9 Lives wins the battle and Velerito wins the war in the Women on Water! 2005 Championship.

Barbara Duker was declared the Roberts S. Wilson Women on Water! Regatta winner for best performance by an all women’s team at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 10th, at Marina Venice Yacht Club.

But she didn’t know it.

She thought Andrea Cabito from Powder Puff or Denise George on 9 Lives had won.

After all, George and her team had just been presented with the one of a kind three-foot-tall sterling silver loving cup 15 minutes earlier.

This year the WOW! Regatta, the biggest women’s sailing event in Marina del Rey, was held Saturday, July 9th, and Sunday, July 10th, and had three divisions.

Division I for the WOW! Wilson trophy is for all-women crews.

Division II, the Women at the Helm Performance Class —unfortunately called WAH — is for a woman driver and a mixed crew.

Division III, Woman at the Helm Cruising Class is for a woman driver and mixed crew.

South Bay Yacht Racing Club, the Women’s Sailing Association, the Marina Venice Yacht Club and Pacific Mariners Yacht Club were official sponsors of the event with support from the Santa Monica Bay Sailing Foundation.

A couple minutes after awarding the sterling silver Robert Wilson Trophy for best performing Women on Water! team there was an announcement from principal race officer Rick Ruskin.

“There is a problem with the results,” Ruskin said.

The suspense was certainly in line with Sunday’s racing.

Going into Sunday morning’s first race, three teams were tied for first place in the WOW! Division — Andrea Cabito, Powder Puff, a Schock 35; Barbara Duker, Velerito, a Martin 242; and Denise George, 9 Lives, another Martin 242, with seven points each.

That made for excitement.

It was a cliffhanger throughout the last race on Sunday, especially with Duker and George over early, requiring them to go back and restart.

It was a cliffhanger at the awards ceremony.

And even after the ceremonies.

At the end of the day, Duker and George were still tied with nine points each in the six-boat Martin class raced within the WOW! PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) Division I.

Because there have been so many Martins within the WOW Division, it has become the custom to also award a trophy to the top-finishing Martin.

The awarding of this one design trophy caused the most moving moment of the evening.

ASMBYC (Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs) Women’s sailing coordinator and event chairman Rosalie Green called the past holder of those offices, Denise George, to the podium to present the Cheryl Rembert Memorial Trophy, simultaneously bringing up Cheryl’s husband Stewart Rembert, who had his one-and-a- half-year old twins, Michele and Will, in tow.

George had conceived of the idea of the trophy in honor of Cheryl, a 2002 WOW! Winner who died in a car crash in November last year.

There were few dry eyes after their emotional words.

Stewart Rembert explained how important WOW! and women’s sailing had been to his wife.

“It gives me exceptional pleasure to award the inaugural Cheryl Rembert Memorial Trophy to Denise George,” he said.

She had broken the tie with Duker by virtue of having three firsts to Duker’s two.

In the past 12 years, Martin 242s have dominated the WOW!

The last five years have been a sweep for Martins.

There have been two J24s and one Schock 35, which won three times.

So how can you win the one design class trophy and not win the division — the sterling silver Wilson trophy?

Follow closely.

When the scores were computed for Division 1 — that means combining the PHRF boats (two Schock 35s) and the one design group (six Martins), Velerito came out with 11 points and 9 Lives had 12.

How?

Because in race #5, Velerito put a PHRF boat — Powder Puff — between herself and Catfight, thus moving George to fourth, though she was third in the one design Martin class.

Got that?

In PHRF, the results were Velerito, 9 Lives and Powder Puff, one, two and three.

In Martin 242 One Design, it was 9 Lives, Velerito and Catfight in the one, two and three positions because Powder Puff was taken out of the equation.

As George’s husband Mike said later, “Denise won the battle, but Barbara won the war.”

Event chair Green had inadvertently received the preliminary, not the final fleet standings sheet, from which she had made the announcement.

Winner Barbara Duker had left immediately after the first announcement.

Catching up with her Monday, she said,:

“Powder Puff and I had put our heads together. She [Andrea Cabito] thought I had won. I thought she had.

“When they called the question, I had to leave to connect with a planned business call at 6:30.” Duker is a market researcher for Walt Disney.

Duker continued, “It seemed like Powder Puff [was the winner]. And Denise had won the tiebreaker.

“Denise had a wonderful regatta. We thought we did very well for ourselves. And voted ourselves the boat that had the most fun.”

Ruskin reached Duker by cell phone Sunday night and informed her of her win.

Ruskin said she was most gracious about the snafu.

She and her team will be presented the Wilson trophy after Wednesday night racing at California Yacht Club and again at the ASMBYC Installation and Awards dinner in January.

Duker’s crew were Stine Cacavas, tactics, main and spinnaker trim; Karen Jones, bow and jib trim; and Avghi Constantinides, pit.

“Avghi looked around, gave input and was our official focus person. She was the most gung-ho of all of us and set our practices up,” said Duker.

The whole team was so thrilled with their first place in the last race that they were literally dancing around the deck of Velerito, sporting their “love is a battlefield” tank tops.

WOMEN AT THE HELM — Tiffany Brain of CYC racing her Cal 33 Windfall won the crystal Women at the Helm Trophy.

Her score of 1,2,1,1,2 bested Cheryl Peppers’ 2,1,3,2,1 by two points.

Peppers, also from CYC, was racing Trust Me, a Soveral 33.

Brain, who had never raced in a WOW! Regatta, but who has had experience in other races, happily thanked her team of two women and six men for bringing the trophy home.

In Women at the Helm, Performance A Class, Lauren Turner, racing Curt Johnson’s J80, Avet, swept to victory with four firsts and one second.

Phoebe, age nine, and Celena Staff, age 11 on June 21st, were challenged racing Dad’s Cheetah 30 Wildcat.

They nevertheless claimed first place in the fourth race and took second in class.

The WSA Women at the Helm deed of gift states that the trophy goes to the largest class, in this case Performance B.

That eliminated the three-boat Performance A Class, the fastest boats, from eligibility for the crystal trophy.

That could have been solved by having them all start together, like in the WOW! and still provide separate trophies for A and B Classes.

We suspect — and hope — the deed of gift will be amended to be inclusive of all Women at the Helm teams.

In the Women at the Helm Cruising class, enthusiasm was running high throughout Lindalee Fromm’s team on Shandy when they won the tiebreaker with Shari Landon’s Reliance.

With two firsts and two seconds each, Fromm’s team broke the tie by winning the last race.

Back to the racing.

In the nine-to-11-plus knot winds, the WOW! starters were aggressive with three boats over early in the critical last race.

In contrast, the WAH starts were pretty leisurely and we might recommend another starting clinic.

One boat, whose privacy we will protect, was just about four minutes late to the line and almost disqualified.

It was fun to observe the teams out on the water at the crowded mark roundings.

There was much jockeying and trading of position.

The photo boat sped from the start to the windward mark and back to the leeward marks to be in position for the action.

Director Kevin Sullivan was filming a DVD for the event, like he did to great success last year.

There were many sights and scenes unique to this women’s event.

A hallmark of this event is the support the women give to one another’s efforts.

Duker shared details of the practice sessions that Mike George took out on 9 Lives to match and speed test with Velerito.

Duker said, “We compared speed on different tacks, learned how to cover the other boat effectively and improved close quarter work around marks. It was invaluable.”

Five past champions crewed on other teams this year.

George had two on board 9 Lives — Liz Hyorth, 1995 and Kathy Patterson, 1988. Rounding out George’s crew was Dionne Clayborne.

Third in the Martins and fourth overall, Sue Service had Marylyn Hoenemeyer, 2001, and Lisa Hackenberg, 2004, on Alice Leahey’s Catfight, normally named Runs with Scissors.

Joann Meepos had Mary Kate Scott, 2003, who owns Mischief.

That’s another very big item — owners loaning their boats to the teams.

In the first decade of WOW! all winning boats were owned by their skippers.

Since 1991, it’s been half borrowed and half owned by the contestants.

This has also become a family event.

Spouses, significant others and friends go out and watch on the water as well as create a big family party atmosphere at the clubs afterwards.

It’s a rare sight to have almost a dozen kids under 12, toddlers too, sitting cross-legged in front of the podium at an adult trophy ceremony.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT — The two-day, five-race event, was jointly sponsored by South Bay Yacht Racing Club, the Women’s Sailing Association and the Marina Venice Yacht Club.

Pacific Mariner’s Yacht Club provided the Saturday night barbecue and raffles, Marina Venice Yacht Club held the trophy party Sunday.

Both Green and Ruskin noted that this women’s racing event was truly a community effort.

Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club (SMWYC) loaned its chase boat.

Mike and Denise George, members of both SMWYC and CYC, provided the photo boat.

Ruskin used his Beneteau for the race committee.

Norm and Barry Belcher furnished the windward mark boat.

Both verbally and on the YRRC Web site, Ruskin thanked the 15 volunteers “who made the on the water portion of the event go so well.”

In an unusual move for a race organizer, Ruskin also extended an apology for the awards mistake.

The extra niceties that make for a memorable and fun regatta — special logo design, program, computer work, food, tee shirts, raffle prizes and money—were all contributed and their donors thanked at the trophy ceremony.

The sponsors were very generous. They helped provide special trophies and raffle items that made it possible to reward to almost everybody who participated.

Nine clubs from the Association of Santa Monica Yacht Club had an emissary either on race committee or running the chase boat.

Six club commodores were involved in producing the event. ASMBYC commodore Wilma Rosenberg appeared at the awards.

“I didn’t have to do much because everyone did their jobs. It was a great group,” said Ruskin.

GRAND EVENT — This is always a grand event.

Its reputation has been growing over its twenty-five year history.

Andrea Cabito of Powder Puff, 1st place Schock winner and 3rd overall WOW! lives in San Francisco.

“I love this event. I came down last year will be here again next year,” she said.

Powder Puff is really Power Play, Steve Arkle’s Schock 35 from CYC.

WHAT IT TAKES — It takes a special kind of woman to skipper a WOW team.

Or maybe doing it, helps develop a certain kind of woman.

Even in this new world, all-female crews are still rare enough that on the course, if there is a noteworthy team, the guys will ask not where Mike or Steve are, but “Where are the girls?

Especially if they are doing well.

This last Wednesday, it was wonderful to see four teams that could respond to the “Where are the girls?”

Past winners and participants, as a group, confirm that just entering, let alone winning, the WOW! is a growth enhancing endeavor.

Organizing a team, securing the boat, learning the boat, how to sort out jobs, how to direct each maneuver, tactics and strategy, practicing and practicing. It is a major commitment.

Serious teams start forming early in the year. Prior winners and contestants can be counted on to talk it up and encourage new or learning sailors.

For the Women at the Helm category, it’s a big deal to take the helm for the first time and be responsible for the whole race.

No handing off the helm if you feel anxious—if the winds come up, or maneuvering around the marks, or putting up and sailing with the spinnaker—each of these adds risk and challenge.

No risk, no challenge.

In speaking with the various winners, it was clear that wherever a woman was on the experience spectrum, even the starting or beginning class winner felt like she had just won Indianapolis.

That’s another great thing about the WOW! Regatta.

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