Women's Sailing Gets Welcome Push In Philadelphia


November 18, 1990|By Nancy Noyes

Top Annapolis sailors Trish Yeoman, Sandy Grosvenor, Susan Taylor, Amy Gibbons-Neff and Nance Frank were in Philadelphia earlier this month taking part in what all agree was a good time in support of women's sailing.

As part of the fledgling Liberty Yacht Club's championship Race Week, the year-old club in Philadelphia staged a series of events daily for about a week, with the women's championship event coming on Friday, Nov. 2.

The club, which Grosvenor described as a "brand-new little yacht club about as far downtown as you can get and still stay on the water, just underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge," has a fleet of eight J/27s, and several events, including the women's racing, were sailed in these matched boats.

As Grosvenor explained it, the women's event, with major organizational assists from Frank and Gibbons-Neff, drew positive attention to women's sailing and was also a fund-raiser for Frank's U.S. Women's Challenge aimed at the 1993-1994 Whitbread Round-the-World Race.

"It was purely for fun and to draw attention to Nance's effort," Yeoman said.

"Nance basically recruited a lot of the skippers from down here in Annapolis," Grosvenor said. "The crews were generally from around the Philadelphia area. A lot of them didn't have very much experience, but everyone was very enthusiastic and it was a lot of fun sailing with new people."

In addition, the event was the season cap for this year's Soviet-U.S.

Sailing Summit, which took Frank and other U.S. sailors to the Soviet Union over the summer to take part in the Onego Cup All-Union Regatta, and brought a team of Soviet women sailors here to take part in Liberty Race Week.

Grosvenor said she was very lucky in that the Soviet sailor assigned to her team was a foredeck expert, while many of the other women taking part had little or no experience sailing with spinnakers.

"She was very good," Grosvenor said. "The only problem was the language barrier. She had to push the pole around to let us know what she wanted, like she'd lift it up, and we'd know she wanted the topping lift raised. The only problem was when we were doing a Gold Cup course and it was a little too tight for the spinnaker and we had a little trouble holding her back on setting the chute."

Yeoman, who said no one on her crew had ever done foredeck before, or flown a spinnaker through a gybe, agreed that Grosvenor's crew looked very professional.

"I had a great time with my crew," she said, "but basically I was on a boat with a lot of inexperienced people. It was different, but it was a lot of fun. We had practice in the morning, and then five races in the afternoon."

Yeoman marshaled her crew, none of whom she knew previously, and many of whom didn't even know each other, and won the regatta with two firsts, two seconds and a fifth, tied on points with Grosvenor's 1-1-2-3-4 finishes in the series. She won the tiebreaker by virtue of having more second-place finishes than her friend and rival.

Although less well-known than former Olympic hopeful and Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Taylor, both women have long histories of successful local, regional, and national competition behind them.

Yeoman finished 12th in this year's J/22 World Championships at Gibson Island, making her the top female skipper in an exceedingly tough pack.

Grosvenor, a successful skipper in her own right who hopes to sail at least part of the next Whitbread with Frank, was part of Yeoman's Adams Cup crew this year.

The Annapolis team seemed well on its way to taking this prestigious top national women's award after handily topping both Chesapeake Bay and USYRU Area C competition in the trials and eliminations, before suffering a run of bad luck and finishing deep in the fleet in the national championships in California in September.

"I've had a really incredible year," Yeoman said. "I can't wait to see what will happen next year."

Liberty's courses in the Schuylkill River included three windward-leeward variations and two Gold Cups, and the women agreed that the strong current in the river made competition tricky.

"The current was pretty negligible during the first two races," Grosvenor said, "but then it kicked in something fierce at the start of the third race and we were all way early. It made life interesting."

Taylor tied on points for third with Baltimore sailmaker Linda Stearns, but lost the tiebreaker, while Frank and Gibbons-Neff had slots farther back in the fleet.

"Amy had the least experienced crew, including a couple of people I think had never even sailed before," Grosvenor said, "so she wound up bringing up the rear."


Are you hungry for a sailing trophy to call your very own? Do you wish you had something more interesting to do Thanksgiving weekend than sit around in front of the television watching football? Feel like getting out on the water for one last light-hearted go-round before putting the boat to bed for the winter?

If the answer to any or all of those questions is yes, the Eastport Yacht Club has got the event for you.

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