Annapolis crew set for Rolex regatta


Annapolitan Margaret Podlich and her crew are working hard to prepare for the prestigious Rolex Women's International Keelboat Regatta in Newport, R.I., Sept. 10-17.

Sailing with Podlich will be Annapolitans Joni Palmer, Jill Sander and Laura Nye, and Kim Couranz of Arlington, Va., and Beth Scheidt of Edgewater.

Their boat, Spot, is a J/24 owned by Podlich and her husband, Steve.

Podlich, daughter of John Bonds, executive director of U.S. Sailing, has been sailing since she was 3 weeks old and grew up racing with her family.

She started single-handed competition in Lasers as a teen-ager and went on to become the top woman skipper during all four years of collegiate sailing at Tulane before becoming active in the Snipe class.

After her husband became the executive director of the J/24 Class Association, the couple became owners of a '24, and they have been campaigning Spot since last summer, with generally good results.

Podlich said she has wanted to tackle the Rolex since she and Sander crewed on Trish Yeoman's Annapolis-based team at the biennial event four years ago.

"We knew we needed a team, and we needed a boat," she said. "Then when Steve and I bought the J last summer, the idea was in the back of my head. We were sailing with Jill and Joni, and I thought, 'Boy, this is fun, and we're doing pretty good.' I guess we really made the decision over the winter."

Palmer -- the second woman ever named a collegiate All-American, who now runs the Optimist class in this area and is a junior sailing consultant for U.S. Sailing -- signed on as tactician and spinnaker trimmer, and experienced foredeck whiz Sander committed to the program.

Couranz, a former member of the Brown University intercollegiate sailing team, trims jib, while Thistle-class veteran Nye's job is looking for puffs and shifts. Scheidt, who has been actively racing with her husband, Dave, aboard their own J/24 AJ for four years, is in charge of crisis management -- keeping her head in the boat to watch for problems as they develop.

"I feel like we have a really strong team going," Podlich said. "It's nice to have something like the Rolex as a goal to work for."

In aiming for that goal, the women have been busy practicing, including every J/24 regatta on the local schedule, and taking part in the Thursday Night Series each week. They drill on the water every Monday night and over each weekend there isn't competition.

"We've been working on the boat to make it perfect," Podlich said. "We've put on secondary winches, and added some extra ratchets for the spinnaker gear, to make it easier for women to handle, and Steve's redesigned the mainsheet so it's easier for me to do in heavy air."

They face a demanding schedule.

"We'll do the [Severn Sailing Association's] Ed Hoyt [Regatta] over Aug. 21 and 22," Podlich said, "and then we're going to CORK [the Canadian Olympic-training Regatta at Kingston] over the 25th to 30th."

Podlich explained that CORK, which also is serving this year as the Canadian national J/24 championship, will give her and the Spot crew a chance to test their mettle in a large fleet of top-notch sailors.

After returning from Canada, they get a brief rest then it's off to Newport for the Rolex.

Podlich estimates her crew's expenses for the two international regattas will run about $4,000 for entry fees, meals, lodging in Kingston (it will be free in Newport, where the crew will stay with family), "and a lot of gas" to transport the boat by trailer to Canada and Rhode Island.

To help defray some of those costs, a fund has been established to accept tax-deductible contributions through the Chesapeake International Sailing Foundation, Inc.

Checks made payable to the foundation may be sent to Podlich at 709 Hillcrest Drive, Annapolis, Md. 21401.

For details, call (410) 757-8035.

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