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Houston gets nod for Women's Keelboat Championship

by Key Partners (KPMS) on 12 Mar 2008
Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship 07 © Rolex / Dan Nerney

Organizers of US Sailing's Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship - the first world sailing competition created for women - have announced the dates for the next running of this biennial event.

Houston Yacht Club (HYC) in La Porte, Texas will once again host the regatta, scheduled for October 14-17, 2009. As part of US Sailing's Championship calendar, the event's mission is to provide women sailors of all ability levels with high-quality racing and an opportunity to compete against top national and international sailors, while providing skills development through nationwide Road to Rolex clinics and mentoring to young women through the Next Step to Rolex program and the Junior Road to Rolex clinic.

The current champion, Sally Barkow, recently received US Sailing's highest honor as the 2007 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year based in part on her accomplishment of winning the Rolex IWKC a third straight time.

Taking the helm of the local organizing committee is Marie Wise, while Taran Teague will step into the role as chair of US Sailing's International Women's Keelboat Committee, which oversees the Rolex IWKC. Founded in 1985 by US Sailing and considered one of the world's pinnacle events for women sailors, the Rolex IWKC utilizes the International J/22 class keelboat, suitable for four-person teams.

'There are so many ways in which this regatta brings out the best in our sailing community, both locally and internationally,' said Wise, who competed in the 2007 running.

'There is such camaraderie between teams - such friendliness - and at the same time some of the fiercest competition to be had on the water. That is exactly why Houston Yacht Club is proud to be host again in 2009. Our club brings a spirit of southern hospitality to the top-level competition that this regatta is known for, and we are planning for even more teams, more guests, more fun, and, of course, some awesome racing. We are looking forward to welcoming everyone to Houston for another extraordinary regatta.'

As local chair for the 2005 Rolex IWKC, Taran Teague brings a unique perspective to her role as the national committee chair. A certified national race officer, she served as the co-principal race officer at the 2007 event in Houston. Teague echoed Wise's thoughts on the special qualities evident at each running of the regatta.

'We all learned that when you are in Texas everything is big. As Ginny Garrett, the 2007 HYC regatta chair, passes the helm to Marie for the 2009 regatta, we are confident that Houston YC will come through with Texas hospitality, and do another horizon job in regatta and on-the-course race management,' she said.

'Already we have received inquiries from competitors, both here and abroad, looking to add the Rolex IWKC to their sailing resumes. It is an unforgettable experience for women sailors. I really encourage anyone who has not taken part to explore the idea of forming a team and competing in 2009.'

Competition and Camaraderie: There is perhaps no other regatta like the Rolex IWKC in the world. Known for its tough one-design competition, the regatta is equally loved by competitors for its shore side hospitality.

The specifics:

* A popular '11-races in four days' format. Racing is preceded by two days for registration, measurement and a practice race - a great way for teams that are new to J/22s to get some extra time against the fleet.

* The regatta typically attracts between 40 and 50 teams representing four to 12 countries

* The regatta does not require qualification for entry, only that each team becomes a member of its country's national governing authority for sailing.

* Previous competitors have included Olympic medalists, America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans, world champions and US Sailing's Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year, in addition to women of all ages with varying levels of racing experience.

* Every day after racing, HYC will host a casual dockside happy hour where competitors can debrief, rehydrate and relax.

* Each evening, Texas inspired parties will take place with the eagerly anticipated Crew Party and the traditional Rolex gala and awards presentation where a Rolex timepiece will be awarded to the winning boat's skipper.

* Leading the Race Committee will be Jim Tichenor (Houston), a US Sailing-certified national senior race officer from Houston Yacht Club who will serve as Principal Race Officer.

* Additional details will be confirmed at the US Sailing Spring Meeting, March 14-16, 2008, and announced soon after. Bids are now being accepted to host the 2011 regatta and interested yacht clubs are encouraged to attend US Sailing's IWKC committee meeting at the US Sailing Spring Meeting.

* A Preliminary Notice of Race will be posted online in early 2009 at www.ussailing.org/riwkc and at the event website www.riwkc.com.

Adult and Youth Development

Furthering the event's 22-year mission to provide opportunities for improvement to women sailors of all ages, organizers will offer:

* A series of Road to Rolex skills clinics to be held around the country, supported by a grant from Rolex. On-shore workshops combined with on-the-water drills prepare sailors for the intense competition of one-design sailing. Where there are enough boats to hold short, windward/leeward races, the winner receives a credit toward her Rolex IWKC registration fees.

* There are two opportunities for youth sailors:
1. Next Step to Rolex Program - An intensive two-day introduction to keelboat racing taught by leading sailing coaches that takes place during the Rolex IWKC.

2. Junior Road to Rolex Clinic - An optional weekend keelboat clinic offered to participants of the U.S. Junior Women's Doublehanded Championship, held July 7-13, 2008, in Sausalito, Calif.

About the Houston Yacht Club:

The Houston Yacht Club has one of the most active racing programs in the United States, hosting regular events from weekly club series to North American and World Championships. Members are active in race management with two US Sailing certified national race officers, five regional race officers and four judges calling HYC home.

A two-time winner of the US Sailing award for Excellence in Race Management, the Houston Yacht Club continues its 110-year-old tradition of organizing regattas and promoting Houston as a nationally recognized yacht racing and recreational boating center. The oldest yacht club in Texas, HYC celebrated its centennial in 1997.

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