NEWPORT BEACH, CA (#1175) – After five days, 22 round robin flights (of six matches each), and semi-final and final matches all of which went the full five races to determine the first team to win three, the 53rd Governor’s Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship hosted by Balboa Yacht Club has a new champion – Nick Egnot-Johnson with crew Sam Barnett and Alastair Gifford of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
“Nick EJ” won an intense final match against now three-time GovCup runner-up Leonard Takahashi, also a member of the RNZYS. Even after taking a 2-0 lead, it is unlikely Egnot-Johnson was feeling too comfortable given Takahashi's
come back from that same deficit in his semi-final match against Frank Dair (USA, California YC) earlier in the day. Takahashi and crew never lost confidence in their abilities and quickly tied the series 2-2, setting up the final race.
Earlier in the series, many observers felt that Takahashi & Co. had a small speed advantage upwind, and that their downwind boat handling and spinnaker work was often slightly better than the other eleven GovCup teams. In the fourth and most spectacular race of the final series, with Takahashi in the lead, Egnot-Johnson caught a wave in the surfing conditions and established an overlap on Takahashi’s boat. Takahashi and his veteran crew immediately luffed his opponent and kept their spinnaker full for most of the luff, going from slightly behind Egnot-Johnson to clear ahead. A perfect gybe onto starboard tack put Takahashi back in the lead, and gave them the win, evening the series up 2-2 and teeing up the final pivotal match.
At this point, optimal Newport Beach summer conditions were in place with 13-14 knots of wind and a considerable amount of chop to go with the ground swells. As is generally the case in those conditions, going to the right side of the course on the upwind leg was important.
At the final start, both boats fought for that right side and Egnot-Johnson got it. With a small lead at the first windward mark, he sailed virtually perfectly downwind and was able to avoid Takahashi’s efforts to place his boat directly upwind of his fellow Kiwi and Club member to disturb the wind flowing down to the leader’s sails. The next two legs featured Egnot-Johnson doing everything right to protect his lead and he surfed across the finish line to win the finale.
Egnot-Johnson was greeted by a cheering section on board the large spectator fleet but his victory had to wait for an on-the-water hearing by the International Jury (five of the umpires) after Takahashi claimed he was interfered during the pre-start by one of the race committee boats setting the leeward gate. The anchors used to secure the marks were dragging downwind in the windy and rough conditions. The competitors and spectators eagerly awaited the Jury's judgment either to confirm Egnot-Johnson’s victory or perhaps order a re-sail of the race.
The jury decision did not take long, and the word was passed via the GovCup TV livestream that Takahashi’s request for redress was denied and Egnot-Johnson had won the 53rd Governor’s Cup.
Jack Parkin (USA, Riverside YC) had lost in his semifinal against Egnot-Johnson; that series also went the full five races. That put Parkin into the petit final against Dair to determine third place in the regatta. Given the quality of the equally-matched skippers up and down the leaderboard, the 2-0 score in the best of three consolation match was a bit unexpected, but Parkin and his veteran crew were too strong for Dair. The other competitors who did not qualify for the semifinals also sailed best-of-three series to determine their final overall placing.
The Governor’s Cup is presented by DISC Sports and Spine Center headed by BYC member Dr. Rob Bray with principal sponsors the Croul Family and Terry Causey for the Call of the Sea Foundation.
Leonard Takahashi (NZL) and his Kiwi crew of Josh Wijon (middle) and Taylor Balogh (bow) came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the first-to-win-three Finals against Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL) 2-2, before losing a tough battle in the fifth race – and having to settle for GovCup runner-up the third year in a row. Photo: Andrew Delves /RNZYS. Top photo by TFE, from the front page of sports section to Sunday's Newport Beach newspaper, the Daily Pilot.
"Nick EJ" and his team sailed fast all week showing excellent boat-handling upwind and down, with especially snappy spinnaker sets after rounding the windward mark. Photo: Mary Longpre.
53rd GovCup winners at the Saturday evening prizegiving at Balboa YC: Alastair Gifford, Nick Egnot-Johnson and Sam Barnett representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, NZL. Photo: Mary Longpre.