The double round robin had served as evidence that the 53rd annual Governor’s Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship, hosted by Balboa Yacht Club, had no clear favorite.
While Leonard Takahashi of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron had experienced success in the regatta before, the two-time Governor’s Cup runner-up had concerns about rounding into form after taking a year-long hiatus from match racing.
Four flights of the double round robin remained off the coast of Newport Beach on Friday, and six skippers remained in contention. None of the four semifinal berths had been clinched coming into the day.
Takahashi won the double round robin with 17 points, earning the right to choose his semifinal opponent in a first-to-three-points tilt, and perhaps allaying concerns about his match-racing layoff. He picked Frank Dair of the California Yacht Club, who had placed fourth (13 points) after the fleet sailed against each other twice.
The final flight of the double round robin saw Dair defeat Finn Tapper of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia to clinch his spot in the semifinals. He made good on his fresh start, winning the first two races in his best-of-five semifinal against Takahashi before the boats came in for the day.
“All the pressure was on for that Tapper race,” Dair said. “We had two really close losses [to start the day], and big, big props to my team [of Mathew Leydon and Niall Malone] for not getting down about that because that was a real tough one to take on the chin. It was looking real grim for us for a bit.”
Dair has close ties to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, having gone to school in New Zealand, and it may have played a factor in Takahashi’s decision to take him on in the semifinals. In spite of dropping the first two flights, Takahashi remained upbeat about his chances of going on a run on Saturday.
“It’s a new day tomorrow,” Takahashi said. “We’re not scared or anything in the slightest. We just have a little bit of work cut out for ourselves, but we’re fine.”
The other semifinal matchup has the Riverside Yacht Club of Connecticut’s Jack Parkin (15 points) going against the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s Nick Egnot-Johnson (14 points).
Parkin pulled away heading back toward the finish in the second flight to knot up the score of his semifinal at 1-1.
“The downwind [leg], we were really quick,” Parkin said. “I think they were marginally quicker than us in the upwind in that really light stuff, which is a little bit scarier because you’re always battling to defend, rather than advance.
“We felt pretty quick on the downwind, so once we got to that mark, we felt pretty good.”
Egnot-Johnson said that the stressful part of the regatta was making it out of the round robin, as he came to the Governor’s Cup hoping to earn a medal.
“With this regatta, it’s just such a high level of competition, and anyone here can beat anyone,” Egnot-Johnson said. “When we were heading into the last two or three races today, I think all of the points were super congested at the top. I think everyone was on the same points, so the last two races there were definitely the most nerve-wracking. Just making sure that we won those two to solidify our spot in the semifinals was huge.
“Now, we’re in the semis, and it feels like we’ve started a new competition.”
The day began with six skippers in contention for the semifinals, which included the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s Jordan Stevenson (12 points) and Tapper (12 points). They were part of a group of four that entered the day with 11 points each.
“I want to give a big shout out to Finn Tapper and Jordan Stevenson because they’re just out of that top six,” Dair said, commending their efforts in the tightly-contested regatta. “If the day went a little bit differently, they would be in that top four.”
Balboa Yacht Club’s David Wood (10 points) will sail against Penarth Yacht Club’s Matt Whitfield (8½ points) for seventh place on Saturday.
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