The third day was a charm for Annapolis sailor Melinda Berge at the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship yesterday (26, September, 2001). When she won the first of the day’s two races in a light breeze on Chesapeake Bay, she became the sixth different victor in as many races held for a record-breaking 61 boats competing.

In the second race – the seventh for the series – it looked as if Jody Swanson of Buffalo, NY would top the fleet, becoming yet another fresh face in the winner’s circle, but in a quirky turn of events, the previous day’s leader Cory Sertl of Rochester, NY, overtook her on the final beat to the finish line. Sertl’s resulting victory, now her second for the series, re-established her team’s top spot on the leader board.

Multiple windshifts in the first race allowed for large gains and losses, readily shown by a 16-minute time difference between the first and last boats to round the second of two weather marks on the five-mile windward/leeward course. However, Berge seemed never to be out of phase the entire race and by the second mark held a lead of more than a minute over ultimate second-place finisher Paula Lewin of Bermuda. Following a series of finishes in the teens and 20s, Berge’s victory might have looked like a fluke, but she backed it up with a solid seventh in the second race of the day, catapulting herself from an overall 17th to 10th.

Winds built slowly to a 6-8 knot range during the second race, allowing the fleet to remain fairly tight and impress the spectator fleet with a mere five minutes separating the first and last boats as they rounded the weather marks. Swanson followed in second behind San Diego’s Mary Brigden Snow at the first windward mark, but by the second round had picked her off. Sertl, meanwhile, had established herself in fourth. On her way to the finish line, she longed to tack and get to the left-hand side of the course but couldn’t because of a close cover by local sailor Margaret Podlich. “When Margaret finally tacked away, the entire fleet was going to the left, they were on top of us and we couldn’t go there. Then we looked ahead and saw more wind and were aiming right for the finish, so we just carried on and got lucky.”

“We just can’t beat Cory,” said Swanson, shaking her head, after the races. Inspection of the race results reveal that she was not just talking about race seven but about the entire series so far. Those ahead of her in overall standings – Carol Cronin, of Jamestown, RI, in second and Lewin in third – have beat Sertl three and two times, respectively. In the delicate mathematical balance of sailboat scoring, such nuances can be devastating to comeback chances.

Cronin kicked off her day with a very useful third place, but the wheels fell off her challenge in the next race when she finished 31st. Luckily for her and the other top competitors who suffered a bad one, they can discard their worst race in overall scoring. But Sertl not only tops the fleet by 10 points over Cronin, her discard is also a very respectable sixth place.

Nancy Haberland, of Annapolis, was leading this regatta after the first day, but saw her chances of overall victory severely diminished by a 9-12 score in yesterday’s racing. “I usually like those shifty conditions,” she said, “but today we just weren’t getting it.” She is fully aware of how dominant Sertl’s position is with seven races completed and just three more to go. “It’s time to start taking some risks,” she said.

Olympic Bronze Medallist Courtenay Dey, of Westerly, RI, had a similar day to Haberland and was hitting some corners hard to try to get back into the fight. “I’m normally a more conservative sailor, but if I see a risk for a potential big gain, then I’ll certainly be taking it,” she said.

Results (provisional after seven races)

1st Cory Sertl, Rochester, NY, 2-[6]-2-4-1-4-1, 14.0

2nd Carol Cronin, Jamestown, RI, 5-1-5-3-7-3-[31], 24.0

3rd Paula Lewin, B