Since 1980, women sailors from Santa Monica Bay have competed for the Robert S. Wilson Trophy, awarded to the winning team in the Women on Water (“WOW”) series.
This past weekend saw nine teams of all women — seven of which were sailing Martin 242s — vying for this honor.
Concurrent with the WOW, ten women skippers with both men and women as crew, competed in the Woman at the Helm (“WAH”) Division for the Women’s Sailing Association (WSA) Perpetual Trophy.
Orchestrating this regatta pulls together a wide group of supporters, who were ably directed by ASMBYC (Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs) women’s sailing coordinator Cheryl Rembert.
Owners lend their boats to women, many of whom crew on the boat throughout the racing season.
Coaches, including past winners, offer their time to improve the racing skills of less experienced teammates. And volunteers from four yacht clubs — South Bay Yacht Racing Club, Marina Venice Yacht Club, Pacific Mariners Yacht Club and the Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay — work together to put on an event that is as much fun on shore as it is on the water.
This year’s WOW division — according to competitor Denise George — “had some of the tightest racing I’ve seen in this event.”
Mark roundings and finish times were close, which was particularly notable, since the regatta was sailed in a wide range of conditions.
Breezes peaked in the mid-teens on Saturday but light wind with less than a quarter-mile visibility challenged the racers on Sunday.
And the camaraderie among the competitors was as sincere as the rivalries on the water.
South Bay Yacht Racing Club (SBYRC) vice commodore Julie Albright, who was the principal race officer for the regatta, announced the top finishers at Sunday’s trophy ceremony.
In the WOW division, it was skipper Lisa Hackenberg sailing Patience, the Martin 242 that finished first overall with a record of 1-1-2-5-1.
Her team consisted of Melissa Fowler on jib and bow, Marylyn Hoenemeyer on main and Cheryl Rembert on spinnaker.
This team is no stranger to the podium, as they were the WOW winners in 2002, with Cheryl Rembert as skipper. And all them except Melissa sailed together on the winning effort in 2001 with Hoenemeyer on the helm.
Previous WOW winners were racing on two other boats in the fleet. 1998 champion Kathy Patterson sailed with skipper Barbara Duker on Velerito as tactician and main trimmer. The team’s second place finish, including a win in the third race, was impressive, as this was Duker’s first year sailing in the regatta.
The crew was fortunate to have had coaching from Yumio Dornberg, who literally grew up on Velerito when it was owned by his family and raced under the name Cookie Monster.
Last year’s winner, Mary Kate Scott, crewed on her boat Mischief, helmed this year by Lauren Turner. This team was thought to be a top contender, having set an extensive practice schedule that began early in the season.
Unfortunately, an equipment failure forced the boat to retire during the second race. But the team returned on Sunday sailing Larry Travis’s Martin 242, Lucky Jack. They may not have won a trophy, but they earned the respect of many of their competitors with their Corinthian spirit — racing hard but avoiding any mix-ups that may have had an effect on the overall standings.
Also returning to the regatta was Denise George, who finished third overall on her Martin 242, 9 Lives.
Denise has been competing in this event since 1998, first as a crew member and more recently as skipper.
This progression from crew to skipper is one of the hallmarks of this regatta, which is designed to encourage women sailors to continue to improve their sailing skills and to challenge themselves to compete at increasingly higher levels.
Veteran skipper Kathy St. Amant, sailing the Jeanneau 37 Can2, won the WSA Perpetual Trophy for the best performance in the WAH Division.
Participation in the WAH division continued strong this year, thanks in large part to the efforts of Rick Ruskin, who sailed as part of the Can2 crew.
Two of the WAH entrants, including the second place team led by Jeanne DiBella on her Beneteau 38, Topa, were sailing with all-women crews, quite an organizational fete considering that these boats require eight to ten crew to sail competitively.
The biggest round of applause, however, went to ten-year-old Laura Georgia, the “Littlest Woman Skipper” in the regatta, who finished fourth overall in the WAH division, sailing a Martin 242 double-handed with her father, Mike.
Complete regatta results can be found at SBYRC’s Web site: www.sbyrc.org