Yesterday's big-wind action at US SAILING's Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship offered thrills and spills for the 67 teams entered.
Five-time regatta champion and five-time US Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Betsy ALISON (Newport, R.I.) won the first two of three opening races, seemingly at ease in the 18-20 knot wind that had some teams struggling for control of their boats. In race three, however, three general recalls and a black-flag elimination of Alison along with other top competitors stirred the results and emotions of the nearly 300 women competing.
What was misfortune for some was a windfall for others, especially Karleen DIXON (NZL), whose solid finishes of 2-6-4 propelled her into the overall lead with 12 points. Mary BRIGDEN (San Diego, Calif.) followed in second overall with 22 points on finishes of 15-4-3, while Paula LEWIN (BER) landed in third place with a 4-23-2.
"We were fast, we had good teamwork, and we always had good starts,"
said Dixon. "Sixty seven boats is a lot of boats. It was great practice for us today with all the general recalls."
A total of three recalls plagued race three, and one of those plus the final start imposed the black-flag penalty on 11 boats for starting prematurely.
"Two bullets and one bite; that is the summary of the day,"
said Alison, noting that after five races, a throwout will be allowed. "We were over the line in the third race, so that was the end of it, but we weren't alone."
Alison led at all marks of the two-lap windward-leeward course in race one. At one minute and a half before the second start, she fell backwards out of her boat. Managing to get back aboard, she had to trail the fleet for a while before finding a shift that carried her to the top mark in first position.
"It wasn't a straightforward day,"
said Alison. "The wind was shifty, with different pressure across the course. We worked hard to stay in phase and we had great speed."
An Annapolis team skippered by Lorie STOUT won race three, after the wind lightened to 12-14 knots. Paula LEWIN edged out San Diego's Mary BRIGDEN by a hair at the finish to take second place in the race.
The Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship continues tomorrow with two scheduled races and concludes Friday. Daily reports and photos are posted on the event website at the address below. Additional regatta info, including live mark rounding positions and individual race finishes, are posted as they occur.