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Linda Elias Memorial Women's One Design Challenge - Day 1

by Laurie Morrison 13 Oct 2019 07:32 BST 12-13 October 2019

Three bullets and a fourth in the day's fourth race scored seven points and secured Allie Blecher's California Yacht Club team a day one first-place ranking at the two-day Linda Elias Memorial Women's One Design Challenge. Blecher and 10 other teams sailed Catalina 37's, as is traditional for this acclaimed race.

In the Cal 20 fleet - offered for the second year - Long Beach Yacht Club's Satia To took a similarly commanding lead; finishing the day with five points. Fellow LBYC competitor, 11-year old Madison Mansour, finished the day tied for third place with 13 points.

The top rankings might sound like it was a runaway day for Blecher and To, but a large talented field of skippers and crew made for a close day of racing at the 28th running of this premier California women's sailing event, the only of its kind for all-women crews in large boats.

Although dockside, the mood was welcoming and the chatter aplenty, these competitors came to win; or at least give it their best shot.

Each of the skippers, sailing in both fleets showed up Friday with their crews for the optional practice. At the skipper's meeting, the room overflowed as crewmembers accompanied the skippers, most dressed in team colors and were prepared with questions for race management.

And this is a for women by women operation: three all-female chairs, two principle race officers and the chief umpire lead the LBYC team.

"These women are all part of our extended family, that come from all walks of life and several states from across the country. We're like a fun family off the water, but on the water, our racers are some of the country's most notable, experienced and competitive sailors," said Lisa Meier, one of the chairwomen who is racing with Mansour.

The only woman not fully prepared to start the day was Mother Nature was who showed up in fine form after a one-hour delayed start. But she brought consistent 11 knots of wind that caused only one slight course change due to the swiftness of the Cal 20s.

Liz Hjorth, competing for Women's Sailing Associate of Santa Monica Bay finished the day in second place. Hjorth competed here earlier this summer in a match racing qualifier, is a former Butler Cup winner and won this regatta in 1995 and 2002.

In third place is Summer Greene of Southwestern Yacht Club. She, along with Rebecca Ashburn are two of only 6 National Principle Race Officers in the country. Ashburn is overseeing the Regatta this weekend.

Annie Gardner (nee Nelson) a former Olympian in windsurfing and a member of the 1995 America's Cup team "America3" with too many other titles and championships to mention, has won this regatta four times. "What I love about this event is that it is all about empowering women; seeing really qualified, experienced women mentoring and modeling the way for other women of all ages, bringing them to a higher level of skill, and providing additional opportunities is really the best," she said. Sailing for Hawaii Yacht Club, Gardner said her 10-woman team has trained primarily in light air, so along with getting clean starts, the hopes for tomorrow is for slightly less breezy conditions.

Theresa Brandner, the first woman Commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club, sailing with only a crew of 7, said her team is comprised of about half of her usual old-school crew with the addition of some young collegiate sailors. "We've got a really good dynamic on the boat," she said. "But with women today having so many responsibilities; kids, family, and jobs; finding those who want to race and have the time is challenging. But with support of regattas like this, where women are given the opportunity to show leadership in yachting, which is an important part of her personal mission, and that of SFYC can make a difference. Women have to make more effort to get things done and to be heard, but when they do, they are game-changers," she said.

The regatta is named after Linda Elias, one of Southern California's most successful female sailboat racers, who died in 2003 after a nine-year battle with ovarian cancer at the age of 52. She was a winner of the Peggy Slater "Yachtswoman of the Year Award", was an active leader of the Long Beach WSA and won this race as the Women's One Design Challenge in1992, 1994 and 1996.

The regatta is hosted by LBYC and the Long Beach Women's Sailing Association with the support of the Long Beach Sailing Foundation.

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