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American sailors win silver in France

The U.S. Yngling team of Sally Barkow of Chenequa, Wis., Debbie Capozzi of Bayport, N.Y., and Carrie Howe of Grosse Pointe, Mich., won silver April 27 at the Semaine Olympique Française de Voile — or French Sailing Week — in Hyères, France.

Barkow and her team won the final, double-point medal race, after battling with Great Britain’s team led by Sarah Ayton, who picked up the bronze. The Russian team led by Ekaterina Skudina secured their gold finish, a lead they held throughout the week.

“This is a great end to our month in Europe,” said Barkow. “We faced some tough racing. We made some mistakes throughout the week, which caused us to learn valuable lessons for when the pressure is on.”

The big breeze that the sailors had been looking forward to all week finally reared its head in the final two days providing for an exciting finale. Steady winds and significant waves during the medal races translated into a different game of racing than the rest of the week. Barkow’s team said they changed their tactical style to match race their competitors in order to gain positions.

“When the wind is steady and settled and there is some rhythm to the shifts, sailboat racing is a fun game of inches gained and lost, but that’s not what we’ve experienced for the last five days,” the team wrote in their daily newsletter. “For those without the nerve, this was fingernails-bitten-to-the-bone uncertainty.”

Barkow’s team is ranked the number one Yngling crew on the 2007 U.S. Sailing Team and was named U.S. Sailing’s 2005 Team of the Year. Barkow was also named U.S. Sailing’s 2005 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.

An International Sailing Federation Grade 1 event, Semaine Olympique Française attracted around 900 boats from 58 countries. The event included five days of racing culminating with the final medal races, which followed the new Olympic format, lining up the top 10 teams in each class on the starting line on the final day of racing.

On April 6, for the second year in a row, the team of Barkow, Capozzi and Carrie Howe won the 2007 Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

In a competitive fleet of 36 entries, Barkow and her team battled fluky and frustrating conditions to ultimately finish in first place, ahead of the British team led by Sarah Ayton.

“I am proud of the way we handled such tricky conditions,” said Howe.

Match racing on St.PeteHarbor

Liz Baylis of San Rafael, Calif., and her San Francisco Women’s Match Racing Team won the 2007 Rolex Women’s Match, hosted by the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Yacht Club, April 5 to 9.

Sailing with Baylis were Lee Icyda of Stuart, Fla., Karina Shelton of Watsonville, Calif., and Suzy Leech of Simsbury, Conn. A total of 10 teams competed in the International Sailing Federation Grade 3 match-racing regatta, where world match-racing champion and five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Betsy Alison of Newport, R.I., conducted the two-day match-racing clinic that preceded competition in Sonar keelboats. With the win, Baylis, along with second-place finisher Rachel Silverstein of St. Petersburg, Fla., gained an automatic invitation into the Rolex Osprey Cup, an ISAF Grade 1 regatta, to be held Oct. 18 to 22, at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

“This was the first time we sailed together in this crew combination and it was great to have it come together so well,” said Baylis, the 2002 women’s match racing world champion and Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. “The teamwork was fantastic. Lee, Karina and Suzy did a fantastic job. Even if I blew a start, we had the confidence that we could out ‘boat handle’ or out ‘boat speed’ the other teams.”

The team was headed for the next Grade 1 events — the IX International Match Race Criterium in Calpe, Spain, where Melinda Erkelens of Oakland, Calif., will be joining the team, and the BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup in Annapolis, Md.

Florida sailors dominate multihull championship

Racing at the U.S. Multihull Championship had been exciting until the wind neglected to show up on the waters off host club Melbourne Yacht Club in Melbourne, Fla., for the final day, April 29.

For John Casey of Longwood, Fla., and John Williams of Jacksonville, Fla., that was good news. The two Floridians won every race they competed in, earning the National Championship title and U.S. Sailing’s Hobie Alter Cup.

Olympic medalist and U.S. Sailing Team member John Lovell and his wife, Katy Pilley-Lovell, from New Orleans, finished second in every race. Third place went to John and Tiffany Tomko of Canyon Lake, Texas. The Hoyt Jolley Sportsmanship Trophy was awarded to Matt McDonald of Merritt Island, Fla.

First held in 1987, the U.S. Multihull Championship is sailed each year in a different multihull class at a different venue. Rolex Watch U.S.A. sponsored the event as well as all of U.S. Sailing’s National Adult Championships. This year’s championship was sailed on Blade F16s, supplied by Vectorworks.

Boston on board for 2008-’09 Volvo

Boston has been formally announced as a stopover for the 2008-’09 Volvo Ocean Race.

The news that Boston will be the only North American stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race came at a ceremony to introduce the Boston-based entry, Puma Racing Team.

The U.S. entry will be skippered by top American sailor Ken Read and sponsored by the global sport lifestyle company Puma, which has its North American and international brand headquarters in Boston.

“We are delighted that Boston has been selected as the only North American stopover for the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race,” said Boston mayor, Thomas M. Menino.

Two weeks of festivals and local events are planned during mid-May 2009, to celebrate the arrival and departure of the Volvo Ocean Race, Boston’s maritime history and the sport of sailing.

A point-scoring in-port race will take place in BostonHarbor if the wind is in a favorable direction. Alternatively the race will be held just outside the harbor.

A pro-am race, which takes place in every host port the day after the in-port race, will be take place inside the harbor with racing close by to Fan Pier and Rowes Wharf. The pro-am race is not a points-scoring race and does not have a set course enabling it to be tailored to suit each venue and making it a close-to-shore spectator event.

Every boat in the Volvo fleet will take part, and will be sailed by half its normal race crew, with the remainder being made up of specially invited guests.

Weather warnings end Charleston Race Week

Tornado warnings and bridge closures made the Race Committee’s decision to abandon all racing on April 15, Day 3 of Charleston Race Week, an easy one.

“Around 8 this morning, a handful of skippers begged me to let them race today, assuring me that they could handle the breeze, which was blowing around 25 knots at that time,” said event director Brad Van Liew. “I told them that they could handle it now, but they were not going to be able to handle 11.”

Brad’s high confidence in the forecast proved justified, as the breeze steadily built to a sustained 35 knots, with gusts of over 60 knots recorded in a line squall. After the party tent collapsed on itself, the awards ceremony was moved into one of the resort’s conference rooms while the kitchen staff prepared the traditional Charleston Ocean Racing Association chili buffet.

All Class winners picked up their trophies, along with a VHF from Raymarine and a Gosling’s Dark n’ Stormy gift pack.

“We’ve got a very happy crew, and I just hope that some of our Gosling’s prize is left by the time we get on the plane. I’m not optimistic,” said Melges 24 winner Simon Strauss.

Key Biscayne sailor Steven Stollman won the Palmetto Cup, a 20-inch-tall sterling silver cup awarded to the overall PHRF champion. The cup had already been around for decades when it was requisitioned as the overall award for the first Charleston Race Week. This is Stollman’s second consecutive overall win at Charleston Race Week, with Primal Scream, a C&C 115 he’s owned for only two years.

J/105 Class winner Brian Keane and Savasana won the Charleston Race Week Cup in recognition of the best performance of any one-design competitor. Keane is also a consecutive two-time winner here, and his Massachusetts crew considers this a high point of their travel schedule.

Fastnet race set to attract diverse fleet

Entries are streaming in for the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race — the 608-mile race considered one of the world’s classic ocean races. The 2007 fleet will start on Aug. 12 from the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes, then race out through the Solent continuing westward down the English Channel to Land’s End and then across the Celtic Sea, before rounding the Fastnet Rock off the south-west tip of Ireland and returning to the finish off Plymouth.

The fleet is expected to be both diverse and large, ranging from 100-foot super maxi monohulls to 60-foot multihulls to 35-foot cruiser-racers. The Royal Ocean Racing Club sought to ease some of the logistical issues by putting a cap on entries at 300 boats. In 2005 the fleet numbered 283 and the RORC race management are optimistic that this figure will be exceeded by close of entries on July 27.

The bulk of the fleet will race under IRC where the star attraction is likely to be Mike Slade’s Farr-designed Leopard 3 due to be launched this summer.

“We had a fantastic time with Leopard of London [the old Leopard boat] in the 2003 Rolex Fastnet and it was a great moment to win the Fastnet Rock Trophy [best overall in IRM] in that event,” Slade said. “This year, with the new boat, we will be aiming for line honors but it will be a tough race. In light winds we are likely to struggle against some of the other super maxis like Alfa Romeo and Rambler, but given a bit of breeze I think we will be able to get going and show how fast she will be.”

The Open 60s will have their own start and the line-up of 10 or more is expected to feature Jonny Malbon and Graham Tourell on Artemis, Alex Thompson and Andrew Cape on Hugo Boss and Roland Jourdain’s Sill et Veolia. Taking part in their first Rolex Fastnet will be a number of the Class 40, of which first to enter is Novidea/Set from France. www.rorc.org