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Sara Morgan Watters wins Inaugural Susan Widmann Sinclair Women's Championship at Noroton Yacht Club

by Edward R. Padin 19 Jun 2023 19:45 BST June 16-18, 2023
Inaugural Susan Widmann Sinclair Women's Championship © 2023, Rick Bannerot, Ontheflyphoto.net

Sara Watters (Oxford, MD), representing St. Mary's College as an alumna, handily won the first Susan Widmann Sinclair Women's Championship hosted by Noroton Yacht Club (Darien, CT).

Sailing in Sonars with teammates Gloria Kevliciute, Catherine Shanahan, and Sophie Taczak, Watters won the first race, regained the lead at the end of Day 2 with another win, and wrapped-up the regatta on Sunday including a third race win. Noroton provided all, evenly matched Sonars for the event and on-the-water umpiring.

Friday's opening day of racing was canceled after the wind died during the first attempt at Race 1 combined with an approaching thunderstorm. However, on Saturday, after PRO Shannon Bush (Houston, TX) moved the racing up by 30 minutes for Day 2, five races were sailed with Watters winning that day's finale—putting her atop the leaderboard for good, further wining Sunday's sixth race.

From anyone's perspective, the competitors got to see a little of everything from the weather and wind, as is typical in Long Island Sound. After having to abort racing Friday, there was wind on Saturday but its direction ocellated routinely over a 60-degree northerly arc with wind velocity bouncing between 5-8 knots one minute and then over 25 the next. After the final Race, PRO Bush noted, "I was forewarned that conditions on Long Island Sound would challenge a Race Officer to the max...and they did." At the awards ceremony, Bush was thanked by all the competitors for her efforts to conduct races in variable wind conditions. Sunday's conditions also were challenging for the race committee as, after completing Race 6, which Watters won, the northerly shifted to a southerly and a final race was completed with winds from the west.

The pervasive wind shifts combined with significant, often sudden changes in wind speed placed an equal importance on boat handling and course management and tactics. In Race 3, when the wind peaked near 30 knots on the second downwind leg, some of the crews were experienced "death rolls" while others opted to drop their spinnaker and finish under control.

Including her ninth in Race 3 and an eight in the final Race 7, Watters three race wins gave her a 5-point margin over second to become the Champion. "To say I'm thrilled to win the first Sinclair Women's Championship would be an understatement," said Watters. "As an alumna of St. Mary's, where our coach Adam Werblow taught all our team to sail competitively, it was thrilling to be racing against some of the finest women sailors in the country and winning. I would like to congratulate the other women sailors and thank Noroton Yacht Club for creating this regatta that honors such an inspirational woman sailor." While receiving their team trophy, Watters remarked, "Any club that is not hosting all women's events is not getting it right!"

The fleet of sailors came to this regatta from both near and far. Finishing second thanks to two second-place finishes on Sunday was Noroton sailor Erin Maxwell, who won a tiebreaker for second over fellow Noroton sailor Megan Grapengeter-Rudnick. In fourth was Carmen Cowels representing Larchmont Yacht Club, who won both Race 3 and Race 7. Carmen was recently named Quantum College Woman Sailors-of-the Year and sailing with her twin and fellow All American. Also on the course were sailors from Hamilton, BDA, Lunenberg, NS, San Francisco, CA,, Houston, TX, and St. Petersburg, FL.

Event Chair Nancy Pearson worked for over a year pulling together this Championship. "Sue Sinclair was a pioneer world champion sailor, an inspiration to women sailors at Noroton and everywhere, and a friend of mine. When Commodore Bobby Lawrence asked me to help create and then run this Championship, I was honored at being asked to develop and execute something that would reflect well on our Club, women's sailing, and Sue's legacy."

"And that she did!" responded the Commodore. "What Nancy, her cadre of volunteers, and our Club staff did this weekend was nothing short of outstanding! I know Sue was looking down on her Championship with a smile.

The second Susan Widmann Sinclair Women's Championship will be hosted by Noroton Yacht Club in 2025.

Thanks goes to all the Championship's sponsors:

This Championship would not have been possible without the support of: Fairfield County Bank, Dr. David W. Trost, Harken Derm, Team One Newport, Tarpon Cellars, Doubletree Hotel, and J. W. Allen.

Full results here

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