The Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship encountered an almost total lack of breeze for the first day of racing which prevented the 36 teams who traveled to Rochester Yacht Club from starting their assault on the championship title.
In stark contrast to yesterday’s conditions which forced the cancellation of the practice race due to too much wind, the usual thermal breeze needed for racing was impeded because the water temperature matched the air temperature. The wait for the elusive breeze on Lake Ontario was utilized by the Race Committee who ran several practice starts to make the time productive. Ultimately, however, the decision was made to bring the competitors ashore for the day.
Of the 36 teams competing here this week, at least three include crew fresh from the Next Step to Rolex program which attracted 26 participants from eight states, including Hawaii. The two-day clinic precedes the championship and was held at the same venue, Rochester Yacht Club, on August 25-25. It focused on advanced keelboat racing skills and techniques using the same J/22s that are being sailed in the championship races. Since being established in 1997 as an outreach program of the Rolex IWKC, the Next Step to Rolex program has exposed junior women sailors, ages 13 to 17, to successful women sailors who have gone on to sail at the college level or pursue Olympic dreams.
For 15-year-old Anna Huebschmann (Youngstown, N.Y.), attending the Next Step to Rolex program was a first, as will be racing in the Rolex IWKC as a skipper. 'It was a lot of fun,' said Huebschmann of the Next Step to Rolex. A member of the Buffalo High School Sailing Team, she complimented the coaches – one of whom was Allie Blecher (Fullerton, Calif.), a four-time Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association All-American (2007-2010) who was named ICSA’s 2010 Quantum Female College Sailor of the Year -- for their patience and acknowledged learning a lot during the clinic.
Huebshman was also enthusiastic about the upcoming racing. 'My team works really well together and it’s gonna be fun! The biggest challenge will be the starting line because it will have so many good people on it,' she added. 'I’m most excited about being able to meet and sail against so many incredible women sailors.'
All four of the high school sailors based on the Jersey Shore participated in the Next Step to Rolex as practice for sailing the Rolex IWKC together. At the helm of the New Jersey team will be Kayla Ellis (New Gretna) with crew Amanda Attardi (Cedar Run), both 16, and Emily Raleigh (Brant Beach) and Ange Nissen (Long Beach Township), both 17. Ellis and Nissen attend Southern Regional High School, while Raleigh and Brooks attend Monsignor Donovan High School.
And while this is the second time Ellis has participated in the Next Step to Rolex, it will be the first time she will compete in the Rolex IWKC, and it will be the first regatta in the J/22 for the entire team.
'I'm excited to be sailing against world-class Olympic sailors,' said Ellis explaining that the team is expecting to learn a lot and looks forward to the whole experience of meeting new people. 'We don't know much about the boat yet so it will be keeping up that will be the hardest part.'
Not only did local sailors Katja Sertl (Rochester) and Christine Moloney (Glenwood) participate in the Next Step program in 2009, they returned for the 2011 Next Step to Rolex to prepare for their second time competing in the event along with Merritt Moran (Pittsford) and Julie Wiesner (Rochester). Both Sertl and Moran have additional ties to the event – their mothers are two fourths of a team that has competed together in the previous two Rolex IWKC events: Cory Sertl (Rochester) and Amy Seymour Moran (Pittsford) who sail as Team Lucy with Annemarie Cook (Rochester) and Jane Mastrandrea (Webster), and are racing again in this 14th edition of the championship.
The senior Sertl, in fact, is a two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and was also one of the coaches for the Next Step to Rolex clinic. 'The goal of the program is to give junior sailors a chance to improve their skills in a different type of boat they would normally sail,' she said explaining that the clinic focuses on teamwork, communication and skills essential to racing keelboats – which also translates to other pursuits – and pushes the junior women 'to reach beyond what they know and to set their sights a little higher.'
Racing at the 2011 Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, August 30, with the warning signal for the first race sounding at 10:00 a.m. with racing continuing through Thursday, September 1. Daily awards and social events take place at the conclusion of racing each day. The racing takes place on Lake Ontario and will culminate with the crowning of a new champion on September 1. The Rolex Gala will conclude the event with the presentation of US Sailing’s Bengt Julin Trophy and a Rolex timepiece to the winning boat’s skipper.
About the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship: Every two years women from around the globe set sail for the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship, hoping to lay claim to one of sailing’s most revered titles while experiencing high-caliber racing alongside top competitors of the sport. One of the longest running women’s one-design regattas in existence, 'The Rolex Women’s,' as veterans often refer to it, has hosted over 2,400 sailors from 23 countries since its founding in 1985, and has been credited with advancing the overall level of women’s competitive sailing and encouraging more participation in the sport. For more information: http://riwkc.ussailing.org/RIWKC_Home.htm
About Rochester Yacht Club: Incorporated in 1877, Rochester Yacht Club celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2002 and is still going strong. The first regatta was held in 1877 with eight sail boats competing and most recently it hosted 102 boats at the J/22 World Championship. Its purpose is to provide and encourage interests and instruction in areas of yachts and yachting, seamanship, racing and traditions of yachting. Seven miles from the heart of Rochester, Monroe County, New York, RYC is located on the south shore of Lake Ontario and is accessible from the Genesee River.
About Rolex Watch U.S.A.: Since Rolex Watch U.S.A. first presented timepieces to America's Cup defenders in 1958, the company has consistently recognized and encouraged excellence in every important arena of competitive sailing, including US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics preparation, US Sailing championships, disabled sailing, offshore, one-design and women's events.
About US Sailing: The United States Sailing Association (US Sailing), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership, integrity, and growth for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US Sailing is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org