Fresh battle for Match Racing crown
Published on August 15th, 2019
For skippers Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.) and Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.), the absence of three-time reigning U.S. Women’s Match Racing Champion Nicole Breault means a wide-open regatta for the seven teams competing this week for the Allegra Mertz Trophy.
Blecher and Zarkowsky will be among the field that vies for the 2019 title on August 16 to 18 in Detroit, MI. Blecher placed second last year to Breault, and Zarkowsky placed third, following on consecutive runner-up finishes in 2015 and ’16.
Three other skippers from last year, Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.), Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.), and Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.), look to improve on their fourth, sixth, and seventh overall placings, respectively. First-time entrants Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.) and Giselle Camet Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.) round out the field.
Blecher and Zarkowsky are among the most experienced skippers in the fleet and figure to be racing late into the regatta. Last year Blecher beat Zarkowsky 3-2 in the semifinals in a hard-fought match that came down to the last run. Zarkowsky had earned a penalty in the fifth and deciding race but had stretched out a lead on the run to the finish where she planned to do her penalty turn at the finish line.
“I retained a penalty from the pre-start but had her in a good spot on the run,” Zarkowsky said. “But I misjudged the current in San Francisco Bay, having thought I had sent her far enough downwind to complete my penalty turn, and the current brought us back up to the finish and she was able to get past.”
“She tried a textbook move but didn’t quite get it done and we were able to squeeze across the finish,” said Blecher, who sailed with Breault last week at the Women’s Match Racing World Championship in Sweden. This week she’ll be racing with Beka Schiff (Los Angeles, Calif.), who also sailed in Sweden last week, Allie Blumenthal (Bellport, N.Y.), and Krysia Pohl, a newcomer to her Team Bam.
“I’m feeling very prepared and remaining calm at the same time,” said Blecher. “Sailing internationally is so different from sailing in the States. Last week we got to race the World champs (skipper Lucy Macgregor and crew) and it’s great to see the way they sail the boat; the way they do the pre-start, when to attack and when to extend. Watching them drives home the old point that less is more.”
Racing will be in Ultimate 20s from August 16 to 18 with the event format to consist of Round Robin(s), Knock-out Series, and Finals racing.
• Skipper: Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.), Crew: Allie Blumenthal (Bellport, N.Y.), Krysia Pole, Beka Schiff (Los Angeles, Calif.)
• Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.), Alexa Cavalieri (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Nicole Sikowitz (Essex, Md.), Kaitlyn Von Nostrand (Seattle, Wash.)
• Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.), Morgan Collins (Norfolk, Va.), Abigail Rohman (New York, N.Y.), Hope Wilson (New York, N.Y.)
• Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.), Stine Cacavas (Los Angeles, Calif.), Karyn Jones (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)
• Giselle Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.), Dana Riley Hayes (San Rafael, Calif.), Molly Vandermoer (Stanford, Calif.)
• Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.), Melinda Erkelens (Richmond, Calif.), Sandra Svoboda (Grosse Pointe, Mich.)
• Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.), Rose Edwards (New York, N.Y.), Isabelle Ruiz de Luzuriaga (Philadelphia, Pa.), Sara Swanson (Cambridge, Mass.)
Source: US Sailing