World #3 Katie SPITHILL won the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Osprey Cup, defeating 2005 champion Giulia CONTI in the final.
Along with crew Nina CURTIS
, Jessica EASTWELL
and Kristen SHORT
, Katie SPITHILL
defeated Giulia CONTI
(ITA) in three straight matches in the 'first to three' final. In the semi-final round SPITHILL faced another pre-race favourite, world #4 ranked Sally BARKOW
Just over a month ago BARKOW had defeated SPITHILL to take the title at the ISAF Grade 1 Trentino Women Match Race Cup, but this time the Aussie had her revenge. She defeated BARKOW, a two-time ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champion, 3-0. In the other semi-final match, CONTI defeated Liz BAYLIS
(USA), a past Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and the current US Women's Match Racing champion. BARKOW, the 2005 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, went on to defeat BAYLIS in the round to decide third and fourth place, or the 'petit-final' as it is called in match racing, with a score of 3-1.
"To win the Rolex Osprey Cup, for myself and Team Acuity, is the icing on the cake for what has been a very long, hard, expensive and very rewarding 2007, ending with our silver medal at the 2007 ISAF Women's Match Racing Worlds and third in the ISAF Rankings,"
said SPITHILL. "Giulia and her team are very strong; they also include Alessandra ANGELINI, who has sailed with my team for three international events this year. It was almost a re-match from last year's Santa Maria Cup where we won 3-2. As Giulia is an Olympic sailor, her ability to pick wind shifts was very obvious and definitely one of her strong points."
CONTI, the 2005 Rolex Osprey Cup champion, did well in winning 12 of her round robin matches as she has not been actively match racing, preferring instead to concentrate on preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games where she will represent Italy in the 470 class. As this was the first time that SPITHILL competed at the Rolex Osprey Cup and the first time her crew had sailed in a Sonar keelboat, she said that her team's plan was to focus. "Our aim was to come here and learn, and minimize mistakes to hopefully improve our ranking,"
she said. "There was some very high competition at this event."
"The team has been sailing together for all the events we have done from July to October this year,"
SPITHILL continued. "They have done an exceptional job. As we only needed four team members for this event there are also other team members who are back at home, they are: Elizabeth WALSH, Angela FARRELL and our coach Traks GORDON."
Now in its 11th year of providing a platform in the USA for internationally-ranked women sailors, the Rolex Osprey Cup is managed by Pat SEIDENSPINNER and Tom FARQUHAR (both, St Petersburg) of the St Petersburg Yacht Club. Only eight of the world's women's match-racing regattas have been granted ISAF Grade 1 status, the highest level of competition for match racing, the one-on-one format of sailboat racing. There are two in the USA of which the Rolex Osprey Cup is one.
"Women's match racing has seen steady growth in both numbers and talent in the last few years and events like the Rolex Osprey Cup and the Rolex Women's Match are responsible for this growth,"
said BAYLIS, who also serves as the executive director of the Women's International Match Racing Association (WIMRA). "The competitiveness and depth of the field at this event show the strength and importance of match racing for competitors at the international level. Teams that are currently selected to represent their countries at the 2008 Olympic Games are keeping their skills sharp on the match racing circuit. With the possibility of match racing becoming an event for women in the 2012 Olympic Games, these teams are poised to make the jump."
New Orleans' Katy LOVELL
(USA) finished in fifth place with one match win more than sixth-placed Anna TUNNICLIFFE
(USA), the Laser Radial representative for the USA at the 2008 Games. LOVELL's husband, John LOVELL
, recently captured the Olympic berth in the Tornado class with his team mate Charlie OGLETREE
Over the four days of racing in Sonar class keelboats, the St Petersburg Yacht Club's race committee ran 113 races, including a complete double round-robin, semi-finals (first to win three), three consolation series (first to win two), petit-finals (first to win three), and final (first to win three). Racing conditions were excellent as they so often are on Tampa Bay, with wind at 5-10 knots and plenty of sunshine.
1. Katie SPITHILL (AUS)
2. Giulia CONTI (ITA)
3. Sally BARKOW (USA)
4. Liz BAYLIS (USA)
5. Katy LOVELL (USA)
6. Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA)
7. Sabrina GURIOLI (ITA)
8. Caroline BEJAR (BRA)
9. Rachael SILVERSTEIN (USA)
10. Sandy HAYES (USA)
Event Website - www.rolexwomensmatch.org
ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship - www.sailing.org/wmatchworlds