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15 September 2005, 02:10 pm
BARKOW Returns to Defend Title
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Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship 2005
Annapolis, Maryland, USA

With the opening of US SAILING's Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship (IWKC) set for this weekend, 42 international teams are gathered in Annapolis, Maryland, USA to prepare for the premier event. Sally BARKOW (USA), the reigning Yngling and ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champion, will return to Annapolis to defend her 2003 title with her crew of Debbie CAPOZZI, Carrie HOWE and Annie LUSH.
Sailors from the Cayman Islands, New Zealand, South Africa and 16 U.S. states will compete on the Chesapeake Bay in International J/22 class sailboats from 16-23 September. The biennial regatta, celebrating its eleventh anniversary of offering women of all abilities the opportunity for top-level competition, is hosted by the Annapolis Yacht Club.

'There is a major buzz in the Annapolis community about this regatta,' said Taran TEAGUE, Rolex IWKC event chair. 'This regatta is known around the world for its high quality race management and equally impressive social events, so for the past two years, many, many volunteers have been working with the Annapolis Yacht Club to insure that expectations are exceeded for all of the competitors.'

BARKOW will be challenged by an impressive roster of sailors, such as 2004 Rolex USA Yachtswoman of the Year Jody SWANSON and Carol CRONIN, who represented the USA at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

'I keep coming back to the Rolex IWKC because the competition is fierce and the atmosphere is great,' said CRONIN, who won the regatta in 1999 as crew. 'Top sailors from around the world rub shoulders with weekend warriors, and that's what makes it such a great regatta. Sailing in such a big fleet gives us practice for other World Championship events, but that's not why I'm so excited to be coming back to the event. It is the fun and celebration of women's sailing that I look forward to the most.'

CRONIN added that even though the competition's roster can read like a 'Who's Who' of sailing with so many Rolex USA Yachtswomen of the Year, Olympic medallists, World Champions and America's Cup veterans, there is something for every skill level.

An example is Anne BEADLING (USA), who has been sailing for less than two months. Her skipper, Stephanie MCMAHON, explained that BEADLING's boyfriend bought a J/22, so it became necessary for her to learn to sail. 'She picked up the gist of sailing with remarkable ease,' said MCMAHON, who has competed in the Rolex IWKC once before, 'and does an amazing job flying the spinnaker as well as trimming the jib. Sailing several nights a week and with three major regattas under her belt, she is ready for the Rolex IWKC and the experience of a lifetime.' Mcmahon's summary of the Rolex IWKC? 'Sailing in the Rolex IWKC was the most fun I have ever had...without my husband.'

This regatta also encourages women of all ages, and it is not uncommon to see collegiate sailors moving from dinghy competition into international level keelboat racing with this event. A local Annapolis team made up of All-Americans is a prime example. Derby ANDERSON, the skipper from Georgetown University, competed for the first time in 2003. This year she returns with her crew Alexis RUBIN, from Hobart, and Anne BOWEN from College of Charleston.

The oldest combined age team is represented by Hot Flash, a team from Minnesota made up of accomplished sailors over the age of 50. Their aim is to accomplish three goals: to transform the way women over 50 see themselves and their potential, to inspire women over 50 to pursue their passions and to challenge stereotypes applied to mature women.

'The Hot Flash story is about more than sailing - it's about embracing our wisdom, our experience and our motivation,' said Carol PINE, captain of Hot Flash. 'Hot Flash intends to be an inspiration for women of all ages: urging them to stretch, grow, commit and risk.'

To achieve the regatta's goal in providing sailors skills development, an integrated Outreach programme coordinates two programs: the Road to Rolex Clinics and the Rolex Next Step. This year, clinics were held in Cape Town, South Africa; Houston, Texas; Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota; Monterey, California; and Annapolis, Mayland. The Rolex Next Step Programme was established in 1997 to expose juniors to advanced women's sailing in a mentoring atmosphere. Since its creation, the Rolex Next Step Programme has served as an inspiration for hundreds of young women from across the USA and abroad.

Marlieke Eaton (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Sally BARKOW on her way to victory in 2003:© Dan Nerney/Rolex
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