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Shifty winds test talents of sailors


The sailors in the Santa Maria Cup women's match racing championship on the Inner Harbor yesterday got their first look at what could and does lie ahead through the finals on Sunday afternoon -- light, shifty winds and a fleet of 10 competitive teams quickly learning a new game.

After three rounds of match races held yesterday, one team is winless, six are 1-2, and three teams are 3-0.

Except for a simple twist of fate, only two teams might have been unbeaten. During the second round of races, with Diane Burton of Annapolis matched against Betsy Alison of Newport, R.I., Burton trailed rounding the first mark.

However, while starting the first of two downwind legs on a windward-leeward course, the spinnaker on Alison's boat became twisted and Burton was able to overtake Alison, establish inside position and maintain the lead.

"We just stayed on top of them, between them and the mark," Burton said. "It was just classic match racing. I pushed them out to the side that I didn't think was good, and it worked out well."

Match racing, where two boats race only against each other rather than in larger groups, is new to most of the skippers in this regatta, including Mary Brigden Snow of San Diego, who also finished Day 1 with three victories.

"This was actually our first match race," Snow said. "You don't have much time to sit around, so in comparison to fleet racing it is hard work, but it is a lot more fun."

Hannah Swett, who finished third in this regatta last year, and Alison are the most experienced match racers here, but even the experiencedrun into problems.

In a fleet race held yesterday at noon, before the match raccompetition was started, Snow and her crew found themselves in an uncomfortable position. "In the first race we were actually in last place, but we ended up in second because the wind was so shifty," Snow said. "We just got lucky."

Alison, who seemed to be sailing well in the fleet race before the wind went far west, finished last.

"So, I finally know what it is like to finish dead last," Alison said, jokingly, as she passed the media yacht between races. Alison is three-time winner of the Rolex yachtswoman of the year award.

If the fleet race results were to be figured in as a tiebreaker after yesterday's races, the top three teams would be Snow, Swett and Burton. Susie Minton of the U.S. Naval Academy won the fleet race, but was 1-2 in match races.

Racing will be continued today through Sunday, with first starts scheduled for 11 a.m.

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