Johnson sails past Berge in finals SANTA MARIA CUP

June 13, 1994|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Sun Staff Writer

On two occasions during the preliminary series of the Santa Maria Cup Women's Match Racing Championships, Melinda Berge made up large margins to win.

Yesterday, in the final series, the Baltimore sailor twice had chances to do so again.

At the top of the second leg to windward in the first race of the finals, Berge and Karen Johnson of Vancouver, British Columbia, had their boats dead into the wind, each waiting for the other to err and give her opponent a path to the mark and the lead entering the last leg of the race.

As it happened, Johnson, with inside position, made a break for the mark, with Berge close behind and closing fast.

Rounding the mark, Berge made a jibe set of her spinnaker and began to pull away, much as she had to beat Judy Lugar of Nova Scotia in the last race of the semifinals earlier yesterday.

But Johnson was able to overcome some problems with her spinnaker set and win the race.

In the decisive race, after four days and 11 races in a regatta that some sailors consider the premier women's sailing competition in the country, the outcome came down to one mark rounding on the edge of the shipping channel in the Inner Harbor.

"That was the whole week right there at mark," Berge said after the race. "That whole race was very close. I think at each mark rounding we were within a length of each other."

Again the decisive rounding was at the top of the second windward leg, with one leg to sail downwind to the finish line.

"At the end of the second windward leg, we almost hit her in the rear end," Berge said. "Then she had trouble making a spinnaker set, while our set was perfect."

And for a few seconds Berge had the lead, and it appeared she might sail away from the Canadian and force another race.

"But I made a mistake by jibing away from her rather than riding over her," Berge said.

Berge, with the good spinnaker set and a slight lead, sailed toward the right side of the course. Meanwhile, Johnson's crew was having trouble getting its spinnaker to fill, sliding out to the left and about to get lucky again.

Johnson, who made the final series by beating Paula Lewin of Bermuda in the last race of the semifinals yesterday morning, said, "Once we did get the spinnaker set, we just got a little bit more wind than they did and were able to sail a little faster."

Johnson, the Canadian women's match racing champion, held her lead through the leg to win the Santa Maria Cup, although two of her crew had never match raced before.

"We sailed against Melinda before [in the round robin] and she beat us," Johnson said, "But I think as a crew we were able to improve throughout the regatta."

Berge, sailing in her second Santa Maria Cup, said, "We shouldn't have separated from her, because even with just a little distance between the boats there is a chance of getting different wind, and in 5 to 7 knots, like it was today, that is what racing in the harbor is all about."

In the sailoff between the semifinal losers, Lewin defeated Lugar.

Yesterday's results

Semifinals

Lugar vs. Berge -- Berge def. Lugar

Johnson vs. Lewin -- Johnson def. Lewin

Finals

(best of three)

Berge vs. Johnson -- Johnson def. Berge, Johnson def. Berge.

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