NEWPORT BEACH, CA (#1174) – After four days of racing, the leaderboard of the 53rd Governor’s Cup, the International Youth Match Racing Championship hosted by Balboa Yacht Club and presented by DISC Spine and Sports Center, finally sorted itself out and the semi-final matches began, but not without some high drama on the Pacific Ocean off Newport Beach.
The double round-robin stage of the championship, where each of the 12 teams sailed against the other eleven teams twice, was completed by mid-afternoon Friday. After leading that stage for all four days, two-time Governor’s Cup runner-up Leonard Takahashi of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron qualified at the top of the leaderboard and, as is typical in modern match racing, was given the privilege of choosing his opponent. Takahashi chose the fourth qualifier, Frank Dair (USA, California YC) and may live to regret it. After two semi-final races, he trails Dair 2-0 in the first-to-win-three series.
If anyone can come back from that kind of deficit, it is Leonard and his experienced crew of Josh Wijohn and Taylor Balogh. But Dair was on a roll. To date, consistency may not be Dair’s strong suit, or at least it wasn’t during the round-robins. After a reasonable first day, on Wednesday Dair jumped to second on the leaderboard just behind Takahashi, but almost sailed himself out of semi-final contention by losing his first two races on Thursday. Clearly, he bounced back today, but can he put it together tomorrow to finish off Takahashi and prevail in the Finals?
The other semi-final matched Jack Parkin (USA, Riverside YC) against another product of the RNZYS youth development programs, Nick Egnot-Johnson. After their two races today, they are tied at 1-1. Jack is a former U.S. Youth Match Racing Champion and he and his tactician, Wiley Rogers (USA, Lakewood YC), are former World Youth Champions in the International 420 Class. “Nick EJ” has been the most successful youth match racer in Australia and New Zealand regattas in the past year, and also won the U.S. “Grand Slam” match racing series.
With six teams still in contention at the start of Friday's racing, two were going to be on the outside looking in with only four semi-final spots on offer. Perhaps the most dramatic result was that of the youngest RNZYS sailor, Jordan Stevenson (NZL), who lost each of the last two round-robin races. In approaching the finish of those races against Jeppe Borch (DEN) and Finn Tapper (AUS), respectively, both of the latter were able to do a last-minute gybe towards the Race Committee boat end of the finish line. That end was slightly closer than the opposite “pin” end, and in doing so, edged Stevenson by a few feet in one case and a few inches in the other. His head in his hands after each told the story, but Stevenson has three more years to try to win the Governor’s Cup, which is open to competitors who have not reached their 23rd birthday. Many observers would lay odds Sevenson would achieve that goal.
Saturday will continue with the Semi-finals, plus best two-of-three series for those skippers who are not semi-finalists – these to determine their final overall placing. 5th place finisher in the round-robins, Tapper, will sail against the 6th place finisher, Stevenson; local favorite and Balboa YC representative, David Wood, in 7th against Matt Whitfield (GBR) in 8th; Clare Costanzo (AUS) in 9th place against U.S. Youth Match Racing champion Cameron Feves of Cabrillo Beach YC in 10th; and finally, an all Scandinavian match between Borch and Mans Holmberg (SWE) for the 11th and 12th positions.
While these are often called consolation rounds, each finish position is important to these sailors as it will affect points earned in World Sailing’s “Open Match Racing Rankings,” especially because it is likely the GovCup will again be granted “Grade 1” status by World Sailing – increasing the point value of each position.
Typical Southern California conditions prevailed Friday with southwest breeze from 6-9 knots. Saturday’s forecast is for slightly more breeze, but the Governor’s Cup 22s have performed well in all conditions.
Live TV coverage of the racing resumes at 11:30a Pacific on Saturday, preceded by a Morning Show at Balboa Yacht Club at 9:00a. Post-racing there will be the traditional press conference featuring the two finalist skippers at approximately 4:30p followed immediately by the awards presentation. All live coverage is streamed on the BYC GovCup Facebook page – www.facebook.com/bycgovcup.
Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL) had a good day Friday, advancing to the semi-finals and then going 1-1 with Jack Parkin (USA). In the other Semi, pre-regatta favorite Leonard Takahashi (NZL) lost two races to Frank Dair (USA). The Semis, first-to-win-three-races, continue on Saturday, followed by the first-to-three Finals. Live coverage of the racing will resume Saturday morning at 11:30 Pacific on www.facebook.com/bycgovcup. Mary Longpre photo.