A meteorological sea change yesterday propelled sailors from stop action to fast forward at the ISAF US Women's Match Racing World Championships.
Just 24 hours after competitors couldn't buy a breeze and mid-summer-like heat and humidity left them stewing in their own sweat, they found themselves on an exhilarating rocket ride up and down the course just off Annapolis. In no time, the field of 16 boats was cut in half and then again.
Today, four boats will conclude a best-of-three semifinal round to set up the title showdown. The skippers are: Betsy Alison of Rhode Island, the five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year; Sally Barkow of Wisconsin, winner of the Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship held here last fall; Paula Lewin, representing Bermuda in the Yngling-class at the Olympics; and Claire Leroy of France, ranked seventh in the world.
Race organizers got one of the semifinal races in yesterday. Barkow defeated Leroy. An injury aboard Alison's boat postponed the start of that competition.
The championship consists of head-to-head racing between two nearly identical J/22s, each with a crew of four. With half of the world's top 30 ranked female sailors on hand, competition was expected to be intense.
Two-thirds of the U.S. Olympic entry in the Yngling class - Rhode Islander Carol Cronin and Marylander Liz Filter - could not string together enough wins to be in the top eight boats for the quarterfinal round.
"We were one day shy of the finals," said Cronin, the skipper. "We had a bad day Wednesday and we never recovered."
Her other teammate, Nancy Haberland of Annapolis, squeaked into the quarterfinals as tactician on Elizabeth Kratzig's crew, only to be swept out in two races.
A passing cold front brewed up a gray, misty day with winds out of the northeast at 12 to 16 knots that churned up a green chop just south of the Bay Bridge. The Eastport Yacht Club's "fix-it boats" raced to keep up with minor repairs between matches.
At the end of preliminary rounds, Barkow and Alison were in first and third places, respectively, with Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen of Denmark in second. Others making the cut were: Australia's Katie Spithill, Liz Baylis of the United States, Leroy and Lewin.
From there it was a series of "knockout" matches, with the first boat to get two wins advancing to semifinals. In the first round, Barkow defeated Kratzig, Lewin beat Meldgaard Pedersen, Alison topped Baylis and Leroy beat Spithill. In the second, Barkow and Leroy advanced. Baylis and Lewin evened their series to force a third race.
Cronin and Filter said they accomplished what they set out to do - have some fun and work on skills - before resuming their Olympic training Monday in Annapolis and then heading back to Europe for competition.
"This was an intense week," said Filter, who lives in Stevensville. "But that's exactly what we need."
The world championships weren't the only high-profile race yesterday off Annapolis. A fleet of 36 boats began the 25th annual Bermuda Ocean Race in front of the Naval Academy shortly after 2 p.m.
The boats, ranging in size from 30 to 64 feet, began the 125-mile race down Chesapeake Bay and 628-mile leg to the island yesterday afternoon. It will end at the St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun