Through an initiative by the US Sailing Match Racing to promote match racing among women, the San Francisco Bay Women’s Match Race Clinic and Grade 5 Regatta on July 7 to 9 attracted 36 female sailors from the Bay Area, Southern California, the East Coast, and even St. Petersburg, Russia.
The group assembled at the St. Francis Yacht Club on the San Francisco City Front to take part in a 2-day learn-to-match race clinic and 1-day grade 5 match race regatta. Organized by Nicole Breault and core members of her Vela Racing team, Molly Carapiet, Dana Riley, and Karen Loutzenheiser, the participants used the StFYC matched set of ten J/22s for the Clinic and Regatta.
Some of the sailors entered as teams, but more than half entered as individuals, willing to join forces with one another to tackle learning a new game. Adding to the challenge was that many were dinghy sailors, while others had spent years on larger boats, and they were jumping onto a small keelboat for the first time and doing so in the often-humbling winds and waters just east of the Golden Gate Bridge in July.
“It really took brave hearts and open minds to take on such an intensive task,” observed Breault. “In the end, we were amazed by the progress every sailor made. It is a testament to what women can do in this sport when they get a chance and go all in.”
After classroom work and on-the-water drills on Friday and Saturday, the teams raced a single round-robin, fully-umpired grade five match racing regatta on Sunday, with Bartz Schneider as PRO and Rob Overton as Chief Umpire. Only a few skippers had ever match raced previously. The objective was to expose experienced women sailors to match racing and instill further interest. Quite a few participants said they would take the extensive course materials and bring them back to their home clubs to use as a template for training.
Friday instruction focused on boat-handling as a fundamental aspect of match racing. This afforded sailors the chance to get to know one another and the J/22. The four coaches, who comprise a team that regularly match races J/22’s, gave specific instruction on their individual tasks in getting the boat efficiently through maneuvers, how they support one another in these efforts, and the importance of clear communication roles.
Friday evening shifted the discussion toward the match racing game and Saturday’s drills exercised tactical thinking and execution in the pre-start and around the course. Members of the StFYC volunteer RC corps and several of Overton’s umpire team, supported clinic sessions with mark set, flag work and a taste of how umpiring works. The sailors fully engaged their brains and their bodies in the learning. Blustery 15-20 knot winds and afternoon full ebb chop did not stop them from trying out aggressive boat-on-boat moves and pushing for improvement each time.
On Sunday morning, racing was delayed briefly while an armada of support boats and kayaks escorted the Golden Rivet Swim from the Golden Gate Bridge, through the race course, to McCovey Cove at AT&T Park. Once underway, the course was visited by a couple of the humpback whales who have been enjoying the Bay waters these last few weeks. In spite of all these fantastic distractions, the organizers rolled through 9 flights of match racing in west-southwesterly winds that built from 10 to 18 through the afternoon.
Katie Ananina of St. Petersburg, Russia (currently a student based near Miami, FL) and her crew Bethanie Maples, Lisa Anderson, and Linda Molnar (all Bay Area sailors) swept all of their matches (8-0) to win top honors. Katie was one of the few participants who came in with match racing experience which proved immensely valuable for both her team and the others.
“Katie was laser focused on winning, her competitive vibe was infectious,” noted Maples. “[She was] a best friend to these other crews, not a new friend. A new friend is nice and non-confrontational. A best friend pushes you past your comfort zone so you can learn more and be the best sailor you can be.”
Claiming second on the tie-breaker (6-2), was StFYC member Krysia Pohl and her teammates Susannah Carr (Seattle, WA), Johanna Altorfer and Nehal Gajjar (both from the Bay Area). Finishing third was skipper Marilyn Cassedy along with Patricia Lapadula, Jennifer Arrington, and Britni Belcher, all from Cal Yacht Club, Marina Del Rey, CA.
For more information and full results go to: https://www.stfyc.com/default.aspx?p=.NETEventView&ID=3868387&qfilter=&type=0&ssid=242480&chgs=
From right to left: StFYC Commodore Jim Kiriakis; winning skipper, Katie Ananina of St. Petersburg, Russia; her crew Bethanie Maples, Linda Molnar, and Lisa Anderson (all Bay Area sailors); and event organizer and coach Nicole Breault
The entire group of competitors plus PRO Bartz Schneider, Chief Umpire Rob Overton and Nicole Breault