A second close day of racing brought rankings and women together
Long Beach, Calif., October 13, 2019 — Yesterday’s three bullets made all the difference for California Yacht Club’s Allie Blecher, who won the 2019 Linda Elias Memorial Women’s One Design Challenge by a mere two points. Blecher finished the regatta in the Catalina 37 fleet with a total of 22 points. Liz Hjorth, competing for Women’s Sailing Associate of Santa Monica Bay was just a gust behind with 24 points while defending champion Casey Hogan, sailing for Newport Harbor Yacht Club, moved up the ranks to finish in third place with 29 points.
It’s been a good year for Blecher. In August, she won the 17th U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship. Beka Schiff, who sailed with Blecher in that event, served as main trimmer this weekend. Blecher’s name will go onto the perpetual trophy for a second time. She also won this event in 2013.
“We had some ups and downs today; tried to make things harder on ourselves, but in the end, the team as a whole made it work. Thankfully, our team is solid – you can’t win without your team – and uniquely for Marina del Rey, we really shine in a stronger breeze,” she said.
Following an hour weather delay, the day’s three races started in only 6 knots of breeze that picked up only for the last race.
The lighter winds were an advantage. For some.
Lighter conditions, which Annie Gardner requested, resulted in a better day for her – placing 2, 1 and 7 to position her team to finish in fourth place.
Her Hawaii Yacht Club team was organized by Alle Tsai, on pit, as a means for women to grow, and the chance to experience high-level competition. Although there were several new racers aboard, Gardner has been sailing with Katie Pettibone, her tactician and another member of the America3 team, since 1995. “In terms of opportunities for women sailors, it’s cool to see how far we’ve come,” Gardner said.
Although winds built, and rankings shifted, Hjorth, who also had an up and down day, held onto second place. How did they do it? “Channel girl power!” said Stine Cacaras, tactician and team manager. “As a WSA team, whose entire purpose is to promote women in sailing, our crew has a wide variety of experience,” she said.
“We’re always working with new people, coaching and teaching; bringing them up to a top-notch level of sailing.” Moving the sailors to different positions on the boat, building skills, and teamwork is part of that process,” she said.
The addition of the Cal20 fleet in 2018 is a symbol of that progress. Meeting the needs of a growing number of competitors interested in sailing is part of the organizing party’s commitment to serving the women’s sailing community.
As an added incentive, the organization also offered a new team trophy awarded to the yacht club with the best results in both Catalina 37 and Cal 20 fleets. This year, San Francisco Yacht Club was the proud recipient.
“The Cal 20s were offered primarily as an additional opportunity for women who wanted to advance into one-design sailing,” said Co-Chair Cyndi Martinich. “The growing waitlist indicated to us that there were more women who wanted to sail at this level, so we started looking for a fleet.”
They found the Cal20s, cared for and managed by Shoreline Yacht Club, now considered part of the trilogy of clubs supporting this regatta.
In this year’s race, Long Beach Yacht Club’s Satia To took her first opportunity as a new sailor to skipper – and blew away her competitors. In windy conditions, in light conditions, and even in the last race when organizers added an extra lap, To recorded bullet after bullet. She finished the regatta with 8 points. It was only in the second race Saturday when she scored a second-place finish – the result of being struck by another boat at the start. No damage was done, but the defensive measures set her back.
She credits the win for her and her team being in sync and tremendous support from her fellow sailors at LBYC who has coached and mentored her since she started sailing, just three years ago.
After a few times sailing with others on Taco Tuesdays, at first To did not get it. But last year, she started sailing in the club’s fleet of Solings and it clicked. “I just got out there, for small daily practices and races and started to feel more comfortable,” To said. “I asked a lot of questions, and everyone from my husband to club members at LBYC, and coach Ernie Richau were all greatly supportive.”
Being eager to learn and asking a lot of questions was key. As was a great crew. “I had a great tactician, Leah Ford, a former UCLA Sailing Team Captain,” she said.
To’s success speaks to the heart of this regatta and the WSA’s mission. Skippers come to win, but also to share their experience, their passions; their joy of sisterhood and support for each other.
One of To’s coaches and mentors, Lisa Meier, regatta Co-Chair who sits on LBYC’s board of directors also sailed in the Cal20 fleet as tactician for 11-year old Madison Mansour. Team “Small but Mighty” battled their way to third place; finishing one point out of second place with 22 points. Pinching is when you are heading up too high and sails luff a bit, slowing you down. Blair Carty, LBYC’s Port Captain also crews with the young sailing star.
Mansour’s parents were introduced to the junior sailing program when they joined LBYC. It was love at first sail. Although moving up to bigger boats is the goal (FJ’s are her next target) the LBYC junior club champion wants to master the Sabot and get up to the highest level of sailing in that class.
This celebrated regatta, hosted by LBYC and the Long Beach Women’s Sailing Association with the support of the Long Beach Sailing Foundation, is named after Linda Elias, one of Southern California’s most successful female sailboat racers, who died in 2003 after a nine-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was only 52 years old. The prestigious Peggy Slater “Yachtswoman of the Year Award” winner was an active leader of the Long Beach WSA and won this race as the Women’s One Design Challenge in1992, 1994 and 1996.
Martinich likened Elias to Billy Jean King in that she was very passionate about her sport; was funny, kind, and although didn’t set out to be a trailblazer, was.
As the winner of the regatta, Blecher gets to choose (per qualifying standards) where the $1,000 prize money from the Linda Elias scholarship fund goes. The foundation that assists promising sailors is supported by sponsors and fundraising activities each team participates in.
The regatta drew the biggest spectator fleet since the Congressional Cup series which carried friends and family who cheered on the teams over the two-day event.