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Lady Liberty Regatta at Manhattan Yacht Club

by Monica Persson 3 Dec 2022 11:45 PST

"What an amazing experience! What an adventure! So cool to be sailing J/24s past the Statue of Liberty in New York", exclaimed Monica Persson.

Here's her story of how a Swedish women's J/24 team got organized and headed to New York to go sailing on the Hudson River.

The weekend of September 16th to 18th, 2022 was the Lady Liberty Regatta. The Manhattan Yacht Club hosted a dozen women's teams from around the world in the women-only regatta, with sailing taking place on New York Harbor next to the Statue of Liberty. There were crews from five countries: our team was from Sweden, a team from England, a team from South Africa, a team from Canada and the other eight teams were from all over the USA. An American team traveled from Washington state- a trip longer than our trip from Sweden!

Sweden was represented by the Swedish J/24 Class Association's team with helmsman Liselotte Sjoberg and crew: Kristina Tillerkvist- genoa and jib trim; Monica Persson- spinnaker trim; Ci Eriksson- mast and tactics; Cecilia Lundgren- foredeck. We are members of different clubs: Delfinen in Vejbystrand, Malmo Sailing Club, Halmstad Sailing Club, and Angelholm-Skaldervikens Sailing Club.

An invitation came to us in the Swedish J/24 Association during spring, but my J/24 racing calendar for 2022 was already filled with one big regatta each summer month: Kiel Week in June, J/24 World Championship Corpus Christi, Texas USA in July, J/24 Swedish Championship in Falsterbokanalen in August. I did not think I could sail more this year!

At work, they could hear me talk about this invitation, and my colleagues insisted I should go. As the chair of the Swedish J/24 Class Association, I started spreading the word and idea around to several of the many women J/24 sailors I have raced against during the 25(!) years I have actively sailed J/24s.

At this point, there were only two spots out of 12 left for the regatta. A fantastic chance! And, I loved the idea of sailing a J/24 at the Statue of Liberty! I hoped that some women J/24 sailors in Sweden would take the chance.

Until this turning point...at a board meeting, the question was suddenly directed at me, "Why don't we, the Swedish J/24 Association, gather a ladies' team together?"

This was the first time I considered that it might even be possible for me to make a second trip to the USA this year.

"Yes, I'm on!" I heard Kajsa responding! Then I could only respond, "If you're on, then I'm on!"

After that, we started asking around those who we thought would like to join our ladies' team, and within 1-2 weeks we were a team! Amazing!

We entered, getting the last spot, and started planning travel, accommodation, getting time off from work, and training opportunities.

We got 4-5 training opportunities together where we sailed Tuesday evening in Angelholm and a local regatta in Halmstad. However, all these sailing opportunities were in light wind conditions, but all were very useful training opportunities.

Then our adventure began!

We packed up, and took off by train over the famous Öresund-bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen to the airport. We were so excited, this is going to be so much fun. Sailing the J/24 at the Statue of Liberty in New York! On September 14, we flew across the Atlantic Ocean to New York. I had never been to New York, so it was going to be really exciting. It would be my third trip to the US and the third time I would race the J/24 in the USA. In 2019, I sailed the J/24 Worlds in Miami, and in July this year (2022), I sailed the J/24 Worlds in Corpus Christi, USA. And, now we would sail race the J/24 at the Statue of Liberty. Hugely surreal!

We arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport nearby the Statue of Liberty. Then, after clearing customs and retrieving our bags, went to settle into our hotel in Jersey City. Upon arrival at the hotel, we headed straight up to the Skybar on the 14th floor of our hotel to soak up the view. We were completely blown away by the view of Manhattan's skyline. And, in front of us 14 floors down, we had the Hudson River where we were going to sail for several days.

Sightseeing in New York!

We woke up super early due to jetlag and had a good breakfast because this day we were going sightseeing in New York. My only wish for the day was to go up Rockefeller Center (70 floors up!) and look at Manhattan from above. We had a plan that we would take the ferry over to south Manhattan and start our sightseeing there. But, once the ferry arrived we jumped onboard without checking where it was going. Oops, it took us up to midtown instead!! LOL.

We walked through town, passing Times Square and Rockefeller Center, where Kristina and I went up to the top and got a fabulous view. It was glorious beautiful weather and clear blue skies. You could see south as far as the Statue of Liberty in one direction and north to Central Park its large expanses of green grass and trees. Amazing! In Central Park, we got together with Liselotte and Ci again. Liselotte's only wish for the day was to go jogging around Central Park. Kristina went with her on the jogging round. Ci and I lay down on a rock in the park sunbathing while waiting for them to come back from jogging. Such a wonderful relaxing moment in this "garden" in the middle of New York.

Next, we were going to meet up with Cecilia in Brooklyn. We took the subway there and went to a Skybar where we got a fantastic view of Manhattan from the other side. We enjoyed the afternoon in the sun at this Skybar. Time for dinner, and we had gotten a recommendation about a restaurant called TAO, in the middle of Manhattan. We made our way there and had a fabulous dinner and experience. We were pretty tired of jetlag at this point after a whole day of sightseeing. A super nice day! Well back at the hotel, we immediately fell asleep.

We woke up early again at eight, and had breakfast overlooking the Hudson River and Manhattan— stunning view!

After a 20-minute walk to the harbor on the Jersey City side where the Manhattan Yacht Club is now located, we found this cozy little harbor full of boats. In front of MYC along the jetty, we see a long line of J/24 club boats, neat and tidy laying side by side. All J/24s carrying the American flag and a yellow smiley flag hoisted in the front. We were early so we sat down by one of the clubhouses to relax in the sun.

We took some team photos. We wondered when more sailors and officials would arrive. Soon some arrived with whom we started mingling. And, we found the registration at the other little clubhouse. We were the first team to register, so we were assigned boat No 1 for practice sailing during the day. We had to update ourselves on how to handle the engine. The engine shall be used whenever going out and back into port- those were the rules.

Soon, we were ready to head out to feel the waters and see the Statue of Liberty! It turned out to be very little wind this Friday. Even too little wind for sailing. Instead, we took the opportunity to motor down to the Statue of Liberty. A real sightseeing from the water! We joined the English team with Lorna Graham and Sarah Jarman, who we know from many years before.

There was a lot of activity on the busy Hudson River waters and in the sky above us. There were ferries with tourists coming from the right and left, so it was a matter of keeping your eyes open both near and far not to get in the way of a ferry! In the air, helicopters hovered with tourists who flew around seeing the Statue of Liberty from above. Sometimes there were four helicopters in the air at the same time!! Chaos on the water, chaos in the skies! Lots of noise and lots of movements and activity. A very busy area. We've never seen anything like this!

It was time for the practice race. Not easy to sail in current and light wind. The start was from the MYC floating clubhouse called "Willy Wall"; it was anchored just outside Ellis Island. The wind decided whether it would be an upwind or downwind start. Before the start procedure, there was a recorded sequence played, "Are you ready to rumble? Five, four, three, two, one!"There came the five-minute signal! Such a funny starting procedure. We were ready and everyone onboard worked well together having fun. We got three practice starts, and then they let us go. We were satisfied with the practice we got and felt ready for Saturday's competition.

Once in port at the MYC clubhouse, there was a get-together mingling and snacks. Everyone was excited, and we talked to the English, South African, and Canadian teams. The first thing the Canadian helmsman Cathy Shaw says is, "I have sailed against a Swedish sailor Marit Soderstrom, but that was 30 years ago!" I reply, "Oh, what a coincidence! I just received an email reply from Marit! She is working at the Swedish Sailing Association. We have to take a selfie and email her back with regards from you!"

All said and done, the next day we got a reply from Marit with, "Big hugs to Cathy Shaw and good luck to the Swedish team!" So, giving Cathy a big hug back from Marit was the first thing I did when meeting her at the harbor. A really fun thing that the world is so small, sometimes. And Cathy was so happy!

Saturday came and now it was competition day! The boats were drawn. The MYC Commodore gave a speech with an emphasis on avoiding a collision. We were drawn to start in boat No. 5, and between each race, we would motor into the harbor to change boats for the next race. We sailed another J/24 each race.

The day started with waiting for the wind. While waiting for wind, the race management entertained us with music from the floating clubhouse "Willy Wall". You could make a wish for music to be played from the "Willy Wall". We were the quickest, making the first wish- ABBA's Dancing Queen! One song after another was played while waiting for the wind.

Finally, there was actually enough wind so they could start the first race. Spinnaker starts. In the second start, we, unfortunately, had an early start pushed over by the current. So, we had to make a restart, but it wasn't a disadvantage. Instead, we got free wind and could sail the spinnaker catching up with the gang. At the first mark rounding, we were good again, back with the rest. In the third race, we could not avoid a minor collision from happening (no damage and no one was hurt) which unfortunately meant that we and the other boat had to withdraw from that race.

That was unfortunate, but it was stated in the Sailing Instructions- "No Collisions"! Yes, a lot was happening on this first day of racing! But, we took our penalties, kept going in good spirits, and caught up.

In the evening, there was a regatta dinner and mingling out on the floating clubhouse "Willy Wall". It was a magical place in the middle of the Hudson River! It was absolutely magical to see the Manhattan skyline light over the water and the Statue of Liberty. We were treated to a buffet inside the floating clubhouse. Then afterward, there were drinks and dancing on the open top floor. Dancing was an MYC thing, and mine too. Awesome party!

Sunday, we started with a yoga session which felt so good for us. Breakfast and then a walk to the port. We had a really good Sunday ahead of us. It was a new day and three new races. In the first and second races, we sailed very well. We rounded the first mark near Manhattan as the first boat in both races!!

"This is how it should feel, ladies. This is where we should be. Enjoy such a nice feeling and well sailed by our team." We came third in this race, satisfied with our performance and flow.

In the last race, we, unfortunately, got to sail with a boat where the traveler had been damaged in the race before we took over this boat. The attempts to repair were not at all 100%, but not much we could do about it. It was sad though, as we had such a good flow in the first two races of the day. Our trend of performance was going upward, but it was nothing we could do in this just-damaged boat.

Once ashore again, it was time for the award ceremony, handing over our club pennants Delfinen, Malmo SS, and Halmstad SS. Group photos and food and mingling. I think we closed the "After Sail" party at the clubhouse. Then, we wanted to continue our "After Sail" party at our hotel's Skybar. But, we were in for a surprise. If the saying goes, "New York, the city that never sleeps," clearly we had found an exception! The Skybar at our hotel was surprisingly closed at 10:00 pm. So, we went to a pub just a block away. As it turns out, that's where MYC members usually get together after the "Willy Wall" closes! That was a pleasant surprise!

We had great fun together as a team, experienced New York, and met many new friends, friendly New Yorkers, and lovely lady sailors from England, Canada, South Africa, and all over the USA at the Lady Liberty Regatta.

We were sixth overall and peaked in the fifth race with third place, where we were leading the pack from the start with spinnaker and rounded the first mark first! We took that great feeling with us, "This is how it should feel, ladies. This is where we should be. Enjoy!"

We thank the Manhattan Yacht Club and all officials and sailors for a fantastic regatta! More about Manhattan YC here: myc.org

Congratulations to English team with Lorna Graham and Sarah Jarman and team on winning Lady Liberty Regatta!

Big thanks to our Swedish team! I had a great time, a "once-in-a-lifetime experience!" And, we have had so much fun that we would love to come back!

We also had the great honor of meeting the lady working at the United Nations, who was arranging the J/24s from Manhattan sailing with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals printed colorfully on the sails.

At the end of August 2019, these J/24s met our Greta Thunberg (our famous, young Swedish environmentalist) and Boris Herrman's Open 60 MALIZIA, when they sailed across the Atlantic arriving in New York. Epic! Most of these J/24s and boats meeting Greta Thunberg were helmed by women.

What's next? This year 2022 has been filled with so many big J/24 sailing events, and our Swedish J/24 sailors have been traveling a lot. We will reload our energy during the winter and continue the J/24 Tour in 2023.

The SWE-JCA Board is currently finalizing plans for the 2023 J/24 Swedish Championship. All J/24 owners in Sweden gather and come sail the J/24 Swedish Championship 2023! We need you to participate to continue keeping the Swedish National Championship status for the J/24 Class. As soon as we have more information, we will inform you. We are happy to once again say: Welcome to Sweden! 2023 J/24 Swedish Championship! J/24 in our hearts and friends for life!"

Thanks for this contribution from Monica Persson, Chair, Swedish J/24 Class Association (SWE-JCA).

Lady Liberty 2022 results:

1. Lorna Graham - Royal Yachting Association, United Kingdom
2. Katie Morgan - Manhattan Yacht Club
3. Amy Woodard, James Island Yacht Club, South Carolina
4. Danielle Gallo - Manhattan Yacht Club
5. Ginjer Yachechak - North Flathead Yacht Club, Montana
6. Megan Robertson - Royal Cape Yacht Club, South Africa
7. Liselotte Sjöberg - Sailing Club Delfinen, Sweden
8. Anne Mooney - Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, New York
9. Michele Cimon - Nepean Sailing Club, Canada
10. Nadia Daggett - Davis Island Yacht Club, Florida
11. Bonnie Kirchner - Beverly Yacht Club, Mass

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