Friday, July 21, 2017

Fabulous Women's J/22 Match Race Clinic!

Women's J/22 Match Race training- San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)- A J/22 Women’s Match Race clinic was hosted last weekend by women all-stars in match-racing, all managed and coached by U.S. Sailing’s top ranked women’s match racer- Nicole Breault from San Francisco, CA.  Here is the report of this pioneering event to get women more engaged in all kinds of sailing, and get an introduction into the craziness of the tactics associated with rules and the exciting, heart-thumping elements of match-racing “mano-a-mano” against your competitors.

Over the past weekend, from Friday through Sunday, Nicole Breault and members of her Team Vela Racing led over three-dozen women in their “San Francisco Bay Match Race Clinegatta”.  This was the first of its kind event on the West Coast. Inspired by a format that was first pioneered by match-race guru Dave Perry, Nicole was excited to welcome 36 women sailors to St. Francis Yacht Club to learn and compete on their fleet of J/22s. These ladies spent Friday and Saturday in sailing clinics on and off the water on StFYC’s fleet of J/22s; then culminated with a regatta on Sunday.

There were 36 women, nine J/22s, four to a boat. Two days of classroom work plus on-the-water drills, followed by a full day on the water, completing a round-robin, fully-umpired, Grade 5 match-racing regatta, with Bartz Schneider as PRO and Rob Overton as Chief Umpire, and Nicole Breault as Head Coach. Here is Nicole’s report below:

“Those who participated would say that the 2017 SF Bay Women’s Match Race Clinic and Grade 5 Regatta was an absolute success! 36 female sailors from the Bay Area, Southern California, the East Coast, and even St. Petersburg, Russia, assembled at the St. Francis Yacht Club on the San Francisco City Front this past weekend to take part in a 2-day learn-to-match race clinic and 1-day grade 5 match race regatta and our VELA RACING Team (Molly Carapiet, Dana Riley, and Karen Loutzenheiser).

Women's J/22 Match Race clinic participantsThe Club offered its matched set of J/22s for the Clinic and Regatta.  Some of the sailors entered as teams, but more than half entered as individuals, willing to join forces with one another to tackle learning a new game.  Adding to the challenge was that many were dinghy sailors, while others had spent years on larger boats, and they were jumping onto a small keelboat for the first time and doing so in the often-humbling winds and waters just East of the Golden Gate Bridge in July.

It really took brave hearts and open minds to take on such an intensive task. In the end, we were amazed by the progress every sailor made. It is a testament to what women can do in this sport when they get a chance and go all-in.

After two days of classroom work and on-the-water drills, the teams raced a single round-robin, fully-umpired grade five match racing regatta on Sunday, with Bartz Schneider as PRO and Rob Overton as Chief Umpire. Only a few skippers had ever match raced previously. The objective was to expose experienced women sailors to match racing and instill further interest. Quite a few participants said they would take the extensive course materials and bring them back to their home clubs to use as a template for training.

J/22s sailing women's match race clinicFriday’s instruction focused on boat-handling as a fundamental aspect of match racing. This afforded sailors the chance to get to know one another and the J/22. The 4 coaches, who comprise a team that regularly match races J/22’s, gave specific instruction on their individual tasks in getting the boat efficiently through maneuvers, how they support one another in these efforts, and the importance of clear communication roles. Friday evening shifted the discussion toward the match-racing game and Saturday’s drills exercised tactical thinking and execution in the pre-start and around the course. Members of the StFYC volunteer RC corps and several of Overton’s umpire team supported clinic sessions with mark set, flag work and a taste of how umpiring works. The sailors fully engaged their brains and their bodies in the learning. Blustery 15-20 knot winds and afternoon full of ebb chop did not stop them from trying out aggressive boat-on-boat moves and pushing for improvement each time.

On Sunday morning, racing was delayed briefly while an armada of support boats and kayaks escorted the Golden River Swim from the Golden Gate Bridge, through the race course, to McCovey Cove at AT&T Park. Once underway, the course was visited by a couple of the humpback whales that have been enjoying the Bay waters these last few weeks. In spite of all these fantastic distractions, the organizers rolled through 9 flights of match racing in west-southwesterly winds that built from 10 to 18 kts through the afternoon.

Katie Ananina of St. Petersburg, Russia (currently a student based near Miami, FL) and her crew of Bethanie Maples, Lisa Anderson, and Linda Molnar (all Bay Area sailors) swept all of their matches (8-0) to win top honors. Katie was one of the few participants who came in with match-racing experience, which proved immensely valuable for both her team and the others. According to Bethanie Maples, Katie was “laser-focused on winning, her competitive vibe was infectious… [she was] a best friend to these other crews, not a new friend. A new friend is nice and non-confrontational. A best friend pushes you past your comfort zone so you can learn more and be the best sailor you can be.”

Claiming second on the tie-breaker (6-2), was StFYC member Krysia Pohl and her teammates Susannah Carr (Seattle, WA), Johanna Altorfer and Nehal Gajjar (both from the Bay Area). Finishing third was skipper Marilyn Cassedy along with Patricia Lapadula, Jennifer Arrington, and Britney Belcher, all from Cal Yacht Club, Marina Del Rey, CA.”  Sailing photo credits- Karen Loutzenheiser (  For more Women’s J/22 Match Race sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.