On the eve of US SAILING's Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship (Rolex IWKC), 67 international teams are making final preparations for tomorrow's start of the five-day, 10-race regatta aboard International J/22 class keelboats.
Regatta organizers confirmed the list of sailors who will compete from Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Denmark, New Zealand, South Africa and 17 U.S. states: California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Maryland, which has fielded 17 teams.
For today's practice race, remnants of Hurricane Isabel were seen in the foul two-knot tide running across the start line, making it difficult for some to control the deceptively simple keelboats. Local expert Nancy Haberland, the U.S. Naval Academy sailing coach who is helming 'VC Performance Rigging,' took an early lead on the competitive fleet and nearly completed the two-lap windward/leeward racecourse, but bailed out before the finish.
From her top-five performance today, Paula Lewin, who will represent Bermuda in Yngling class at the 2004 Olympics, looked to be tough competition as well. "This event will be a real challenge,"
said Lewin, who is sailing with her Olympic crew of Carola COOPER and Peta LEWIN and has as her third crew Californian Dana Riley. "I love coming to this town. It's like coming home, really, since I've sailed seven Santa Maria Cups here."
Also in the top five and looking sharp was Dominique PROVOYEUR, the skipper of the South African entrant 'Orion Sailing Team.' "We had a good race, rounding the top mark in fifth the first time and in third the second time,"
she said. "We got past two boats at the bottom mark. It all happened quite quickly. There is no current like that in Cape Town. We were surprised by it and almost hit a mark on the second lap."
Without much experience in a J/22, the 'Lion Foundation' team, skippered by New Zealand's Karleen Dixon, showed good speed in today's 6-10 knot breeze. "Today was useful for us to gauge the competition and the boat and the sails,"
said Dixon. "At home we train in Etchells 22s because we don't have J-22s in New Zealand."
Opening Ceremony Tonight on Annapolis' City Dock the nearly 300 women sailors were greeted at the Opening Ceremony by US SAILING President Dave Rosekrans, Event Founders Ann Conner and Helen Ingerson and Event Chair Molly Hughes. Recognized regatta officials included Principal Race Officer Jack Lynch and Race Committee Chairman Chip Thayer. The international jury is chaired by Charlotte Greppe, (SWE), who also chaired the 2001 event. She is joined by Barbara Farquhar (USA), Alex McAuley (CAN), Robin Judah (BER), Sally Burnett (GBR), Joe Krolak (USA) with arbitrators Jim Capron and Ron Ward (both USA).
The week will conclude on Friday evening with a gala Rolex Awards Ceremony at Annapolis Yacht Club, host to the regatta, where the winning team will receive a Rolex timepiece.