Sally Barkow is fully focused on capturing the gold medal in Yngling class at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. The Wisconsin skipper is leaving no stone unturned in her quest to achieve that goal.

Which is why, just a few months in advance of the Olympic regatta, Barkow and her Team Seven were in Annapolis to compete in the 17th annual BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup. Barkow and her top-notch crew were at the top of their game from start to finish in winning the prestigious match racing regatta, hosted by Eastport Yacht Club.

This year’s event was abbreviated due to severe thunderstorms in the Annapolis area yesterday. Race organizers completed the semifinal round yesterday morning, but were only able to get off one race of the finals before the sky grew dark and the lightning struck.

“We had great racing conditions for every stage of the regatta until the finals,” Santa Maria Cup chairman Tom Mullan. “We needed a two-hour window to complete the final round, but when the storm cleared, the wind went with it.”

Barkow placed first in the round-robin portion of the competition with a 16-2 record and thus earned the top seed for the semifinals. The three-time All-American at Old Dominion then dispatched fellow American Molly Carapiet, 3-1, in the semifinals.

Meanwhile, French skipper Anne-Claire LeBerre, a newcomer to the Santa Maria Cup, defeated 2003 champion Liz Baylis, 3-1, in the other semi.

“LeBerre was a very late entry and she proved to be a phenomenal racer,” Mullan said.

Barkow won the start and led the entire way in beating LeBerre in the first race of the best-of-five final. When weather put a halt to further racing, Barkow was declared winner of the BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup for the third time since 2004.

“I’m fortunate to have a talented team and they sailed great again this week,” said Barkow, a native of Nashotah, Wis. “Our boat-handling and speed got us out of a lot of tough situations.”

While the Olympic regatta for Yngling class will be conducted in a fleet racing format, Barkow said it’s important to keep her match racing skills sharp. Olympic organizers have instituted a “medal race” to conclude the regatta and that is when Barkow’s match racing experience will come into play.

“This is great training for the team, and hopefully it will pay off in Beijing,” said Barkow, who won the U.S. Olympic Trials for Yngling class earlier this year. “There are a lot of things we learn here that will help us down the road.”

Debbie Capozzi and Carrie Howe comprise the crew for Barkow’s Yngling team. Whenever the Pine Lake Yacht Club product wants to do a match race event, Annie Lush gladly volunteers her services.

“Annie has been a key member of our team for five years. She may not be part of the Olympic crew, but she’s just as important,” Barkow said.

Sharon Hadsell, who has been a member of the volunteer race committee since the inception of the BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup in 1992, could not remember a more exciting regatta.

“We had a very strong field and the competition was extremely intense. The start box was insane with the skippers using the spectator boat and the committee boat as picks to rub off their opponents,” Hadsell said.

Principal race officer Mark Murphy was not initially concerned about completing the regatta based on early forecasts that called for the thunderstorms to arrive late in the afternoon. However, dark, threatening clouds and lightning strikes forced Murphy to send the fleet back to port around 12:10 yesterday. Thus began a waiting game with the race committee desperately searching for a weather window in order to complete the finals and petit finals.

Carapiet, a San Francisco native who had Annapolis native and Eastport Yacht Club member Molly Vandemoer aboard as crew, beat Liz Baylis in the lone race of the petit finals to earn third place.

“The racing today was some of the closest, most hard-fought action we’ve had this week,” Murphy said. “This regatta’s had very good luck finishing its program over the years, but sometimes Mother Nature just doesn’t cooperate.”