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Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship Rochester, NY, USA

International Fleet Heads to Rochester

October 05, 2009

With less than two days until the start of US SAILING's Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship, 35 teams representing five countries (Canada, Great Britain, Netherlands, South Africa, United States) and 15 U.S. states have gathered at host Rochester Yacht Club (RYC). Off the mouth of the Genesee River on Lake Ontario, four days of racing will take place, Oct. 7-10, under the leadership of Principal Race Officer Hank Stuart and the RYC Race Committee. The biennial regatta, celebrating its 13th anniversary of offering women of all abilities the opportunity for top-level competition, features evening social activities and culminates with the traditional Rolex gala and awards presentation where the Bengt Julin Trophy and a Rolex timepiece will be awarded to the winning boat's skipper.

The second place team at the 2007 Rolex IWKC was lead by RYC member Cory Sertl, who will compete again at this year's event. Sertl has competed in the regatta 10 times, winning twice - as crew for Betsy Alison in the inaugural event in Newport in 1985 and as skipper in 2001 in Annapolis, Md. A 1988 Olympian and two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, Sertl kept her 2007 team together and set her sights on this year's title. Together with crew Amy Moran, Annemarie Cook and Jane Mastrandrea, they will be focused not only on doing well in the regatta but also on one other team in particular, the team that two of their daughters are part of. Moran's daughter Merritt, a RYC sail instructor and high school sailor will helm an entry including two high school sailors, Sertl's daughter Katja, and Julie Wiesner, with top-level bow person Martha Parker and 10-year-old Bridget Lawless, the youngest skipper in the history of the event, rounding out the five-person team.

"Before the Road to Rolex Clinic, I did not think I could sail keelboats," said 17-year-old Merritt Moran (Pittsford, N.Y.). "I didn't think I was old enough, or experienced enough, but after a couple regattas I've gotten pretty comfortable with the boat. I learned that no door is closed in the sport of sailing." Their official team motto is, "Have fun! Smile-itude!"

On the flip side, is the oldest crew person to compete, Teresa Smith (Rochester), who is 80 years old and crewing for 57-year-old Janice Ziobrowski.

Another regatta favorite is Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.), who placed third in the 2007 regatta. An Olympic Gold Medalist (Laser Radial) at the 2008 Games in China, Tunnicliffe returns with crew Liz Bower, RYC's junior sailing director, Molly O'Bryan Vandemoer (Annapolis, Md.) and U.S. Olympian Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.), who is the three-time champion crew with skipper Sally Barkow. Barkow is not competing this year due to scheduling conflicts. Tunnicliffe, who was recently short-listed for the ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year, is the 2008 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. Tunnicliffe, Vandemoer and Capozzi are all members of the US SAILING Team AlphaGraphics, although not together. "We know RYC will put on a great event, both on and off the water," said Tunnicliffe, who spent the weekend coaching 25 young women in the Next Step to Rolex Program. "We are very much looking forward to the event."

Carol Cronin (Jamestown, R.I.), who represented the U.S. at the 2000 Olympics in Greece, is sailing with her Olympic crew Kate Fears (Washington, D.C.) as well as Kim Couranz (Annapolis, Md.) and Margaret Podlich (Severna Park, Md.). They are all veterans of this event, but 2009 is the first as a team. Cronin won the event in 1999 crewing for Pat Connerney and has skippered ever since, sliding down the results with a 2nd in 2001, a third in 2003, and a fourth in 2005. Podlich campaigned her own J/24 (and J/22 for 2001/2003) and finished 5th in 2001. Couranz was a constant on Podlich's team until 2005, when Cronin lured her away. And Fears was bow for Cronin in 2001 and 2003, but took off 2005 to have her son Joshua. "We are looking forward to laughing and sailing together in Rochester," said Cronin.

In addition to U.S. Olympians, there are three international teams with past Olympic experience. At the helm of this year's South African Team is Dominique Provoyeur (Koelenhof, Stellenbosch) who competed in the 2008 Olympics in the Yngling class. She is no stranger to the J/22, notably finishing fifth at the 2007 World Championship in Durban, South Africa and fifth at the 2007 Rolex IWKC. Sailing with her is world championship medalist and former South African 470 crew, Tiffany Baring-Gould, Louise Meek, who has been involved in championship level racing and has sailed with Provoyeur for many years, and Saskia Butcher, a very strong and capable on bow person. This will be the team's first regatta together.

The team representing the Netherlands is made up of experienced sailors who have been racing together for the past three years, notably finishing fourth in both the 2008 Dutch J/22 Nationals and the J/22 Europeans. Skipper Marieke Poulie (Maarssen), an international attorney, started racing in 1995 when she crewed at the Rolex IWKC in Newport, R.I. Since then she has sailed on big boat programs and other J/22 events with Bregje Lodewikus, Renske Verbeek and Petronella de Jong, who represented her country at the 2000 Olympic Games.

Canadians Jennifer Provan, Martha Henderson (both Toronto, Ontario) and Katie Abbott (Sarnia, Ontario) teamed up to represented their country at the 2008 Olympic Games, finishing 13th in the Yngling Class. They are the 2009 J/22 Canadian National champions.

Four days of racing was preceded by the Next Step to Rolex program, Oct. 2-4, a developmental program for girls age 13-17 that offered keelboat training in a mentoring atmosphere, and two days of boat measurement and registration on Oct. 5-6. The Opening Ceremony takes place on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 6pm. Every day after racing, RYC will host a casual dockside happy hour in the waterside "Burgee Bar" where competitors can debrief, rehydrate and relax.

Rolex Watch U.S.A. is the title sponsor with national sponsorship from Dry Creek Vineyard, Kattack and PredictWind. Other sponsors to date include: Shumway Marine, Home Care of Rochester, Triliant Jewelers, Monroe County Sports Commission, Lake Beverage, West Marine and North Sails. The Rolex IWKC is a US SAILING Championship and hosted by the Rochester Yacht Club.

For more information, visit the event website where fans around the world can go to view photos from official event photographer Dan Nerney, read the daily reports, link to Twitter (twitter/ussailing) and follow racing live with real-time GPS tracking by Kattack. Compliments of Rolex, daily highlights videos produced by will be uploaded each evening (after 9pm eastern) to both and

About the Rolex IWKC: Inaugurated in 1985 at the instigation of the US SAILING's Women's Championship Committee, the Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship quickly became the premier women's sailing event in the U.S. and worldwide. Held biennially, the event provides women keelboat and offshore sailors high-quality racing and an opportunity to compete with top national and international sailors. Rolex Watch U.S.A. has sponsored the regatta since its inception. The event is part of US SAILING's Championships calendar.

The Rolex IWKC joins other prestigious Rolex-sponsored events including the Rolex Miami OCR, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex, the Rolex Big Boat Series and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. For more information visit, the online press portal for Rolex yachting events.

About the Rochester Yacht Club: Incorporated in 1877, the Rochester Yacht Club celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2002 and is still going strong. The first regatta was held in 1877 with eight sail boats competing and most recently it hosted 102 boats at the J/22 World Championship. Its purpose is to provide and encourage interests and instruction in areas of yachts and yachting, seamanship, racing and traditions of yachting. By car, RYC is seven miles from the heart of Rochester, Monroe County, New York, and it is located on the south shore of Lake Ontario and accessible from the Genesee River.

About US SAILING: The United States Sailing Association (US SAILING) is the national governing body for sailing. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, the organization provides leadership for the sport of sailing in the United States. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Teams. For more information, please visit

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