Nicole Breault Wins US Match Race Qualifier in J/22s

It was a weekend of high winds and high wins for St. Francis Yacht Club’s Nicole Breault, who won six out of seven matches at the US Match Racing Championship Qualifier at the St. Francis Yacht Club on May 19-20 in J/22s. Breault and her crew of Dana Riley, Karen Loutzenheiser and Molly Carapiet will advance to the US Match Racing Championship in Chicago this October. San Francisco Bay breezed on strong, producing delays as well as some of the season’s most exciting racing to date. The eight competitors included four skippers from StFYC, two from San Diego, one from Alameda CA and one from Boston. The J/22s ventured out on Saturday morning with wind speeds already in the high teens and building, accompanied by a steep two to three-foot chop driven by a strong ebb. Match racing, involving tight, rapid maneuvers, has lower limits on wind and wave conditions than fleet racing, and Race Director Jenn Lancaster and Chief Umpire Doug Sloan elected to delay the start. Flood tide diminished the wave height, however wind speeds continued to climb into the high 20s and touched 30 knots. At 3:00 pm, racing was called off and the sailors had to make do with dinner and libations in the Chart Room. Sunday’s forecast called for more of the same, so Lancaster set an 8:30 am start, at which time winds were already in the mid-teens. The race committee adjusted the start/finish line and weather mark to accommodate the tide, while deciding for each flight whether to permit spinnakers. The sailors did their part by handling the challenging conditions with just a few knockdowns and collisions. The result was a full round-robin with each team racing every other team to determine the overall winner. The Qualifier was one of seven being held in the run-up to the Championship at Chicago Yacht Club in October 19-21. Though an Open competition, Breault had an all-women crew of Molly Carapiet, Dana Riley and Karen Loutzenheiser, and was the only female skipper in the event. Breault is a highly experienced match racer, as repeat winner of the US Women’s Championship title from 2016, and also having won the Women’s division of the Nations’ Cup in 2015. In January, she was also named the St. Francis Yachtsman of the Year for 2017, the first time in the Club’s 91-year history that this has been awarded to a female sailor. When asked her thoughts about the event, Nicole commented, "This qualifier was definitely a test of boat control. Kudos to all of the teams; they played the match racing game quite well and worked hard to tame the J/22s in high winds and ebb-induced chop. My team, Molly, Karen and Dana, were rock solid and very much the reason we came out on top." Race Coordinator Graham Biehl also had his work cut out to sort out the rest of the teams, as three were tied for second and another three for fifth, an indication of just how well-matched these racers were. In the end, the results were as follows, first Nicole Breault, second Jeff Petersen and third Domenic Bove. For more St Francis YC J/22 information, visit https://www.stfyc.com/.

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