For a taste of America’s Cup-type competition without the lawsuits, the best spectator opportunity around will be the annual BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup Regatta, which pits 10 of the world’s top match-racing teams in a four-day battle through a heated double round-robin series before the top four emerge to sail the finals and petit-finals.
Unlike the America’s Cup, the sailors are all women and the boats are J/22s, but this helps enhance the spectator experience as the courses are short and easily viewed from a single vantage point on the water.
Competition is managed by Eastport Yacht Club, and begins on Wednesday, May 28, with the finals scheduled for Saturday, May 31.
The international fleet includes France’s Claire LeRoy, still ranked number one in the world in women’s match racing; Italian Lorenza Mariani, ranked at 25; and Caroline Martins de Castro Bejar of Brazil, 39th in the world, plus a still-to-be-designated foreign sailor.
In addition, American Olympian Sally Barkow, who earned her second Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award last year, along with the 2004 and 2007 Santa Maria Cup titles, will be in the fleet.
Barkow, ranked #5 internationally and also the Women’s World Match Racing championship winner in 2004 and 2005, will be facing off against several other American sailors, including Liz Baylis (#11), the 2002 World Match Racing Champion and Executive Director of the new Women’s International Match Racing Association; plus SMC veteran Katy Lovell (#17) and Arnold resident Jo Ann Fisher (#54). Another American, Molly Carapiet, as yet unranked, also will compete, having earned her berth by winning this year’s Sundance Cup, along with youngster Derby Anderson, a rising local standout.
The pairs of boats go off in closely spaced flights, with each race taking about 30 minutes to complete. The sailors switch boats after each race, and each team will sail every other team twice during the course of the round-robin phase.
This year, regatta organizers plan to try to sail as many races as possible close-in in the Severn River, where they will be visible from EYC, although given the likelihood of boat traffic on Saturday, the final portions most likely will be sailed out in the Bay.
The results of this regatta can shake up the world match racing rankings, so every one of the women will be sailing at the top of their skills. On-the-water umpires watch the action closely, and when they call for a penalty turn it can have a serious impact in such close racing.
A new element has been added to the schedule this year. On Tuesday afternoon, May 27, an “Annapolis versus the World” fleet race will be held off EYC, in which the women will compete against local sailors put up by the National Sailing Hall of Fame, Annapolis Maritime Museum, the Boatyard Bar & Grill, North Sails, Sailing World magazine, and more.
The public is invited to watch the action – two short races starting around 4 p.m. – from the EYC docks, while the Boatyard will be offering food and drink specials afterward as part of the celebration.
The action concludes with an awards party with live music, food and drink on Saturday evening, May 31. The party is open to the public; tickets are $20 at the door.
In addition to title sponsor BoatU.S., other sponsors of the Santa Maria Cup include The Airport Shuttle, Dean’s Yacht Services, Regattaweb.net, North Sails, Yellow Book USA, New England Ropes, SpinSheet, Quantum One-Design, and Weems & Plath.
More information about the BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup regatta, including important tips on how to get close enough to the action for a great view without getting in the way, is available online at www.santamariacup.org