Alison captures Santa Maria

Victory is 2nd straight for Rhode Island woman


June 05, 2000|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN STAFF

Star racer Betsy Alison won the Boat U.S. Santa Maria Cup for the second time yesterday, capping her domination of the five-day regatta that attracted some of the world's top women sailors to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Rhode Island skipper beat Holland's Klaartje Zuiderbaan, 2-1, in the semifinals, then went on to a 2-0 victory in the best-of-three finals against an old sailing rival, Paula Lewin of Bermuda.

"We knew we were going to have tough matches against whomever we were up against," said Alison, who last won the Santa Maria Cup in 1997.

Her single defeat in the first race of the semifinals came after a spinnaker sheet tangled with the boom, preventing her from executing a double gybe she felt would have won her the race.

"We knew it was critical then to put the hammer down and get the job done," said Alison, who is second in the world rankings behind Britain's Shirley Robertson in women match racing.

To achieve their whitewash against Paula Lewin, Alison and her crew - Carol Newman-Cronin, Nancy Haberland and Kris McClintock - displayed better crew work, communication and boat handling aboard their J-22.

Lewin was first out of the starting box in the two final races, but lost the advantage each time on the downwind leg.

"It just seemed Betsy made the right calls, which were different each time," Lewin said. "You don't want to split from your opponent, but we split a little bit, usually because she favored a side, or we favored a side which we thought would work, although it never did.

"When you start losing, sometimes you do desperate measures, and it makes things worse. That's what happened."

Alison said: "Today seemed to go our way a little better. In the times we found ourselves behind we were close and calm enough to execute good maneuvers, which gave us the edge.

"We have had very different conditions in this race, light, hot air, a lot of current to deal with, and good breezes.

"People ask, `How are you so consistent?' We work really hard. We are technical sailors. When we get behind we just don't let it faze us. There are opportunities all around the race course enabling you to gain distance back or extend your lead if you have one. We never quit until the final gun."

Alison, the only five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, is looking for a corporate sponsor to fund her sailing program, which includes two regattas in Europe, and is trying to secure an invitation to the world match-racing championships in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the fall.

"A lot of Europeans come over here to sail in our events, but there are very few Americans who can afford to travel abroad to sail against the Europeans, who are very strong. There are so many events we need to be competing in."

The regatta was the 10th sailing of the Santa Maria Cup, which Alison described as "a definite stop" on the women's match-racing circuit in the United States. "It has been one of the best-attended Grade One women's events since its inception in Baltimore Harbor," she said.

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