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Gorilla Gals’ wrestle down winds of change

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

In the 35th annual Aspen Yacht Club Sailing Regatta, a bunch of gorillas stole the race.

The Gorilla Gals, a four-woman team from Conifer, used their experience to harness the wind at Ruedi Reservoir and sweep the competition, finishing first both Saturday and Sunday for the overall victory in the J-22 class.

“They are hot,” Pendleton said, “[some] of the hottest female sailers in Colorado.”

About 30 sailboats competed in six different classes in the Regatta at Ruedi Reservoir over the weekend. That number’s down from past Regattas, which Race Chairman Margot Pendleton attributed to last year’s drought and low water levels.

“It turned a lot of people off because of no water [last year],” Pendleton said. “When you have a bad year, people just kind of fall off the wagon.”

But the water is back up to normal levels, and with good wind over the weekend, this year’s regatta was a success. “It was a wonderful regatta, lots of happy campers, lots of kudos,” Pendleton said.

The high altitude and steep mountain faces and canyons surrounding Ruedi Reservoir create extremely erratic wind, which keeps boaters constantly guessing and on their toes.

“The winds were all over the place,” said Gwen Farnsworth, a Boulder resident and member of Pendleton’s team, Aspen Posse. “It’s over here, no it’s over there,” she said about the ever-changing wind direction.

The winds changed so frequently and at times with such force, that several teams took unexpected dips in the reservoir. When the wind suddenly shifted, those competitors who were unable to adjust their sails in time were driven into the water.

Pip Muir of Aspen Posse was among the “overboard.” A sudden gust caught her boat by surprise and dipped the sail into the water. Muir got dunked.

“I just lost my footing,” Muir said, “it wasn’t anything too big.”

To complicate matters, there were times when one section of the reservoir would encounter heavy, persistent wind, while another was dead calm. In these conditions, success came down to experience and luck.

“In a couple minutes, you could go from first to last,” said John Arendt, an Aspen Posse team member from Colorado Springs. “It’s freaky.”

“A cloud could cover the sun and totally change the wind,” Arendt said. “It changes the way the heating occurs, the wind could die down, or change direction.”

In these situations, the most experienced sailors persevered.

“I sailed every point of sail at least three times,” said Basalt’s Jinx Stone, who has been competing in the regatta for over 20 years. Stone’s team came in first place in the Under 200 PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Formula) class.

As for the Gorilla Gals, they got that name because they’re part of a gorilla adoption program to sponsor their racing. The gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains of East Central Africa and are the last remaining mountain gorillas on the continent.

In September, the Gorilla Gals will compete in the largest women’s sailing regatta in the world – the Rolex International Womens Keelboat Championship in Annapolis, Md.

The biannual Rolex International draws more than 60 teams from around the world. In 2001, the Gorilla Gals placed 16th out of 61 teams. The team is comprised of the skipper Terry Schertz of Conifer Kristin Zagray of Denver Robin Jackson of Littleton and Emily DeDionisio of Vail.

Prior to the 2001 Rolex, the Gals had only about a month to prepair, meeting for the first time at the Dillon Open. Going into the 2003 Rolex, they will have two years of competition under their sails.

“If anybody in Aspen is feeling an environmental itch, they can adopt a gorilla for $80,” said Kristin Zagray, a Gorilla Gal team member from Denver.

——

Results

Ultimate 20

1. Bill Padget, Meed.

2. Jim Ulatowski, Denver

3. Rule, Ft. Collins

J-22

1. Terry Schertz, the Gorilla Gals, Conifer

2. Margot Pendleton, Aspen Posse, Aspen

3. Brian Jones, Berthoud

Laser

1. Stuart Waterbury

2. Parks

3. Lemley

Under 200 PHRF

1. Jinx Stone, Basalt

2. Richard Farizel, Basalt

3. Wayne Chaloupka, Loveland

Over 200 PHRF

1. Patrick Koentes, Golden

2. Lisa Wildeman, Denver

3. Warren Palmer, Basalt

Portsmouth

1. Steve Cornwell, Boulder

2. David Spira, Denver

3. Michael Birnbaum, Arizona


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