As of the August 6 "early entry deadline" for the Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship, 61 international teams have entered one of the world's premier women's keelboat regattas.
Sailors from Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Denmark, New Zealand, South Africa and 16 U.S. states will take to the Chesapeake Bay on International J/22 class sailboats. The biennial event, celebrating its 10th anniversary of offering women of all abilities the opportunity for top-level competition, is scheduled for September 27 - October 3, 2003 at the Annapolis Yacht Club, in Md. The Rolex IWKC is part of US SAILING's national championship series. Betsy Alison, five-time Rolex IWKC champion and five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, will return to competition to seek an unprecedented sixth international title. The official entry deadline is September 10. The Notice of Race and Entry Form are posted on the event website at the address below.
"With 61 entries, we've reached the numbers of competitors we had in 2001,"
said Molly HUGHES, the Rolex IWKC regatta chair. "We've set a lofty goal of making this year's regatta better than the 2001 record-setting event. We are well on our way to preparing a spectacular regatta for the entrants, and are aggressively looking for more competitors - both the top women sailors around the world, as well as those entering or moving up in the sport - to enter before the September 10 entry deadline"
With women's keelboat sailing making its debut in the Yngling at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, many of the world's elite sailors are currently training for a berth and see the Rolex IWKC as a "cross training" experience toward their goal. Alison, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings in the Yngling, will face formidable competition from the top Yngling teams that are planning to compete in Annapolis, including Hannah SWETT of New York, N.Y.; Paula LEWIN of Bermuda; and 1999 Rolex IWKC champion Carol CRONIN of Jamestown, R.I.
"There are several teams besides us who are basically sailing full time in the Yngling, which will make for a fresh challenge," said Cronin, who finished second at the 2001 Rolex IWKC. "How quickly we all adjust to the J/22 will determine how well we each do in the regatta. We are returning with exactly the same team as 2001 - Liz FILTER, Linda EPSTEIN and Kate FEARS- which will be really fun. One of the great things about the Rolex is it gives an opportunity to get back together with friends and go sailing. With the support of our sponsor, Atkins Nutritionals, we plan to be a worry for the top teams!"
Even though the competition's roster can read like a "Who's Who" of sailing with so many Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year, Olympic medallists, world champions and America's Cup veterans, the Rolex IWKC also encourages women of all ages with varying levels of experience to compete.