Sally BARKOW of Nashotah, Wis., and her crew of Debbie CAPOZZI, Carrie HOWE and Annie LUSH, have won US SAILING's 2003 Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship.
Going into today, Barkow's team held a 20-point lead over the 66 teams competing. In light 8-10 knot breezes, the foursome once again showed command of their boathandling skills and the scoreboard. With finishes of 3-8, they maintained a healthy lead on the fleet and became champions in what has become one of the world's most prestigious women's sailing regattas.
"It feels awesome to have won,"
said the 23-year-old Barkow, a two-time college All American from Old Dominion University (class of '02) who only started sailing keelboats one and a half years ago. "We approached today with confidence just like we approached every other day. We didn't worry about the more mature teams, because they can make mistakes just as easily as us. We have learned a ton here, from communications, to boat handling to mentally focusing for five days. They were big lessons. We'll take those with us. It was a big step for our campaign."
Barkow, Capozzi and Howe are on the US Sailing Team and hope to be the USA's representatives in the Yngling class at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. In fact, the debut of the first-ever women's keelboat event at the Olympics inspired several Yngling teams to switch temporarily into J/22s to compete in the Rolex IWKC for practice against the best women sailors in the world.
"We are so young that we just want to do any racing we can for more experience,"
said Howe, who like Capozzi, graduated from college this past May. "That's why we came. It has been really helpful for putting us in different--sometimes tense--situations."
Barkow's overall success was due in large part to consistency in her finishes. When wild winds turned a single race on the fourth day into a demolition derby, Barkow sailed steadily to a second-place finish and the regatta leader--five-time champion and five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.)-- fell deep in the standings after being penalized for starting prematurely. (It was her second such penalty.) Though Barkow, too, had suffered a penalty for a premature start in race three, she used that race as her allowed throwout and counted eight other top-ten finishes in her final nine-race scoreline.
Winning a race today and finishing second overall and as top foreign team was Paula Lewin (Paget, Bermuda), sailing with fellow Bermudians Peta Lewin (her sister) and Carola Cooper as well as San Francisco's Dana Riley.
"This was a great learning experience for us,"
said Lewin, who with Lewin and Cooper will represent Bermuda in the Yngling class at the 2004 Olympic Regatta. "Our team doesn't have experience together on too many other boats. The Yngling is difficult to sail and sailing the J/22 is easier. It gave us an opportunity to work on things like fine-tuning our trimming techniques."
Carol Cronin (Jamestown, R.I.), Barkow's rival for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team and runner-up at the 2001 Rolex IWKC, sailed "Team Atkins" to third overall with crew Linda Epstein (Arlington, Mass.), Elizabeth Filter (Stevensville, Md.) and Kate Fears (Cambridge, Mass.).
"A fourth and a first was a good day for Team Atkins,"
said Cronin. "The sailing conditions were great today. Sea breeze and flat water, medium breeze and stable. We hadn't seen those kinds of conditions this week. It's always good to have the full variety of conditions at a championship. Sally sailed really well. They stayed out of trouble. She has learned a lot faster than we hoped she would."
Winning the newly established City of Annapolis perpetual trophy for being the top Annapolis finisher was Nancy Haberland, sailing "Team VC Perfomance Rigging" with local crew Dina Kowalyshyn, Karina Shelton and Aimee Hess.
This evening, Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Dawn Riley emcees a gala Rolex Awards Ceremony at Annapolis Yacht Club, host to the regatta. Barkow will receive the Bengt Julin Trophy for the Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship and a Rolex timepiece.
Title Sponsor is Rolex Watch U.S.A. Platinum level sponsors are Condé Nast, Phillips Foods, Jaguar/Land Rover Annapolis. Gold sponsors are Eastport Yacht Club, Quantum Sails, North Sails, Wine Cellars of Annapolis. Silver sponsors are Martimus Sport, Boatyard Bar and Grill, Watermark Cruises, Annapolis Marriott and J Boats. Bronze sponsors are Energy Brands, Feed Your Crew, VC Performance Rigging, Verizon, J Port Annapolis, J World Annapolis, Motorola and Mount Gay.
Full results are available on the event website at the address below.