Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship applications open

The Next Step to Rolex program teaches junior women sailors the skills and teamwork to race keelboats in events such as the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship
© Rolex / Dan Nerney
US Sailing’s Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship has been a constant and reliable catalyst for junior women sailors who are looking to broaden their sailing horizons.

Over the years, participants have not only been exposed to successful women sailors – including Heidi Backus, US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Paralympic Coach Betsy Alison and Europe Olympic Silver Medalist Courtenay Dey, each of whom went on to become a Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year – but also have gone on to sail at the college level or pursue their own Olympic dreams.

Junior women sailors interested in taking their own next step in the sport are invited to participate in the 2011 Next Step to Rolex, which will focus on learning advanced keelboat racing skills and techniques. The two-day clinic, held in conjunction with the Rolex IWKC, will be held from August 25-26 at Rochester Yacht Club (Rochester, N.Y.) and the sailors will be trained on J/22s. Interested junior women sailors, 13 to 17 years old, can apply online beginning Thursday, May 12, at here. Space is limited to 24 sailors and a lottery will be conducted in the event that more than 24 sailors apply.

'Next Step to Rolex gives high school age girls the opportunity to experience a high level of training on keelboats that is geared towards learning teamwork and racing on a larger boat than they are accustomed to,' said program organizer Cory Sertl, a Rolex IWKC Champion and two-time winner (1995, 2001) of US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award. Sertl went on to explain that the coaches in the program are hands-on and teach the young women how to perform various jobs and how to work together as a team with each participant having a chance to try every position on the boat.'

'I signed up for the 2003 Rolex Next Step Program because there was a team from my yacht club sailing in the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship that year in Annapolis,' said Danielle Richards (San Diego, Calif.), the new Intersectional Coordinator for the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association.

'I had been doing some sailing with them prior to the event and thought that this would be the logical next step to the process. I did middle for the San Diego Yacht Club team during several training sessions and went with them to one of the adult clinics. It was a lot of fun and great to see so many women sailing at that high level. The best part of the program was getting to meet everyone in the [Next Step] program and the sailors at the [Rolex Women’s] regatta. I still race against most of those girls and since they came from all different parts of the country. I now have friends and connections in those different areas.'

And while Richards didn’t have much opportunity to sail keelboats during her college sailing career at the University of California-Irvine, not only did the local knowledge gained during the Next Step to Rolex program come in handy when she returned to Annapolis to compete in the 2007 ICSA College Nationals, but she is now looking forward to sailing on the J22s recently purchased by her yacht club. 'I’m starting to get back into keelboat sailing but with more of a focus on team racing than fleet racing, and I would definitely consider putting together a campaign to sail the Rolex IWKC when my schedule calms down.'

2011 Next Step to Rolex Schedule:

Wednesday, August 24:
Registration from 3:00-5:00 p.m. followed by dockside demonstration and dinner.
Thursday, August 25:
Instruction and training followed by dinner.
Friday, August 26:
Instruction and training followed by afternoon departure.

All applications must be received by June 15. Successful applicants will receive an e-mail and a link to register by the end of June. Apply online here. For additional information on the Next Step to Rolex Program, contact organizer Cory Sertl. Program participants are also eligible for US Sailing's Sailorship program which provides grants to defray travel costs based on need.

Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship: Website