The 11th biennial Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship will be held Sept. 17-23 at Annapolis Yacht Club, in Annapolis, Md. Racing will take place on Chesapeake Bay aboard International J/22 sailboats.
Teams of four will compete for five days in an 11-race format. Nightly social events will culminate with the traditional celebration and awards presentation. The winner will receive a Rolex timepiece.
The regatta will attract 60 different international teams including Olympic medalists, world champions, America’s Cup veterans and the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Jody Swanson, who was awarded her title for her accomplishments in the Lightning class in 2004.
“It’s one of my favorite events to go to; it’s so much fun,” Swanson says.
This premier women’s sailing event was first organized in 1985 by US Sailing with the goal to increase opportunities for women to compete. The event has become a catalyst for many programs and regattas directed toward women sailors.
“They have made a great platform for women sailors who may not have access to a boat or to regular competition, to build confidence to race and maybe go on to more events,” says Swanson.
In 2001, big changes were made to the event when it moved from the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport, R.I., to Annapolis, Md. The J/24 was also replaced by the J/22. These changes haven’t made a difference in competition, according to Swanson.
“US Sailing does an outstanding job attracting sailors to the event.It doesn’t matter where it is, what type of boat it’s in, people are going to come because they know it’s going to be a great event,” says Swanson.
Regatta organizers encourage women of all ages and experience to compete. The event doesn’t require any qualification for entry, except US Sailing membership.
Swanson describes the event as a very friendly competition. “You’ll have a great top-end fleet with good competition, and then there will be a less experienced bottom-end fleet that will learn a great deal and enjoy themselves,” states Swanson.