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If you’re in the Chicago area on Sunday, head over to the Belmont Harbor breakwater to check out the CMRC’s US Sailing National Women’s Match Racing Championship.  Here’s a preview:

One of the premier match racing venues in the world will host the 2013 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship. The Chicago Match Race Center will welcome this US Sailing National Championship with the first of three days of racing scheduled to begin Friday, June 14 through Sunday, June 16.

Eight teams will compete on Lake Michigan’s Belmont Harbor in the Tom 28 to decide who will raise the prestigious Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy. The field includes a diverse array of talent, ranging from Olympic and America’s Cup veterans to up-and-coming new names fresh off the U.S. intercollegiate circuits. There are high stakes on the line this week in Chicago as the winning skipper will earn the right to race in key match racing events in 2013, including the U.S. Match Racing Championship this September in Sheboygan, Wis. and the Women’s International Match Race Series event this July in Oyster Bay, N.Y.

Returning to compete again this year is Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) who crewed for winning skipper Genny Tulloch in last year’s championship in San Francisco. Roble also won the 2012 U.S. Match Racing Championship, hosted by Boston Yacht Club, as crew for Taylor Canfield. She is ranked 5th in the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Rankings. Roble was a two-time All-American from Old Dominion. Roble’s crew includes Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.), Lindsey Duda (Chicago, Ill.), Martha Pitt (Chicago, Ill.), and Janel Zarkowsky (Washington, D.C.). Shea was also a crew with Roble for last year’s championship team. Roble and Shea have been campaigning together this year on the Women’s International Match Racing Series, the first-ever professional prize-money series of match racing events for women, getting third place in the first stage held last month in France.

Jennifer Wilson (Chicago, Ill.) will skipper a Tom 28 this week with crew Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.). Wilson crewed for Roble in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, where they finished fourth. Barkow, a 2008 Olympian and two-time winner of US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, is seeking her first U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship title as crew. She won this championship as skipper in 2011, 2005 and 2000. Barkow is ranked 2nd in the U.S. and 10th in the world. Wilson is an experienced Tom 28 sailor, having raced in CMRC events over the past five years. Her crew also includes Katherine Pettibone (Sacramento, Calif.), Krista Paxton (Royal Oak, Mich.), and Sandi Svoboda (Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.). Pettibone is an America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran.

Sandy Hayes (Scituate, Mass.), a three-time Rolex Women’s Match Racing Champion (2008, 2006, 2004), is in pursuit of her first U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship title. Her crew this week includes Cindy Olsen (Scituate, Mass.), Martha Parker (Newport, R.I.), Marcy Lake (Brewerton, N.Y.), and Lynn Kotwicki (Royal Oak, Mich.).

The roster of teams includes new talent that may challenge these veterans. Madeline Gill (Norwalk, Conn.), who has been recently very active at the Oakcliff Sailing Center and training hard with her team for this event. Her crew includes Ivy Binns (San Francisco, Calif.), Sarah Ragle (Breckenridge, Colo.), Ann Schwagerl (Syosset, N.Y.), and Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.).

Another new talent still competing in the intercollegiate scene comes from the Old Dominion University sailing team. Rachel Austin (Clinton, Ohio) will have America’s Cup veteran Suzy Leech (Jamestown, R.I.) as her crew, as well as Laura Muma (Clermont, Fla.), Sarah Renz (Chicago, Ill.), and Lindsey Gates (Cedar Springs, Mich.).

Clerc Cooper (New Orleans, La.) raced in last year’s USWMRC in San Francisco, and comes to Chicago this year with her team of Chanel Miller (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Megan Six (Fontana, Wis.), Amanda Baker (Grosse Ile, Mich.), and Molly Forbes (Madison, Wis.).

The remaining two teams hail from the West Coast. Shala Lawrence (San Diego, Calif.) as is her team of Julie Mitchell (San Diego, Calif.), Summer Greene, Tracy Nackel (Encinitas, Calif.), and Julie Servais (Scituate, Mass.).

Katie Maxim (Napa, Calif.) is trading her umpire whistle for the tiller at this event, her first USWMRC, where she has some fellow Bay Area sailors on her team: Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.), Janice Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.), Kerry Sullivan (Roslindale, Mass.), and Vicki Sodaro (Tiburon, Calif.).

The intended racing format includes four stages, beginning with double round robins followed by a round robin to determine places 5-8, a semi-final knockout series for places 1-4, a petit final for places 3 and 4, and a final knockout series for places 1 and 2. Races will be conducted by PRO Darcy Cook and her race committee team, while the umpire team will be led by Umpire Kathy Lindgren.

Racing will occur outside Belmont Harbor in front of the break wall, an ideal viewing location for spectators with bleacher-style seating. The intended course is Windward/Leeward twice around with a downwind finish and possible leeward gates. Racing begins at 1 pm on June 14 and continues at 9 am on June 15 and 16 (start times subject to change).

June 14th, 2013

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