No Go Girls

race report

No Go Girls

Peter Howson files this report on women’s match racing Santa Maria Cup.

It’s been a rough season for marquee sailing events in Annapolis so far this year. It seems the weather has been one week off on the wind every time and the Boat US Santa Maria Cup was no exception. After a spectacular Memorial Day weekend and the cancellation of the pro-am (sponsored by a local lingerie shop: awesome) because of too much wind, the racers have endured several days of barely enough wind to race. Today was another drifter. The press boat left the dock at 11:00 and hit the race course just in time to wait for a good 3 hours before the breeze picked up. Three hours of floating around watching boats full of women sunbathe, … for once waiting out a calm didn’t totally suck. In fact I’m sure once Clean sees the photos he’ll be putting this regatta on his schedule even if it is in Annapolis again.

This is an impressive fleet by any standards. The big guns according to the media guide are Genny Tulloch, #1 match racing skipper on the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics, Liz Baylis (pretty sure I spelled that right for you, Liz) and the San Francisco Match Women’s Racing Team, Katie Spithill ranked #7 in the world by ISAF (and rumor has it she’s related to some other sailor … whatever), and last but certainly not least, #1 in the world (again, according to ISAF) Claire Leroy of France. There are also 6 other women fielding teams from five different continents, all of whom could knock your ass off the racecourse without breaking a sweat. The day stared with Liz Baylis and Claire Leroy tied for first with 6 wins each and Baylis had beaten Leroy in a prior flight.

RC finally set a course and they got off a full flight of races. With wind blowing just barely 5 knots (website optimistically says 6) most of the time, these races were all won at the start. With a short course it was pretty tight quarters and there were some challenges at the windward mark when some boats misjudged the set of the current and had to tack a couple of extra times putting them smack dab in the middle of the following race. Leroy picked up another win and Baylis dropped one to that Spithill girl so Liz was down one at the end of the day. Genny Tulloch came away with the only US win against Ramires of Portugal.

Racing came to a screeching halt when a line of thunderstorms came through and the fleet was towed back to Eastport Yacht Club. I’m happy to report that the press boat was first one in and we did not even get damp. The sailors were a whole different story. They retired to the clubhouse and drip dried while we all watched the cruise ship that had dragged anchor inch perilously closer to the finger pier. While the RC tried to determine if the next line of thunderstorms on the radar was going to let them get off the final flight, the cruise ship got it’s poop together and sailed off into the distance, and the ladies hung around the popcorn machine, more than one was seen staring longingly at the beer in my hand. Apparently, the difference between elite racing sailors and the kind of people that I sail with is the ability to resist beer.

At around 5:30 RC and umpires were summoned to their boats with the hope of pulling off a final flight in the Severn in front of the yacht club. But just after 6:00 RC said "No Mas" and the AP over A went up. Bummer for the sailors, but for those of you with nothing to do tomorrow morning in Annapolis, this is awesome. With wind forecast to be building from 7mph at 10:00 AM, this is a great opportunity to get out on the water and see some of the best match racing sailors in the world competing right in your back yard. And for those of you not in Annapolis, you should check out the Santa Maria Cup website at  which is really well done with twitteresque commentary, results that are actually posted in a timely fashion, tons more photos from the rest of the week (taken by Sarah Proctor), and some history for those of you who like that kind of thing. With 3 boats fighting for third at 5 wins each and Liz Baylis just one race behind the #1 woman match racer in the world, the drama is there and the wind should be too!