three ISAF Grade 1 match race regattas in the United States (Boat U.S. and Santa Maria Cup and Congressional Cup are the other two), the Rolex Osprey Cup has received an increase in attention from the sailing world and media as the match racing discipline for women will make its debut at the 2012 Olympic Games in Great Britain.

Another 2008 Olympian competing is Tunnicliffe, world #14 in match racing, who won Gold in the singlehanded Laser Radial. "The whole event is great," said Tunnicliffe. "There is always great racing run by a great organizing committee, and everyone is super friendly and keen to help out. It's an top level event with a relaxed atmosphere." Her team includes the same winning Rolex IWKC team Molly Vandemoer, Liz Bower and two-time ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champion Debbie Capozzi. Both Bower and Capozzi joined Tunnicliffe to win the 2009 Detroit Cup, an ISAF Grade 2 event, while Vandemoer joined her to win the 2008 U.S. Women's Match Racing Championship.

World #7 Le Berre won the recent Syraka Cup with crew Alice Ponsar and Myrtille Ponge. The three will be joined by Ophélie Theron in St. Pete.

Jo Ann Fisher (USA), #39, is known for her fleet racing success, having placed ninth at the 2009 Rolex IWKC. With a fourth at the 2008 U.S. Women's Match Racing Nationals, third at the 2009 Rolex Women's Match, she is one of the competitors to watch. Her crew includes Debbie Probst, Linda Hiller and Nicole Breault.

Katy Lovell (USA) finished fifth in the 2009 Rolex Women's Match and comes into the regatta with many years of match racing experience, including four runs in the Rolex Osprey Cup. Crew for the #29 ranked skipper is Corrie Clement, Maegan Ruhlman and Emma Doss.

Samantha Osborne (NZL) has a strong match racing background, third at the Compasscard Australian Women's Match Racing Championship, fourth in the 2007 New Zealand Women's Match Racing Championship and sixth in the 2007 Harken Women's Match Racing Regatta. Her crew is Carla Holgate, Raynor Smeal and Genoa Griffin Fedyszyn. She won the 2009 Buddy Melges Challenge hosted by the US Sailing Center in Sheboygan, Wis., the first regatta held in Olympic class Elliott 6m's outside of Europe. "My team was fortunate enough to compete in the Rolex Osprey Cup last year, and we are delighted to be back," said the #14 ranked sailor. "It is hard to give a favourite part of the event as it is so well run. The locals are very friendly and kind, and there is great competition. Our expectations are to improve on our fifth place finish from last year."

Rachael Silverstein (USA) grew up sailing at St. Petersburg Yacht Club, graduating through the junior sailing ranks while in high school. Now a student at the University of South Florida and a member of its sailing team, she returns to the Rolex Osprey Cup a veteran match racer ranked #99, having competed three times before with her best finish of eighth in 2006. Her crew is Jee Lee, Molly Doyle and Kristen Herman. "The competition and the atmosphere is my favourite part of the regatta," said Silverstein. "Everyone is so knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly."

Rounding out the skippers are: Karin Hagström (SWE) #19, with crew Nina Bake, Emilie Lidén and Åsa Carlsson; Jennifer Provan (CAN) #55, with crew Katie Abbott, Joanne Prokop and Karen Park; and Lisa Ross (CAN) #188, with crew Elizabeth Shaw, Katelyn Thompson and Danielle Dube.

Two competitors received invitations to this event based on their performance at the Rolex Women's Match, a Grade 3 event held this past April at the SPYC: Fisher and Lovell. A total of 10 teams competed in the Grade 3 match-racing regatta, which was created in 2002 to improve opportunities for women sailors specifically interested in match racing.

The Rolex Osprey Cup schedule includes registration and practice sailing on Tuesday 20 October. Daily racing - beginning at 11:00 on Wednesday 21 October and 09:00 on Thursday 22 October through Saturday 24 October - takes place near the St. Petersburg Municipal Pier, making spectating easy and enjoyable from shore. Organizers are Tom Farquhar and Pat Seidenspinner (Principal Race Officer), with Bill O'Hara (IRL), Chief Umpire, and umpires Tom Rinda (USA), David Blackman (USA), Dick Kempe (BER), Barbara Farquhar (USA), Tom Farquhar (USA), Hans Graf (USA), Glenn Oliver (USA), David Pelling (CAN), Jos Spijkerman (NED), Stephen VanDyke (USA), and Andrew Wardle (CAN).
Dana Paxton
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