*Nicole Breault (first from the right). Photo by Amanda Witherell, St. Francis Yacht Club
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (August 26, 2018) – Nicole Breault (San Francisco, Calif.) ran the table at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club, August 24-26. Without a single loss, Breault and her St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) crew of Molly Carapiet (San Francisco, Calif.), Hannah Burroughs (San Francisco, Calif.) and Karen Loutzenheiser (Santa Cruz, Calif.) successfully defended their 2016 title.
Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.), sailing with Ali Blumenthal (Bethport, N.Y.), Beka Schiff (San Diego, Calif.) and Molly Noble (Hood River, Ore.) for California Yacht Club, fought hard for second in a tiebreaker semi-final against Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.).
“It was the frosting on the cake, to have run the table, but it wasn’t my expectation. I knew either Allie and Janel, coming out of the semi-finals, would be tough. We had to be ready,” said Breault.
Breault, along with Carapiet and Loutzenheiser , also won the Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy in 2015.
With the win, Breault is invited to compete at the 2018 U.S. Match Racing Championship, hosted by the Chicago Yacht Club on October 19-21, 2018. She had already qualified to represent the U.S. at the 2019 Nations Cup Grand Final. Breault is the #1 ranked women’s match racer in the country and #8 in the world.
Eight teams were whittled down to two during three stages of match racing on San Francisco Bay. Commencing Friday with a round robin to determine seeding, racing was initially delayed due to light winds – a rare occurrence on these waters. This allowed for a little extra practice in the J/22s provided by StFYC. By Saturday there was enough breeze to power the teams rapidly through the rounds, with Breault picking off one after another to remain on top.
Blecher’s team said they were enjoying the bay’s breeze-on conditions and sorry to see the Race Committee remove spinnakers when the wind reached upper limits, “though it was the right call,” said Blumenthal.
Sunday once again dawned light and shifty for the semi-finals, which would determine seeding for the final and petit final. Marilyn Cassedy (Los Angeles, Calif.) won her pair against Stephanie Wondolleck (San Rafael, Calif.) to advance, but lost against Breault, finishing fourth overall.
The battle between second and third came down to a tiebreaker between Blecher and Zarkowsky. Blecher led during the first upwind and gained further when Zarkowsky scored a penalty on the downwind run. A tacking duel on the second upwind made for a close rounding and sailing down the course. Just short of the finish, Zarkowsky dropped the chute and smoothly executed a jibe, but it failed to fully clear the penalty, allowing Blecher to advance to the finals against Breault.
“I should have waited but my heart was racing and I knew what was on the line,” Zarkowsky recounted. “We’re glad we gave her a hard time and we’re glad she’ll be at the Nations Cup.”
The light, shifty winds settled into a steady 15 knots heading into the final, where the first race was a textbook example of Breault and her crew’s prowess. Blecher had the better start and a solid lead, but Breault clawed up her back, tack for tack, eventually seizing control and owning the first rounding. Her dialed deck crew had the spinnaker set and filled to lock in a solid lead they held to the finish.
“We’ve got to be really aggressive,” Breault said of her mindset on that first upwind. “We initiated a tacking duel and we knew were tacking better and gaining. It was like, ‘We’re behind, let’s fight right now.’”
Race two again saw Blecher control Breault through the pre-start and carry the lead all the way to the windward mark. Breault, on the hunt, shadowed her chute forcing her off to starboard.
“As soon as I saw her spinnaker collapse the second time, I knew we were going to reel her in,” said Breault. “But it’s always a struggle. We’d come out of the jibe at a crazy angle and the kite would pop and we’d ratchet forward a couple of feet.”
Breault capitalizing on every micro error, took down Blecher in three races. “I felt like we were a triple threat. We had a clear advantage, being in home waters, sailing as an experienced team in boats we know,” said Breault. “They gave it their all and did good match racing. From the grassroots women’s sailing standpoint, there was a really good vibe. There was camaraderie among competitors and it bodes really well for the regatta going forward.”
Blecher was awarded the Mrs. Charles Frances Adams Perpetual Trophy, and as the top finisher of the event who hadn’t previously qualified for the Nations Cup, she will be nominated by US Sailing to participate in the 2019 regatta, also hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club.
“We had potential, we just lost to them upwind. We just don’t have the time together in the boat,” said Blecher. “It was nice to spice things up at the starts and it was definitely fun racing.”
The U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship was sponsored by Gill, with prizes for top finishers provided by Hobie Cat and gifts for the umpires from Cameron Hughes Winery.
Randy Smith conducted a match racing clinic with the participating sailors on Thursday, August 23.
Previous winners of the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship include an impressive list of the top women’s sailors in recent U.S. history. Cory Sertl, Betsy Alison, Sally Barkow, Anna Tunnicliffe, Stephanie Roble, Genny Tulloch, Liz Baylis, and Debbie Cappozi have all won this US Sailing National Championship.
Media & Coverage
- For results, standings, photos, Twitter updates, and more information from the 2018 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, please visit the event website.
- Photo Album by Amanda Witherell, St. Francis Yacht Club
- First Place: Allegra Knapp Mertz Trophy
- Second Place: Mrs. Charles Francis Adams Memorial Trophy
Report by Amanda Witherell.
*Nicole Breault and team on Sunday. Photo by Amanda Witherell.
About US Sailing
The United States Sailing Association (US Sailing), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership, integrity, and growth for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, 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.
About Gill North America
Gill was an idea born on the water. In 1975 our founder, Nick Gill, was a keen sailor who utilised his father’s factory in Nottingham to begin production of truly capable sailing apparel. Kit that could be both protective and comfortable. We develop and test all our garments and we’ve grown to become one of the leading marine apparel brands in the world. We’ve equipped round-the-world teams when they’ve won prestigious ocean races, as well as Olympians to get them on the podium. Inspired by our nautical heritage we’ve also developed lifestyle clothing that can be worn anywhere, but which is still engineered with a marine pedigree. Today our garments utilise a range of cutting-edge technologies, from Activated Carbon baselayers to SuperFabric™, the most abrasive-resistant fabric in the world. At sea, saltwater comes at you from everywhere, so our clothing is tested in-house and on the water to withstand the very worst.
That means whatever environment you find yourself in – sea, shore or inland – we’ve already engineered the kit to perform for you. Contact: Tim DeWitt, Sales & Marketing Associate at email@example.com or 678-730-5597.
About St. Francis Yacht Club
The St. Francis Yacht Club was founded in 1927 and has been host to many of the most prestigious national and international championships in sailing. With over 40 regattas on its calendar annually, the StFYC is widely regarded as having one of the top racing and race management programs in the country. In addition to enjoying a worldwide reputation for on-water excellence, Platinum Clubs of the World named the St. Francis Yacht Club the Number One Yacht Club in the United States in 2012, 2014 and 2016, and Boardroom Magazine recognized it as the first yacht club to be a Distinguished Emerald Club of the World.