From 56th in world, Riley roars to Santa Maria Cup title, 2-0

Californian races past Robertson off Annapolis

June 07, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

When it came down to the final race, Dawn Riley of San Francisco ditched the complicated tactics of match racing and simply put the hammer down yesterday to win the Santa Maria Cup championship off Annapolis.

"That was really the first time in this regatta that we had the chance to just sail fast," said Riley, who beat Shirley Robertson of Great Britain, 2-0, in the best-of-three finals.

Throughout the five-day racing series, aggressive pre-start tactics and excellent downwind sailing had paid off for Riley, who entered the regatta ranked 56th in the world.

"This was probably the best women's regatta ever," said Riley, CEO and team captain of America's Cup challenge syndicate America True. "The racing was excellent."

Robertson made the finals by beating Cory Sertl of Rochester, N.Y., who was seeded No. 1 in the semifinals after finishing 17-5 in the round-robin eliminations.

The decisive third race of the Sertl-Robertson semifinal was perhaps the most exciting race of the regatta, with Robertson recovering from an early start to win by less than a boat length.

Sertl won the first leg, largely on a lead built when Robertson had to double back to the line and restart. Robertson won the first downwind leg, and Sertl had the lead at the top of the final leg.

A fierce jibing duel carried both skippers far out to the side of the course and into the edge of the small spectator fleet before both frantically turned for the finish line.

Robertson was able to slip past Sertl in the last few yards and win by a nose.

Riley's semifinal opponent was Drusilla Slattery of Marblehead, Mass., who led the field until the end of round robin 2 on Saturday.

Riley won the first semifinal match and Slattery the second.

In the decisive match, Slattery had the lead at the top of the last leg, but Riley worked her way past to win by less than a boat length.

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