The Ocean City Beach Patrol has had the area's top women's competition team so far this summer. A win by Ocean City at tonight's Cape Atlantic Women's Lifeguard Invitational would clinch the No. 1 spot for the season.

The 18th annual event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Suffolk Avenue beach in Ventnor.

Ocean City won the team title at this year's first two all-female events - the Longport Women's Lifeguard Invitational and the Ocean City Beach Patrol Women's Invitational. O.C. did not send a team to the Cape May Point Women's Lifeguard Challenge, which is a triathlon rather than a regular lifeguard event.

"Ocean City has got to be the clear favorite, and it's up to the other patrols to step up and get them," said Bill Howarth, the Ventnor Beach Patrol captain. "It should be a great night of racing with the best female athletes in (the South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs Association)."

The races are the doubles row, swim, singles row and surf dash.

Ocean City may be the favorite, but it didn't finish in the top five last year as Cape May won the crown for the first time. Cape May didn't have any wins but scored in every race. Ventnor won its home event from 2006-10.

Ocean City has swimmer Erin Curry, the doubles crew of Rachel Boudart and Emma Elmer, and singles rower Shawnee Foglio. Curry won the swims this summer at Longport and at the O.C. Invitational. Boudart and Elmer were third behind winners Macey Miller and Mallory Sykes of Atlantic City at Longport but won on their home beach.

"It should be real competitive," said Jeff Garbutt, an Ocean City Beach Patrol senior lieutenant and women's coach. "We're looking forward to it. It's the last (all-female) event of the summer, so you want to do your best."

Stone Harbor's Kelly Bainbridge will look to win the singles row for the third year in a row. She also won this season's only other women's singles row at the Longport Invitational.

Also seeking a sweep of the season is the Wildwood Crest surf-dash team of Ann Marie Kelly, Christina Caroulis, Leeny Tarnowski and Rose Brenner.

Cape May is led by the crew of Patrice Back and Mary Grace Maggiano, and by swimmer Kerry Choplin. Ventnor has Meghan Holland and Paige Howarth in doubles, and Shannon Howarth, Paige's sister, in the swim.

Contact Guy Gargan:

609-272-7210

Cape Atlantic Women's Lifeguard Invitational

When: 6:30 p.m. today Where: Suffolk Avenue beach in Ventnor

What: Doubles row, swim, singles row, surf dash

Defending champion: Cape May