Annapolis City Dock is the spot for a dry-land sneak preview of women’s sailing in the 2012 London Olympics when opening ceremonies for the 20th annual BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup Regatta are held tonight (6 p.m.). Once again, the prestigious international Grade 1 regatta, being sailed out of Eastport Yacht Club this week, brings 10 of the world’s top female match-racing teams together to face off in J/22 sloops.

With the addition of women’s match racing to Olympic sailing for the 2012 games, the regatta here will likely feature contests similar to those two years away. These can be seen on the water during the heated double round-robin series before the top four crews emerge to sail the finals and petit-finals on Saturday.

Top international skippers include France’s Claire LeRoy, who is the defending BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup champion and two-time match racing world champion. LeRoy, who wants to regain her #1 ranking, will be joined by countrywomen Anne-Claire Le Berre and Julie Bossard, who are ranked seventh and eighth. From Brazil come skippers Juliana Senfft (19th) and Raquelhora Aimone (66th) while Sarah Bury from Canada (67th) completes the foreign contingent.

Their American counterparts also are impressive. Olympic gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe, the 2009 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and 6th-ranked women’s match racer, will seek to capture her first Santa Maria Cup title. Also on hand will be three-time collegiate All-American Genny Tulloch, another US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics skipper and veteran of the Morning Light campaign. Relatively new to match racing, Tulloch already is ranked 11th on the circuit.

These two young American stars are joined by Olympian Sally Barkow (10th), a two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and winner of the 2004, 2007 and 2008 BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup regattas. Local favorite is Maegan Ruhlman (48th), who earned her invitation with a win in the 2010 Sundance Cup earlier this year.

The week-longaction concludes with an awards party with live music, food and drink on Saturday evening. The party is open to the public and tickets are $30 at the door. More information about the regatta is available online at