Top young sailors from around the world will take to the local waves Wednesday at the start of the 45th annual Governor's Cup.
Founded in 1967 after a donation by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, the race is the Balboa Yacht Club's signature regatta.
The event pits teams of three sailors — all 20 years old or younger — against each other in match races off the Newport shore. The races progress from rounds of qualifying matches to semifinals and finals. The invitation-only regatta draws crews from Australia, the United Kingdom and Bermuda, among other places.
New Zealander Tim Coltman, 19, participated in last year's competition as a crew member. This year, he's the skipper of his own boat. He said the prestige and hospitality brought him back.
"We came over here to do as well as we can," he said. "Our goal is to win. We've been putting the training in, going out in the cold winds, and hopefully we'll win the event."
To even the playing field, every team races in the same kind of boat: the "Governor's Cup 21," designed by Balboa Yacht Club member Alan Andrews.
Publicist Nancy Mellon said the boats, with their large sails and different-colored stripes, make for some incredible sights for spectators watching the races.
"You have to be pretty athletic to do this," Mellon said. "It's pretty exciting stuff."
Organizers are billing the competition as the "pathway for champions" and see the Cup as a stepping stone for young racers.
"This is an event that the history of it is really amazing," Mellon said. "Many of our racers over the year have gone on to the America's Cup and international racing."
In addition to the competition, the regatta gives young sailors from abroad a chance to travel and meet new people. Balboa Yacht Club members help sponsor their travel, and many coming from overseas stay in the homes of club members, Mellon said.
Coltman said the race is one of the most social he's participated in, with dinners, pool parties and time to get to know the other competitors.
New to the Governor's Cup this year is a "greening" effort. Mellon said the organizers decided to ditch single-use plastic water bottles in favor of reusables, and step up the recycling efforts.
The races are scheduled to go from around noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Mellon said they can usually be seen between Balboa Pier and Newport Pier. For details, visit balboayachtclub.com.