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Top women sailors head for the bay

Sailors from 17 countries, including defending champ Dorte Jensen of Denmark, come to St. Petersburg for the third annual World Match Racing Championship.

By DORAN CUSHING

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 24, 2000


Twenty-four teams of the best women sailors in the world are in St. Petersburg for the ISAF World Match Racing Championship, which begins Sunday.

In its third year, the world championship has attracted the top-ranked match racer skippers in the world. Back this year are defending champion Dorte Jensen of Denmark and 1998 champion Betsy Alison of Newport, R.I.

"Everyone that's coming is good," Alison said. "It's going to be a tough battle, and there are going to be some great matches on the water. I think that this will be the strongest championship in the three years we've had the event."

Using a racing format similar to the America's Cup, two boats will go head to head in each match and the teams with the best records through a series of round-robin elimination races will qualify for the semifinals and finals.

The races, which end Dec. 2, will be sailed in 23-foot Sonar keelboats on relatively short courses on Tampa Bay just east of The Pier in St. Petersburg.

"Each race is designed to last 20 to 30 minutes," said race co-chairman Pat Seidenspinner of the host St. Petersburg Yacht Club. "Four matches make up a flight, and we're hoping to run three or four flights in the morning, then three or four again in the afternoon, weather permitting."

Co-chairman Tom Farquhar said the weeklong series likely will include more than 200 races before the winning team is crowned.

"This event is the most complicated, and surely the most prestigious event, this club has ever run," Farquhar said.

The teams -- with four crew on each boat -- are coming from 17 countries, including three from the United States. The teams were selected either by international match racing rankings or a selection process in their country.

The United States also will be represented by Dru Slattery of Marblehead, Mass., and Hannah Swett of Jamestown, R.I. Slattery is ranked ninth in the world standings. Swett was added to the honor roll of competitors based on three wins in major match racing events this year.

To accommodate the number of teams, the club recently purchased a fleet of 10 new Sonars to add to its 10 older ones. Each fleet will be used in the early rounds on separate courses until the elimination process shrinks the number of teams.

As part of the arrangement with the boat builder, Shumway Marine of Rochester, N.Y., the older boats will be retired after the championship and returned to the builder.

Most of the event's cost has been covered by local and national sponsors.

Crew weigh-ins are Saturday (each team is limited to just under 600 pounds total weight). The first matches are scheduled to begin 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

The skippers

1. Dorte Jensen/Denmark

2. Betsy Alison/U.S.

3. Klaartje Zuiderbaan/Netherlands

4. Cordelia Eglin/Great Britain

5. Paula Lewin/Bermuda

6. Shirley Robertson/Great Britain

7. Christine Briand/France

8. Dru Slattery/U.S.

9. Malin Millbourn/Sweden

10. Marie Bjorling/Sweden

11. Marie Klok/Denmark

12. Nadine Stegenwalner/Germany

13. Cristiana Monina/Italy

14. Maria Castanedo/Spain

15. Katie Spithill/Australia

16. Hannah Swett/U.S.

17. Gwen Joulie/France

18. Amy Waring/New Zealand

19. Cristina Pereira/Portugal

20. Catharina Gylling/Finland

21. Catherine Ranke/Norway

22. Maria Coleman/Ireland

23. Carolijn Brouwer/Netherlands

24. Karen Johnson/Canada

ISAF Women's World Match Racing Championship

WHO: 24 teams/96 women sailors from 17 countries.

WHEN: Racing opens at 12:30 p.m. Sunday and continues through the afternoon, weather permitting. Racing continuesthrough Dec. 2, with a 9:30 a.m. scheduled starting time each day. Sailing continues through the day, weather permitting, with a midday break for lunch.

WHERE: Tampa Bay, just east of The Pier, St. Petersburg.

HISTORY: This is the third time the event has been held. The first was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; the second was in Genoa, Italy.

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