As the 53rd annual Governor’s Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship heads into the second half of its double round-robin format, the time will come for the competitors to sink or swim.
No sailor wants to fall into the water, but the timeless idiom might better have been amended to sail or sink when David Wood got his start in the sport.
Wood, a first-generation sailor, began sailing at the age of 6, having barely learned how to swim at that point.
In seventh grade, he moved from Florida to California. He has made a name for himself as a member of the Balboa Yacht Club, the Newport Beach-based club that is hosting the Governor’s Cup, since joining it in 2014.
Wood, 18, recalled going out on a spectator boat to watch the final rounds of Governor’s Cup action growing up. At the age of 16, he made his Governor’s Cup debut. The former Rose Cup champion earned the host club bid this year. He beat out fellow Balboa Yacht Club member Jeffrey Petersen in the petit final for third place in this year’s Rose Cup, which determined who would receive the host club spot.
“I know speaking for myself and then the rest of the crew, it’s a huge honor to represent Balboa [Yacht Club] in the Governor’s Cup,” Wood said. “We’ve all seen the event when we were younger, and we went out and watched all the racers, so it is a big deal and it has been a big deal for quite a while.”
The week of the Governor’s Cup holds a special place in Wood’s heart because of the dedication and focus that the Balboa Yacht Club puts into the event. He said that the atmosphere of the club changes every year when the tournament comes around.
“The entire club changes its focus to essentially one thing, and that’s [the Governor’s Cup], all the racers and all the racing that is happening,” Wood said. “It’s kind of cool in the sense that the club, throughout the year, is focused on the dining hall, the members and what not.
“For seven days, it kind of just becomes strictly about those 12 racers sailing in the [Governor’s Cup] and how they’re doing and how cool the racing is and all that stuff.”
Christophe Killian of the Balboa Yacht Club won the Governor’s Cup in 2017, which was Wood’s first time in the regatta. Prior to that, a Balboa Yacht Club skipper had not won the Governor’s Cup since Jack Franco in 1980.
Balboa Yacht Club skippers have nine titles in total, but Killian’s victory marks the only one to come since the Governor’s Cup first included international entries in 1988. The United States has claimed just 14 championships in the tournament since it became a global competition.
The premier youth match racing competition has intensified recently, with the Governor’s Cup fleet achieving the distinguished Grade 1 designation for the second consecutive year. The status of Grade 1 is normally reserved for regattas featuring primarily professional sailors.
Wood’s crew members are Max Mayol, 18, of the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, and Daniel Pegg, 16, of the Balboa Yacht Club.
In June, Wood and Mayol walked together at graduation after using their time on the Corona del Mar High sailing team to grow closer as friends.
Wood plans to continue sailing at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, while Mayol will do the same at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
The goals vary for the crew members. Wood focuses on what he calls “process goals,” or improving with each race. In time, he hopes to be in a winning position, although he is eligible to compete in the Governor’s Cup for four more years.
Mayol, the main trimmer and kite trimmer on Wood’s crew, voiced a desire to return the U.S. to the top of the Governor’s Cup standings after Australia’s Harry Price won his second tournament title last year. Frank Dair (California Yacht Club), Cameron Feves (Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club), Jack Parkin (Riverside Yacht Club and the Stanford sailing team) and Wood are the American skippers in the fleet.
“Right now, it’s basically winning it for our country,” Mayol said of his goal. “I think it would be really cool to bring it back to the U.S., just because it doesn’t come very often anymore due to the Kiwis and Aussies.”
Pegg, the bowman of the crew, picked up sailing after his family moved out from Colorado when he was 12. He first learned of the Governor’s Cup last year when he watched Wood compete in it for the second time.
Wood and Pegg have gained extensive experience together in the past year, competing in the French Match Racing National Championship, the Harken and Musto International Youth Match Race Championships in Australia, and the Nespresso Youth International Match Racing Championship in New Zealand.
As for his own debut, Pegg said the main objective is to do well, adding that it would be great to make the semifinals.
Wood and crew have work to do to reach that stage, having notched six wins through the first 13 flights. The top four after the double round robin advance to the semifinals, and Wood sits two points behind four competitors who are tied for third place with eight points — Nick Egnot-Johnson and Jordan Stevenson of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Finn Tapper of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and Parkin.
Leonard Takahashi of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (10 points) leads the regatta, and Dair (nine points) is in second place after Wednesday’s action.
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