Women sailors coming to race in Annapolis waters

ON THE WATER

May 28, 2006|By ANICA BUTLER

Female sailors from around the world will be in Annapolis this week to compete for the BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup, one of the most highly regarded women's match racing events.

Former Olympians and Olympic hopefuls will be on the 10 teams, which include five from the U.S., two from Italy and one each from Australia, Canada and France. Each skipper invited to participate selects a crew of three.

"We pick the best of the best to come to our event. It's very prestigious to be picked," said Jeff Borland of the Eastport Yacht Club and co-chairman of the event. The club is host for the regatta.

Unlike the Volvo Ocean Race yachts that passed through the Chesapeake Bay this month and those sailed in the America's Cup, the boats that will be sailed from Wednesday to Saturday will be identical, with no special features, and identical sets of sails.

The J-22 keelboats will compete two at a time in "match" races.

"It's a lot closer than a typical fleet race. It makes you think about how you use the rules to sail well and use the rules to beat your competition," Borland said. "We take the technology out of this, and it's strictly you versus me."

The regatta has been advertised as a "brains over brawn" event, but Borland said that isn't quite right.

"There is definitely some brawn involved - but a whole lot more brains," he said.

According to Borland, only a handful of the women are full-time sailors. One is a stay-at-home mother and another is a biologist in California.

"They come from all walks of life," Borland said. "It's really quite cool."

The 10 skippers are: Christelle Philippe of France; Katie Spithill of Australia; Mariani Lorenza and Giulia Conti of Italy; Jen Provan of Canada; and Liz Baylis, Katy Pilley-Lovell, Carol Cronin, Jo Ann Fisher and Deborah Capozzi of the United States.

The races will take place in the mouth of the Severn River and should be visible from the Eastport Yacht Club. The seawall at the Naval Academy also will be a good viewing spot, organizers said.

If the wind is poor, the course will move farther out, closer to Bay Ridge, race organizers said. Information about how and where to view the race by water is on the Santa Maria Cup Web site, www.santamariacup.org.

Umpires will follow each pair of boats as they race. The chief umpire hails from the Netherlands; other judges are from Sweden, Canada and the United States.

There will be 90 races, with each team competing in 18, for a total possible of 18 points. The four top teams will compete in the semifinals on Saturday, with the finals later that day.

The regatta has been sailed for more than a decade, though it was originally held in Baltimore as a "feeder race" for the Columbus Cup. Organizers of that race wanted more women competitors, so they created the Santa Maria Cup exclusively for women, and reserved a spot in the Columbus Cup for the winner of that race.

The Columbus Cup is no longer around, but the Santa Maria Cup continues to grow in popularity and prestige.

"Part of it is the discipline of the sport," said Borland. "It's a different kind of sailboat racing, and it's a lot of fun."

The race is sponsored by the Boat Owners Association of the United States, also known as BoatU.S.

Jim Ellis, president of BoatU.S., said in a statement that he hopes the event persuades more women to take up sailing and racing.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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