World No. 1 for Rolex Osprey Cup in St Petersburg

Claire Leroy at Match Cup Sweden 2008. Image © Dan Ljungsrik

The list of invited skippers for the 2008 Rolex Osprey Cup has been announced by organizers St Petersburg YC, St Petersburg, Florida. Topping the list at the ISAF Grade 1 match racing regatta is Claire Leroy of France, the world’s number one ranked match racer and ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year in 2007.

Leroy will face a field of the world’s top women sailors dueling in a one-on-one format in Sonar class keelboats, from October 22-25 on Tampa Bay.

'We are very happy to come back to the Rolex Osprey Cup,' said Leroy, a two-time champion (2004/03) and 2008 ISAF Women’s Match Racing World champion. 'It was one of the first big events that we won. We are happy to sail. Since the beginning of September we have taken time off because I took a bad fall. We would like to put our name on the Trophy one more time! But the opponents are really good, so it will be a big challenge for us.'

One of three ISAF Grade 1 match race regattas in the United States (Boat U.S./Santa Maria Cup and Congressional Cup are the other two), the Rolex Osprey Cup is expected to receive quite a bit of attention as the match racing discipline for women will make its debut at the 2012 Olympics in England.

'With the inclusion of match racing in the 2012 Olympics and the recently completed Qingdao Olympics, this is a building year for women’s sailing,' said Pat Seidenspinner the event’s co-chair and its Principal Race Officer. 'The interest from sailors asking for invitations has gone through the roof. Since match racing is limited to a relatively small amount of competing teams, 10 in our case, there are only so many skippers and teams we can invite.'

It appears that almost every competitor this year has Olympic aspirations of some degree. For Leroy, there is no doubt. 'Our goal is to match race in the next Olympics,' she said. Leroy, who is on the shortlist for 2008 ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year, has consistency on her side with crew Elodie Bertrand, Marie Riou and Claire Pruvot, the same team that won the Worlds.

The 10 competing teams (in alpha order): - Skipper, Country, World Rank, Crew

1. Debbie CAPOZZI (USA) #62, Genny Tulloch, Molly O'Brien Vandemoer, Derby Anderson

2. Giulia CONTI (ITA) #71, Alessandra Marenzi, Alessandra Angelini, Giovanna Micol

3. JoAnn FISHER (USA) #41, Maegan Ruhlman, Linda Hiller, Casey Williams

4. Sandy HAYES (USA) #19, Nancy Heffernan, Cindy Olsen, Verian Aguilar

5. Anne-Claire LE BERRE (FRA) #32, Marion Deplanque, Alice Ponsar, Jeanne Gregoire

6. Claire LEROY (FRA) #1, Elodie Bertrand, Marie Riou, Claire Pruvot

7. Katy LOVELL (USA) #21, Ann Graham, Elizabeth Kratzig, Chafee Emory

8. Lucy MACGREGOR (GBR) #16, Ally Martin, Georgie Blaver-Mann and Mary Rook

9. Samantha OSBORNE (NZL) #34, Carla Holgate, Jenna Hansen, Genoa Griffin Fedyszyn

10. Rachael SILVERSTEIN (USA) #58, Darby Smith, plus two crew TBA

A few weeks before the regatta, Leroy analyzed the field.

'Lucy (Macgregor) has a very dangerous team. She won the Europeans and the last Grade 1 in Germany.

Anne-Claire (Le Berre) has a good French team. They are coming back from an Yngling campaign and can do very well.

Sandy Hayes won the Rolex Women’s Match; she knows the boat and the venue.

Samantha Osborne is new to the international circuit. We sailed against her in New Zealand this year and she can do some very good things.

Debbie Capozzi is a two-time world champion with Sally Barkow and a very good sailor. She can win.

Giulia Conti is a famous sailor. She is a great sailor who is good in every boat and discipline.'

Two competitors received invitations to this event based on their performance at the Rolex Women’s Match, a grade 3 event held this past April at the SPYC:

Winner Sandy Hayes and runner-up Katy Lovell. A total of 10 teams competed in the Grade 3 match-racing regatta, which was created in 2002 to improve opportunities for women sailors specifically interested in match racing.

The Rolex Osprey Cup schedule includes registration and practice sailing on Tuesday, October 21.

Daily racing – beginning at 11:00am on Wednesday, Oct. 22 and 9:00am on Thursday, Oct. 23 through Saturday, Oct. 25 – takes place near the St. Petersburg Municipal Pier, making spectating easy and enjoyable from shore.

The format consists of a double round robin, with knock-out (first to win 3 points) semi-final and final rounds scheduled at the end of the round robins.

Organizers are Tom Farquhar and Pat Seidenspinner, who is also the Principal Race Officer.

Chief Umpire is Alfredo Ricci (ITA) with umpires: Marianne Middelthon (NOR), Dick Kempe (BER), Barbara Farquhar (USA), Tom Farquhar (USA), Serge Jorgensen (USA), Ann Newton (USA), Glenn Oliver (USA), David Pelling (CAN), Tom Rinda (USA), Stephen VanDyke (USA) and Steve Wrigley (USA).