Five women go forward in 'backward' world


February 28, 1993|By NANCY NOYES

For Frank Baum's fictional Dorothy, a trip to the magical land of Oz began with a tornado.

And for the five local women who recently went to Australia -- often called Oz in popular slang -- to sail in the J/24 Asia Pacific Women's Championship Regatta, the experience began with a kind of whirlwind, too. That whirlwind was the frenetic blast of activity of the J/24 World Championships here in Annapolis early last November.

The J/24 worlds' event chairman, Barbara Beigel-Vosbury of Crownsville, was skipper of the team, that included Annapolitans Sandy Grosvenor, on-water chairman of the event, Joanne Schram, sponsorship coordinator for the worlds and regatta volunteer Eva Lomax, and protest committee secretary Eileen Monius of Beltsville.

Vosbury, Grosvenor and Schram are founding partners in the Annapolis-based Twisted Sisters J/24 syndicate, and Lomax is a frequent crew member on the boat in national and regional competition. Monius is well-known locally for sailing on a number of area boats and is no stranger to top-flight competition.

All have been active on the U.S. women's sailing scene as well as being solid competitors in open racing.

The invitation to Australia for the nine-boat, six-race regatta, which was sailed out of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in Sydney Harbor Feb. 16-19, came last November after the Worlds, when Schram was hostess to Australian J/24 builder and top sailor Ian Bashford and his crew.

Bashford offered Schram and her Twisted Sisters friends reciprocal hospitality in his own hometown, including the use of his boat, Convicts on Tour, which the women renamed Convent on Tour for the event.

The fleet was to have included women from New Zealand, who were unable to attend at the last minute. Most of the eight teams in addition to Vosbury's U.S. crew were from the Sydney area, although one crew came from Tasmania, and another came from far northwestern Australia.

It was high summer in Sydney with temperatures in the 80s and 90s when the women arrived from wintry Maryland.

Still, the difference in the way some basic things work in the Southern Hemisphere took some getting used to, both on and off the water.

"It's not just the water in the toilet that goes backward," Vosbury said. "The police and ambulance emergency lights go the other way, too, because they're electromagnetic, and when you scull [the boat with the rudder], the swirls in the water go backward. And here, when you think of a sea breeze it's from the southeast, but there it's from the northwest."

After boat measurement on Monday, Feb. 15, they hit the water on Tuesday for two contests in about 20 knots of air.

With a first and a second, the Maryland women led the fleet after the first day's racing. They were a point ahead of Susan Walters, an American married to an Australian and living in the Sydney area who formerly crewed with U.S. Olympic sailor J. J. Isler.

The next day's racing was canceled because of torrential rain and a lack of wind, but Thursday's pleasant conditions and about 12 knots of breeze produced three more good races.

The Maryland crew placed first, fourth and fourth to Walters' finishes of 3-2-1, and slipped to second in fleet, two points behind Walters.

A ripped spinnaker in the day's final race was a setback for the Maryland crew, but the Tasmanian team quickly lent its spare for the final day's racing.

"It was actually pretty close," Vosbury said. "I think if we had won the last race, we could have won the regatta."

Friday morning's flat air left the fleet bobbing on the water. When the breeze finally came, building to about 12 knots, the Maryland women miscalculated some wind shifts and finished fifth -- their worst-race throw-out for the series -- while Walters took another gun and clinched the series.

"We had a lot of local knowledge provided, but we didn't know that the wind would go west-east-west after a storm came through," Monius said.

In any international competition, second is very respectable, however, and the women were happy to have been there. "We were pleased," Schram said. "It was a lot of fun."

Vosbury and the others said that women's sailing in Australia and the Pacific Rim is still in a state of relative infancy, so the regatta organizers were quick to let them know that their attendance was appreciated.

"They loved having the Yankee competition, but they didn't really want the Yankees to win," Monius said.

"It was sort of politically correct that Susan Walters won, because she's an Australian now, but she had a meteorologist and [America's Cup skipper] Iain Murray's wife on board, so we didn't feel too bad."

J/24 Asia Pacific Women's Championship

1. Illegible, Susan Walters, Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, 7.25 (3-1-[3]-2-1-1); 2. Convent on Tour, Barbara Beigel-Vosbury, Magothy River Sailing Association, 11.5 (1-2-1-4-4-[5]); 3. Trust Bank Tasmania, Jacinta Scott, Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, 11.75 (2-[6]-5-1-2-2).

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