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Nicole Breault & Crew Win Third U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship

L to R: Hannah Burroughs , Molly Carapiet, Karen Loutzenheiser & Nicole Breault

Without a single loss, Nicole Breault and her St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) crew of Molly Carapiet (San Francisco, Calif.), Hannah Burroughs (San Francisco, Calif.) and Karen Loutzenheiser (Santa Cruz, Calif.) successfully defended their 2016 title at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club, August 24-26.

Allie Blecher (Long Beach, Calif.), sailing with Ali Blumenthal (Bethport, N.Y.), Beka Schiff (San Diego, Calif.) and Molly Noble (Hood River, Ore.) for Cal Sailing Club, fought hard for second in a tiebreaker semi-final against Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, Md.). The St Francis Sailing Foundation caught up with Breault, a Foundation grantee, to chat about she and her crew’s success on the Women’s Match Racing circuit.

StFSF: How did you manage not a single loss? What was working for you?
NB: The team benefited greatly from our experience sailing together in match racing on the city front over the past few years. We also put together great training sessions in the weeks leading up to the event, sparring with Stephanie Wondolleck’s SFYC team once and another time with an ace team organized by Russ Silvestri. The four of us felt physically strong and fit – that plus our familiarity with boat handling J/22s in our home waters (with wind, ebb chop and significant current) gave us real confidence dueling against our competitors. I knew I could put the boat anywhere I wanted with control. While we had plenty of intense exchanges, the adrenaline rush always felt good and never shook us from making good tactical decisions.

StFSF: Tell us about your crew for this regatta? Have you raced as a team before? What are each other’s strengths?
NB: Molly Carapiet, Karen Loutzenheiser, and Hannah Burroughs are core members of the Vela Racing team. We have gone to battle together many times. They were my crew in the 2016 USWMRC, so when this event came into the planning pipeline, they were the first teammates I asked to sail and all 3 were psyched to defend the title. Molly and I are both Yale sailing alumni and got to know each other sailing 470s before the 2008 trials and before my move to San Francisco. She trims the main for me and runs the pit downwind, all the while applying her tactical mind to help us make high percentage moves around the course. Karen trims the jib and spinnaker for us and is the key to our speed. She is super strong and has a positive spirit that keeps us thinking constructively and often smiling. Hannah works the bow. She is methodical and forward thinking, managing all the elements forward of the cockpit that can be problematic but are so essential to success. Together we share a fierce competitive spirit that is grounded by simple love for playing the game.

StFSF: This is your third consecutive win – how do you personally stay at the top of your game?
NB: I am fortunate to do a lot of sailing. I race J/105s regularly with my husband Bruce, and I usually sail 5 or 6 match racing or team racing regattas throughout the year. Sometimes the schedule and my performance yield additional opportunities to race high level championships. In all of this racing I am surrounded by really good competition in a variety of venues and conditions, and all of that stacks up to experience that keeps me competitive. I like to get a few hours of practice in before big events, too, which recharges the muscle memory and reminds me of the go-fast techniques and settings for sailing a particular type of boat in a particular type of venue or condition.

StFSF: Your advice for women wanting to either hone their match racing skills, or take up match racing?
NB: In addition to looking for opportunities to sail regattas and clinics (check out Oakcliff Sailing Center, regional US Sailing champs qualifiers, the California Dreamin’ series), put together your own sparring sessions at your own sailing venues. You’ll need a couple of hours (we find weeknights work well), some willing sailors, a minimum of two matched boats, and 3 marks. Set a starting line with two marks (designate one as a leeward mark too), and a windward mark. Sync your count down timers at 5 minutes, enter the start box at 4 and… you’re match racing!

Check out for all kinds of resources: scheduling, rules, tactical do’s and don’ts, video links, etc.

Michelle SladeNicole Breault & Crew Win Third U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship