Light and shifting breeze kept the racers ashore through the morning today, but by noon a light southeasterly had settled in enough to get racing underway in the first day of the 20th annual BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup international women’s match-racing regatta being sailed out of Eastport Yacht Club on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Ten teams of the top-ranked female match racers in the world, including six of the top eleven, are facing off in the series, which runs through Saturday, June 5. 

By late afternoon, five sets of matches in the double-round-robin phase of the regatta had been completed and two U.S. teams – led by Anna Tunnicliffe and Sally Barkow – were holding perfect records of five wins each. Barkow and her team, which includes Elizabeth Kratzig, Suzy Leech, and Jennifer Wilson, had to fight back from being over the starting line early in the fourth match, against Frenchwoman Julie Bossard, resulting in a very tight and exciting finish as Bossard’s team, who still held the lead on the final leg, had difficulty getting the spinnaker down to perform a penalty turn before the finish, allowing Barkow and her crew to slide by and cross the line by a narrow margin. “It was a little bit challenging out there, it was pretty light with a lot of up and down pressure,” Barkow said. “When we had a good start and didn’t make any mistakes, it was not so close, but when I made that mistake and we were over early, she had [to perform] a penalty [turn] but we still had to gain two lengths on her to get ahead.” 

Barkow and company defeated Brazilians Juliana Senfft and Raquelhora Aimone, Frenchwoman Julie Bossard, and fellow Americans Genny Tulloch and Maegan Ruhlman, while Tunnicliffe and her crew, including Molly Vandemoer, Debbie Capozzie, and Liz Bower, bested Ruhlman, Aimone and Senfft, as well as France’s Anne-Claire Le Berre and Canadian Sarah Bury. Defending Santa Maria Cup champion Claire Leroy, a Frenchwoman ranked #2 in the world and the top seed in this regatta, defeated Bossard, Ruhlman, Aimone, and Senfft, but lost her match with Tulloch for a 4-1 record today. Tulloch, meanwhile, lost to Barkow but topped Leroy, Bossard, Bury, and Le Berre, also for a 4-1 record. 

Barkow’s strong performance out of the gates is piquing a lot of interest. A former Olympian and two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, she is putting forth a strong challenge against rising stars Tunnicliffe and Tulloch, both of whom currently are on the U.S. Sailing Team Alphagraphics and has her sights set on the 2012 London games, when women’s match racing makes its Olympic debut. “This is kind of our building year, seeing who should be on our team,” Barkow explained. Barkow, who won the 2007 and 2008 BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup regattas, seemed confident in her team’s ability to handle such tough competition. “We’ve pretty much sailed against everybody out there in the past, so we know them,” she said. “I was disappointed we weren’t able to get in a couple more races today, but we’ll have a better idea after the first round-robin ends.” 

On-water reporting and live results, as well as other information about the regatta are available on the event website, BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup Results after 5 Flights, 1st Round-Robin Anna Tunnicliffe, USA (6), 5-0 Sally Barkow, USA (10), 5-0 Claire Leroy, FRA (2), 4-1 Genny Tulloch, USA (11), 4-1 Anne-Clare Le Berre, FRA (7), 2-3 Julie Bossard, FRA (8), 2-3 Juliana Senfft, BRA (19), 1-4 Maegan Ruhlman, USA (66), 1-4 Sarah Bury, CAN (67), 1-4 Raquelhora Aimone, BRA (66), 0-5