Blecher Wins First U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship

Results and Standings

Real-time updates from the race course on Twitter – #WomensMatch19


L to Ri: Ali Blumenthal, Krysia Pohl, Beka Schiff, Allie Blecher. Photo by Element Photography.

DETROIT, Mich. (August 18, 2019) Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.) won the 17th U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship with a 2-0 victory over Giselle Camet Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.) in Sunday’s Final.

Blecher, the 2010 Quantum Collegiate Female Sailor of the Year and a member of the US Sailing Team in 2013, won the Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy for the first time in her second attempt. She finished runner-up in last year’s championship held in San Francisco. This year she won an abbreviated final that was reduced to a best-of-three from a best-of-five due to thunderstorms in the Detroit area.

“This is a good one. This is the highlight of our season. We’ve been working towards this one in particular,” said Blecher, who works as a sustainment integration project manager for Northrup Grumman in El Segundo, Calif. Her crew included main trimmer and tactician Beka Schiff (Los Angeles, Calif.), trimmer Krysia Pohl (San Francisco, Calif.) and bowperson Ali Blumenthal (Bellport, N.Y.).

“Last year we were sort of new to match racing, it was our first time facing Nicole (Breault, three time winner),” said Blecher. “We were in a good spot against her at every start, but she had the boatspeed. We knew we were able to sail against her. This year we were coming in for the win. This one is a highlight, top of the list right now.”

Camet Nyenhuis was awarded the Mrs. Charles Francis Adams Memorial Trophy for finishing runner-up. Her crew included Dana Riley Hayes (San Rafael, Calif.) and Molly Vandermoer (Stanford, Calif.).

Blecher and Camet Nyenhuis advanced to the final of the US Sailing National championship by winning their semifinal matches. Blecher defeated Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.), 3-0, while Camet Nyenhuis defeated Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.), 3-2, in a much tighter match.

Camet Nyenhuis, who previously won the Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy in 1989 and ’96 when it was awarded to the U.S. Women’s Singlehanded Champion, won the first semifinal race on Saturday afternoon, then lost the next two races this morning to fall behind 2-1. But she would rally to win the next two races in a building breeze to advance to the final.

“She (Janel) won two to go up by one, but we just kept fighting,” said Camet Nyenhuis. “The first couple races we weren’t making things happen, but then we got into a grove in the next two and pulled off moving into the final round against Allie.”

Janel Zarkowsky (Annpolis, Md.) finished third after winning a one race sail-off against Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.), who finished fourth.

Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.) won the consolation round to place fifth overall, followed by Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.) in sixth and Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.) in seventh.

After Blecher won the first race in a tight, competitive affair. She led at the first windward mark but Camet Nyenhuis passed on the first downwind leg. They swapped positions again on the second upwind leg and this time Blecher held on for the win.

“It was a great race,” said Camet Nyenhuis.

Just as Race 2 was starting a squall moved through the racing area with 30-knot puffs. Both Blecher and Camet Nyenhuis described a “big black cloud” crossing the racecourse and it ripped the jib cars off their tracks on Blecher’s boat and sent Camet Nyenhuis into a capsize.

“We were on our side with our mast in the water and our keel out of the water. It was pretty interesting,” said Camet Nyenhuis. The umpires rightly abandoned the race and sent everyone shoreside.

The storm abated within about 30 minutes and the crews returned to the water to resume the final. In a light and puffy breeze around 8 to 10 knots, Blecher won the start leading to the line which gave her control of the race that she would win to seal the championship.

“Our goal was to make sure we were leading to the line. We didn’t want to be in a pushing position,” Blecher said. “After that we were able to get them into a corner of the racecourse. They’re a fast team so we knew we needed a bit of distance between us.”

Blecher said that the current was a major factor on the racecourse, as it had been all weekend. “There was a bit of a cross current. We had to make sure we weren’t sailing too far in one direction or the other. We had to pay attention to the puffs and make sure we weren’t overstanding when lifted because of the current,” she said.

With the win Blecher is eligible to be invited to the 2019 U.S. Match Racing Championship hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club on October 3-6, 2019.

The U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship grew out of the U.S. Women’s Open Championship regatta that was founded in 1974 for fleet racing in doublehanded and singlehanded divisions. A boardsailing championship was added in 1981. In 2000, a motion to change the event from fleet racing to match racing was passed and the first U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship was held at Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans, La.) in November 2002.

The Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy is presented to the winner in honor of Allegra Knapp Mertz, a four-time winner of the U.S. Women’s National Championship and many years of service as Chairperson of the Women’s Championship Committee. The Adams Memorial Trophy is presented to the runner-up in honor of Mrs. Henry (Adams) Morgan.

17th U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship – Final Standings
Aug. 15-18, 2019
Bayview Yacht Club (Detroit, Mich.)

1. Skipper: Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.), Crew: Ali Blumenthal (Bellport, N.Y.), Krysia Pohl (San Francisco, Calif.), Beka Schiff (Los Angeles, Calif.)
2. Giselle Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.), Dana Riley Hayes (San Rafael, Calif.), Molly Vandermoer (Stanford, Calif.)
3. Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.), Rose Edwards (New York, N.Y.), Isabelle Ruiz de Luzuriaga (Philadelphia, Pa.), Sara Swanson (Cambridge, Mass.)
4. Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.), Alexa Cavalieri (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Nicole Sikowitz (Essex, Md.), Kaitlyn Von Nostrand (Seattle, Wash.)
5. Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.), Stine Cacavas (Los Angeles, Calif.), Karyn Jones (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)
6. Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.), Melinda Erkelens (Richmond, Calif.), Sandra Svoboda (Grosse Pointe, Mich.)
7. Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.), Morgan Collins (Norfolk, Va.), Abigail Rohman (New York, N.Y.), Hope Wilson (New York, N.Y.)

For results, standings, photos, updates, and more information from the 2019 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, please visit the event website.

Participate in the conversation this week on Twitter and other social media channels using – #WomensMatch19.

For more information contact
Lance Smotherman, Bayview Yacht Club, lance.smotherman@comcast.net
Sean McNeill, US Sailing, sbmn65@gmail.com

2019 U.S. Women's Match Racing Championship



L to R: Ali Blumenthal, Krysia Pohl, Beka Schiff, Allie Blecher. Photo by Element Photography.

Day 2 Report – Blecher, Camet Nyenhuis Lead Semifinal Matches

Giselle Camet Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.) stormed through Day 2 of the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship and stands 2 points from advancing to the final.

Camet Nyenhuis won all six of her matches in the second round-robin and added a victory over Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.) in the first flight of their semifinal match to finish the day 7-0 on the water. Camet Nyenhuis won the Allegra Mertz Trophy awarded to the champion twice (1989, ’96) when it was awarded to the U.S. Women’s Singlehanded Champion, and now she’s looking to win it for the first time in the current match racing format.

There was more action on the second day of racing due to increased wind pressure in the westerly gradient breeze. As with the first day, the current was a dominating factor on the racecourse.

“The current was running counter to the wind, and with the course in the middle of the Detroit River, there was no escaping the current on the downwind legs,” said Principal Race Officer Matt Bounds. “The wind direction was fairly steady (270°), but the velocity was up and down between 5 and 15 knots, which made shifting gears in the overpowered Ultimate 20s a priority.”

Although Camet Nyenhuis went undefeated in the second round-robin she was penalized a half point in her Flight 4 match against Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.) for contact during the pre-start. That penalty allowed Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.) to win the round robin with 9 points on a 9-3 record and advance to the semifinals as the No. 1 seed.

Camet Nyenhuis also finished 9-3 but had 8.5 points due to the penalty.

Zarkowsky, the Day 1 leader, advanced to the semifinals as the No. 3 seed after running into rougher waters today. She went 2-4 in the second round-robin and finished with 7 points on a 7-5 record.

The fourth semifinalist is Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.), who finished with 6 points on a 6-6 record.

In the first flight of the semifinals, Blecher beat Cassedy for a 1-0 lead and Camet Nyenhuis beat Zarkowsky. The semifinals resume tomorrow morning and the winner of each match will be the first to score 3 points. The two winners will meet for the Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy tomorrow afternoon.

U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship
Aug. 15-18, 2019
Bayview Yacht Club (Detroit, Mich.)

SEMIFINALS (First to 3 points)
Match 1
Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.) 1
Crew: Alie Blumenthal (Bellport, N.Y.), Krysia Pohl (San Francisco, Calif.), Beka Schiff (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.) 0
Crew: Alexa Cavalieri (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Nicole Sikowitz (Essex, Md.), Kaitlyn Von Nostrand (Seattle, Wash.)

Match 2
Giselle Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.) 1
Crew: Dana Riley Hayes (San Rafael, Calif.), Molly Vandermoer (Stanford, Calif.)

Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.) 0
Crew: Rose Edwards (New York, N.Y.), Isabelle Ruiz de Luzuriaga (Philadelphia, Pa.), Sara Swanson (Cambridge, Mass.)

ROUNDS ROBIN FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Blecher, 9-3, 9 points
    2. Camet Nyenhuis, 9-3, 8.5
    3. Zarkowsky, 7-5, 7
  2. Cassedy, 6-6, 6
  3. Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.) 5-7, 5
    Crew: Melinda Erkelens (Richmond, Calif.), Sandra Svoboda (Grosse Pointe, Mich.)
  4. Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.) 4-8, 4
    Crew: Morgan Collins (Norfolk, Va.), Abigail Rohman (New York, N.Y.), Hope Wilson (New York, N.Y.)
  5. Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.) 2-10, 2
    Crew: Stine Cacavas (Los Angeles, Calif.), Karyn Jones (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

For results, standings, photos, updates, and more information from the 2019 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, please visit the event website.

Participate in the conversation this week on Twitter and other social media channels using – #WomensMatch19.


Day 1 Report – Zarkowsky Takes Early Lead
Aug. 16, 2019

Janel Zarkowsky leads the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship after the first day of racing at Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, Mich.

Zarkowsky, who finished third in this regatta last year after placing runner-up in 2015 and ’16, completed today’s round robin with a 5-1 record. Allie Blecher holds second with a 4-2 record, followed by Giselle Camet Nyenhuis in third at 3-3.

Stephanie Wondolleck is fourth, also at 3-3, followed by Marilyn Cassedy, Bridget Grobel and Liz Hjorth, all of whom are 2-4.

Today’s conditions were frustrating for all involved as the wind blew mostly around 5 knots, sometimes gusting upwards of 8 knots. There were frequent starts and stops to the racing as the race committee waited for the wind to settle, but the current proved the most challenging feature of the day.

“If there is one thing to take away from today it would be to not stress about the match racing,” said Zarkowsky. “You have to sail the boat fast knowing what to do with the current. I was always looking at my watch to see when the current would slow down, speed up or switch sides, but it never happened. By the end we were prioritizing the current and then fleet racing strategies and sometimes forgetting the match racing strategies.”

Zarkowsky’s only loss came at the hands of Wondolleck, who beat her in their Flight 5 match.

“We won the start against her but then gave up the favored side of the course,” said Zarkowsky. “She got ahead on the first upwind and we were never able to get past her.”

Racing is scheduled to continue tomorrow in what forecasts are saying will be the best day of racing.

U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship
Aug. 15-18, 2019
Bayview Yacht Club (Detroit, Mich.)

  1. Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.) 5-1
    Crew: Rose Edwards (New York, N.Y.), Isabelle Ruiz de Luzuriaga (Philadelphia, Pa.), Sara Swanson (Cambridge, Mass.)
  2. Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.) 4-2
    Crew: Alie Blumenthal (Bellport, N.Y.), Krysia Pohl (San Francisco, Calif.), Beka Schiff (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  3. Giselle Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.) 3-3
    Crew: Dana Riley Hayes (San Rafael, Calif.), Molly Vandermoer (Stanford, Calif.)
  4. Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.) 3-3
    Crew: Melinda Erkelens (Richmond, Calif.), Sandra Svoboda (Grosse Pointe, Mich.)
  5. Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.) 2-4
    Crew: Alexa Cavalieri (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Nicole Sikowitz (Essex, Md.), Kaitlyn Von Nostrand (Seattle, Wash.)
  6. Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.) 2-4
    Crew: Morgan Collins (Norfolk, Va.), Abigail Rohman (New York, N.Y.), Hope Wilson (New York, N.Y.)
  7. Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.) 2-4
    Crew: Stine Cacavas (Los Angeles, Calif.), Karyn Jones (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

For results, standings, photos, updates, and more information from the 2019 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, please visit the event website.

Participate in the conversation this week on Twitter and other social media channels using – #WomensMatch19.


Preview: Racing this weekend for seven crews, including two of top three from last year.

DETROIT, Mich. (August 15, 2019) For skippers such as Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.) and Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.), the absence of the three-time reigning U.S. Women’s Match Racing Champion just means a wide-open regatta for the seven crews competing this week for the Allegra Mertz Trophy.

Action from the 2018 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship. Photo by Amanda Witherell.

The U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, a US Sailing National Championship hosted by the Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, Mich., is scheduled this week for three days of racing on Friday, August 16, through Sunday, August 18. Blecher placed second last year to Nicole Breault, who is unable to compete due to racing at the Women’s Match Racing World Championship last week, and Zarkowsky placed third, following on consecutive runner-up finishes in 2015 and ’16.

Three other skippers from last year, Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.), Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.) and Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.), look to improve on their fourth, sixth and seventh overall placings, respectively. First-time entrants Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.) and Giselle Camet Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.) round out the field.

Blecher and Zarkowsky are among the most experienced skippers in the fleet and figure to be racing late into the regatta. Last year Blecher beat Zarkowsky 3-2 in the semifinals in a hard-fought match that came down to the last run. Zarkowsky had earned a penalty in the fifth and deciding race but had stretched out a lead on the run to the finish where she planned to do her penalty turn at the finish line.

“I retained a penalty from the pre-start but had her in a good spot on the run,” Zarkowsky said. “I misjudged the current in San Francisco Bay. I thought I had sent her far enough downwind to complete my penalty turn, but the current brought us back up to the finish and she was able to get past. Allie’s a great competitor, I like sailing against her.”

“She tried a textbook move but didn’t quite get it done and we were able to squeeze across the finish,” said Blecher, who sailed with Breault last week at the Women’s Match Racing World Championship in Sweden. This week she’ll be racing with Beka Schiff (Los Angeles, Calif.), who also sailed in Sweden last week, Alie Blumenthal (Bellport, N.Y.), and Krysia Pohl, a newcomer to her Team Bam.

“I’m feeling very prepared and remaining calm at same time,” said Blecher. “Sailing internationally is so different from sailing in the States. Last week we got to race the World champs (skipper Lucy Macgregor and crew) and it’s great to see the way they sail the boat; the way they do the pre-start, when to attack and when to extend. Watching them drives home the old point that less is more.”

A match racing clinic hosted by Liz Baylis, a member of the US Sailing Match Racing Committee and the 2003 and 2007 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Champion, is scheduled for Thursday. The competition will be held in the Ultimate 20, or U20, a lightweight, 20-foot long monohull with the performance of a multihull.

“It’s a really fun boat,” said Zarkowsky after a weekend of practice. “It’s got a wide-open cockpit, so you don’t feel congested with four on the boat. All the sail controls are laid out simply and are easy to grasp. It’s really light, it loves being rolled and flattened aggressively, and that’s fun to do from a boathandling point of view.”

Zarkowsky, the coach of the Georgetown University Sailing Team and a director of Basic Sail Training at the U.S. Naval Academy Sailing Program, has been a regular competitor at the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship for the better part of the past decade. Before becoming a skipper, she did bow and tactics for Stephanie Roble, who won the Allegra Mertz Trophy in 2014.

Zarkowsky moved to the helm in 2015 and this year she’ll be racing with a crew largely experienced in collegiate sailing including Rose Edwards (New York, N.Y.), Isabelle Ruiz de Luzuriaga (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Sara Swanson (Cambridge, Ma.). In fact, Edwards and de Luzuriaga are both graduates of Georgetown and were coached by Zarkowsky.

“It’s a good crew. I’ve sailed with Rose and Isabelle before and Sara is new to the party,” said Zarkowsky. “They’re all college sailing grads who’ve been immersed in team racing and a bit of match racing. They’re young and enthusiastic with finesse and power. They’re excited to implement their college experience with this particular keelboat.”

The top placing eligible skipper will be invited to race at the 2019 U.S. Match Racing Championship hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club on October 3-6, 2019.

The U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship grew out of the U.S. Women’s Open Championship regatta that was founded in 1974 for fleet racing in doublehanded and singlehanded divisions. A boardsailing championship was added in 1981. In 2000, a motion to change the event from fleet racing to match racing was passed and the first U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship was held at Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans, La.) in November 2002.

The Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy is presented to the winner in honor of Allegra Knapp Mertz, a four-time winner of the U.S. Women’s National Championship and many years of service as Chairperson of the Women’s Championship Committee. (Camet Nyenhuis previously won the Mertz trophy in 1989 and ’96 when it was awarded to the singlehanded champion.) The Adams Memorial Trophy is presented to the runner-up in honor of Mrs. Henry (Adams) Morgan.

17th U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship Entrant List
Aug. 15-18, 2019
Bayview Yacht Club (Detroit, Mich.)
7 Teams

  • Skipper: Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.), Crew: Alie Blumenthal (Bellport, N.Y.), Krysia Pole, Beka Schiff (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • Marilyn Cassedy (Lawndale, Calif.), Alexa Cavalieri (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Nicole Sikowitz (Essex, Md.), Kaitlyn Von Nostrand (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Bridget Grobel (Chicago, Ill.), Morgan Collins (Norfolk, Va.), Abigail Rohman (New York, N.Y.), Hope Wilson (New York, N.Y.)
  • Liz Hjorth (Marina Del Rey, Calif.), Stine Cacavas (Los Angeles, Calif.), Karyn Jones (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)
  • Giselle Nyenhuis (San Diego, Calif.), Dana Riley Hayes (San Rafael, Calif.), Molly Vandermoer (Stanford, Calif.)
  • Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.), Melinda Erkelens (Richmond, Calif.), Sandra Svoboda (Grosse Pointe, Mich.)
  • Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.), Rose Edwards (New York, N.Y.), Isabelle Ruiz de Luzuriaga (Philadelphia, Pa.), Sara Swanson (Cambridge, Mass.)

For results, standings, photos, updates, and more information from the 2019 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, please visit the event website.

Participate in the conversation this week on Twitter and other social media channels using – #WomensMatch19.

For more information contact
Lance Smotherman, Bayview Yacht Club, lance.smotherman@comcast.net
Sean McNeill, US Sailing, sbmn65@gmail.com

About US Sailing
The United States Sailing Association (US Sailing), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership, integrity, and advancement for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Bristol, Rhode Island, US Sailing is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. 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 US Sailing Team. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org.