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Rum Puppy tops all-women boats at J/105 Women's Regatta

by J/Boats 4 Jul 13:44 BST June 25, 2022
2022 J/105 Women's Regatta © Will Keyworth

The Sailing Club of the Chesapeake hosted the first annual J/105 Women's Regatta for J/105 Fleet #3 on Saturday, June 25. When the PRO Drew Mutch announced at the skipper's meeting that he was running a "105 regatta, not a women's regatta," a large cheer was raised. The next morning, thirteen teams consisting of 85 competitors came to the starting line meaning business.

The RC had near-perfect Chesapeake Bay conditions to work with, a fairly steady 5-10 knots out of the south with gorgeous blue skies. Sailors navigated a current change during the day and the competition was tight.

Mutch reported, "A total of three windward-leeward races were held near R "2" at the mouth of the Severn River, twice around with the finale bumping up to three laps. Despite aggressive maneuvering and close roundings, no protests were filed, and all competitors and the protest committee were free to enjoy post-race festivities." The large spectator fleet highlighted the excellent conditions and support for the regatta.

The SIs waived the owner/driver rule and required a minimum of four women aboard, including the driver. While the top two boats overall were coed with owners trimming main, eight of the teams were all women. The top three all-women's boats were four points apart, with Rum Puppy leading Firebrand and Doghouse.

"It was a ton of fun, and the caliber of racing was excellent," said Alexandra Wardell, skipper of Rum Puppy. "After the first start I thought, 'Whoa, ok, this is going to be as fun and competitive as any other regatta!' The focus and nonstop hard work of my crew was at one of the highest levels I have sailed with in a while."

Katie Zimmerman skippered Firebrand into second all-women with consistent finishes. Sandra Libby on Doghouse proudly announced at the awards ceremony, "I want you to realize we sailed with a crew of all women over the age of 50!"

Good Trade, Velvet Hammer, and Rum Puppy were the top three boats overall. Good Trade, which finished with a picket fence of wins, was driven by Marie Klok-Crump, who has been ranked as high as number two in the ISAF Women's World Match Race circuit, crowned twice as Danish Match Race Champion, pursued an Olympic campaign in Ynglings in 2004, and was part of the winning J/80 Championship team in 2021 after also having won it in 2013. Sailing with Crump were owner Peter Bowe, Erin Bak, Tammy Kolbe, Mike McNamara, Maxine Phillips, and Madeleine Schroeter.

"Our team thoroughly enjoyed the whole event and just wished we had more than 3 practices!" said Amy Harris, the skipper of Breakaway. "Yesterday was only the fourth day I had ever driven a 105. Next year I hope to race again and perhaps skipper some Wednesday Night Races in the meantime- and that is what this was all about - giving women the confidence to continue as crew and as helmswomen."

Local Chesapeake Bay expert Will Keyworth offered interesting observations about the regatta:

Race day overview

It was a sunny warm day with a breeze from 195 and steady in both direction and velocity pretty much across the course. The bay has been experiencing pretty strong ebbs due to the Conowingo Dam at the headwaters of the bay has had all 10 gates open dumping a ton of water from the mountains of PA, WV, and NY downstream so the surface water is moving south while the lunar tides rise and fall on the normal cycle with the ebbs being intensified by the surface flow and the flooding strength diminished. The reason I mentioned this is that the current and the change in current played a big role in the race strategy.

The position of the race course was in about 25 ft of water, but the port lay line was getting closer to the channel and was at 40+/- ft. The starboard lay line was in about 20 ft but about the mouth of the Severn River which has a good current flow of its own.

Race One:

1-mile beat, steady 6-8 knots of wind with flat water, and a moderately strong ebb put a lot of emphasis on a good start, picking the correct side of the course, and flat out boat result of these factors had a good fight for the pin end and resulted in a general recall. (I realized at that moment since I was set up at the pin for photos that this group of women were taking no prisoners)!!

Bang the left and a one-tack beat paid off for those who could get there and make it work...quick jibe at the windward mark...rinse and repeat the next two legs...the rich got richer on this one being first to the right spot on the track and capitalizing. The women really bang the boats around the buoys so the boat-on-boat battles with matching tacks and jibes were impressive.

Race Two:

Saw a whole different scenario that was subtle but substantial. The current was almost slack and the smart sailors picked up on the shifting angles of the anchored ships in the Annapolis Anchorage for Baltimore Harbor. The wind is still at 195 but it would build in velocity to the top wind speed of the day of about 12knots on the front edge of the tide change. (this is a Chesapeake Bay phenomenon in certain conditions and race day was the perfect day for this effect). After a great start by the fleet and a good split of boats going left to the last race's favorite side and others to the right. The net result was the left was good but not "great " and boats came from both sides for a friendly fleet gathering at the first weather mark. The ensuing run/beat/run saw a few position changes with the two lead boats swapping positions on the runs....interesting to note that the breeze came on from 8 to 12 kts about halfway into the first beat the boat handling in tacks, jibe, and mark roundings began to push the better teams ahead and by the last run, the fleet was pretty spread out except for the group of 4 or so how to handle the gear changes and crew mechanics a bit better.

The J/105 sails like two different boats- kind and mellow and power-hunger up to 8.0 kts breeze and fully powered-up and quite lively in 11.0 kts-plus range. This dynamic played a role in this race with crew work and boat handling.

Race Three:

The current has now changed to a weak flood and the wind has settled back down to the 8.0 kts range and getting spotty. The right upwind was now the favorite side and picking the lanes of pressure downwind was key. This race was 3 laps so the leaders were pretty launched and the pecking order established. So, no real drama in this one. But, it was great seeing the RUM PUPPY team and the FIREBRAND team find some good speed and climb the ladder. I would bet on those two teams if there was a second day of racing to make themselves known on the course.

General Observations:

  1. The RC banged the races off..boom, boom. They called boats over early and ran a really good event that any sailor would have found challenging and rewarding.
  2. The women were serious and prepared. Some practiced for several different days. Some had coaches help tune them up. All had the support of their friends and loved ones which leads to #3.
  3. Huge spectator fleet of interested folks with lots of cheering and shouting support. And a bunch of J/105 owners and sailors wondering how the women are so lucky to get a sailing day like this!!
  4. Team colors!!! How cool is that! The women rocked the wild colors and made it a show!!!
  5. The party was awesome and EVERYONE was there like the old days...very cool to see the camaraderie.
  6. Kudos to the organizers. Molly and her team left no stone unturned for this not to be a very successful event.

Background for the regatta:

Part of the success of the J/105 Class has been its inclusion of women in its ranks. The majority of teams across North America have or have had women sailors as integral crew members, including as owner-drivers. In December 2019, the World Sailing Trust released its Women in Sailing Strategic Review, a report that revealed widescale gender imbalance perpetuating throughout the sport and consequently recommended a global effort on the part of sailing organizations (including one-design classes such as the J/105 Class) to help remedy the situation by increasing participation and creating space for women to compete. In tune with the J/105's reputation to date as a platform for successful mixed gender teams, the Class responded with an openness to doing more. In addition to incentivizing teams comprised of 50+ percent women with a maximum weight exemption, the Class now encourages local Fleets to launch women's regattas and programs to expand further the interest and involvement of women in the Class.

Fleet #4 in Toronto was the first to act on this grassroots initiative, and last August put on the successful 2021 J/105 Ontario Women's Championship Regatta at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, with 13 boats raced by all-women teams. Now the momentum is growing for women-centered events like Toronto's in other Fleets across North America. Fleet #1 in San Francisco hosted the SF Bay J/105 Women Skipper Invitational on May 22, 2022.

Generous sponsors helped celebrate women in racing; including CBYRA, Weather Gage Tech, J/105 Class, J/105 Fleet 3, Sandra K. Libby Group, Vernon Sheen DMD, Kennedy Communications, Fawcett, Steele Sailing, Harken, Gill, J/World Annapolis, SpinSheet, Forward Brewing, and Scotty's Vodka.

More J/105 Women's Regatta sailing information here.

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