As the sport of yacht racing progresses, the sight of women sailors is no longer an odd aberration, but instead gradually becoming commonplace.
In a sailing world that has been and continues to be dominated by men, women racers are steadily making their presence felt with clubs devoted exclusively to women sailors, world-class record-breaking racers such as England’s Ellen McArthur and regattas designed especially for women, such as the recently held Women on the Water/Woman at the Helm regatta hosted by the South Bay Yacht Racing Club.
Saturday and Sunday, July 8th and 9th, the Woman on the Water (WOW) and the Woman at the Helm (WAH) Regattas shared the racecourse under moderate winds for a weekend of competitive sailing.
The Woman on the Water requires that the boat be operated by an entirely female complement and the Woman at the Helm mandates that the skipper, but not necessarily the crew, be female.
While female bonding and the sailing sorority were alive and well at Pacific Mariners Yacht Club after the event, on Santa Monica Bay during the two afternoons it was all business.
“It was really close racing between the top two boats in that class,” said principal race officer and vice commodore of South Bay Yacht Racing Club Jerome Sammarcelli of the fierce competition in the WOW one design class. “It was good — very competitive.”
Stine Cacavas and her crew needed to sail a near-perfect race aboard her Martin 242, Velerito, to win (by tie break) in the one design class over Denise George’s 9 Lives.
George and her husband Mike operate MG Marine, which is currently producing new Martin 242s, so her knowledge of the boat and sailing Santa Monica Bay is vast, making her a very credible opponent.
On the other hand, Cacavas, while an experienced dinghy sailor, hasn’t been an active skipper since 1997.
Although she did a recent warmup race for this regatta, she hasn’t had any serious helm-time in many years.
“I grew up sailing dinghies in Denmark,” said Cacavas. “I sailed very competitively in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so it’s kind of like riding a bike.
“But I made a lot of mistakes — I think I could have done better if I’d practiced more.”
Cacavas and George were tied after the first day of racing (each getting a first, second, third) making the remaining two races on Sunday that much more crucial.
“It was tough competition,” said Cacavas. “If you made one mistake or one tactical error, one of the other boats would be ahead of you and you’d have to battle your way back.
“Each one of us is good enough to be both offensive and defensive at the same time. You cover your competition, but you also try to catch the one ahead of you. That’s why the competition was so intense.”
George and Cacavas remained tied to the very end of the regatta, forcing a tiebreaker.
A tie break is decided by awarding the win to the sailor who won the last race in the series of races.
So in this regatta, both competitors won the same number of contests, but Cacavas was fortunate to win the one that counted most.
“We are very evenly matched,” said Cacavas of the close finish. “And that makes it all that much more fun to race.”
In the Woman at the Helm cruising division, Nora Feddal skippering Faire Warning dominated the competition with four bullets and in the performance class, Cheryl Peppers also got all first place finishes across the board aboard Trust Me.
Joan Chandler in Powder Puff consistently beat Tiffany Brain sailing Windfall in the WOW PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet) division earning her the victory in that class.