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Governor’s Cup returns despite COVID-19 challenges

Balboa Yacht Club skipper David Wood, Max Mayol and Daniel Pegg, left to right, arrive at the Governor's Cup banquet.
Balboa Yacht Club skipper David Wood, Max Mayol and Daniel Pegg, left to right, arrive at the Governor’s Cup banquet at Balboa Yacht Club on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The 54th annual Governor’s Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship got underway on Tuesday afternoon off the coast of Newport Beach, marking a long-awaited return for sailing fans.

Although the regatta is back after being shelved due to the coronavirus last year, the pandemic continued to pose a very real threat to the event.

Those challenges included the inability for some of the invitees to get to the regatta and back to their homelands in a timely manner, resulting in a Governor’s Cup that features teams exclusively from the United States and Europe.

A group of 10 teams will vie for the chalice of champions that is the Governor’s Cup. In a new wrinkle this year, there will be a second trophy awarded.

Either the Americans or the international fleet (made up of teams from Denmark, France and Sweden) will be awarded the Lew Beery Continents Cup, regatta officials announced at the Governor’s Cup banquet Monday night at the host Balboa Yacht Club.

Racers Max Brennan, skipper Jeffrey Petersen and Scott Mais join the party at the Governor's Cup banquet.
Racers Max Brennan, skipper Jeffrey Petersen and Scott Mais join the party at the Governor’s Cup banquet at Balboa Yacht Club on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Andy Rose, chairman of the steering committee for the Governor’s Cup, said he was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief when all 10 teams showed up.

“All the teams and the umpires had to be tested [for the coronavirus],” Rose said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We were very pleased to see that all were negative, which was great. Most of them had been vaccinated, in any event, but that was great news, so everyone is out there on the water right now, which is great.”

Rose also gave credit to Catherine Shanahan, a youth racing events manager for U.S. Sailing, for helping to secure national interest exemptions for the European squads to compete.

“They say it takes a village,” regatta chair Christine Robertson Gribben said in thanking those that helped to put on the event. “Well, I say it takes a village and the village next door.”

The Governor’s Cup has often included teams from Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain, but that will not be the case on this occasion.

Racers view posters of the competitors at the Governor's Cup banquet on Monday evening at Balboa Yacht Club.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Recent alumni of the regatta from each of those nations were shown during a presentation to guests at the banquet. Will Boulden of Australia and Matt Whitfield of Great Britain contributed videos for the dinner, and three-time Governor’s Cup runner-up Leonard Takahashi of New Zealand also appeared in pictures.

The local sailing community is well represented. David Wood, competing in his fourth Governor’s Cup, and Jeffrey Petersen, are both from Balboa Yacht Club, and they used to sail together.

“We use each other to train and develop, and the only thing that David and I want to do is to represent Balboa Yacht Club, so it’s awesome that we both have the opportunity to do that,” Petersen said. “We have the opportunity to train together and work together and push both of our skill levels higher than the competition, so we can have a great showing.”

Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s Morgan Pinckney, 16, makes his Governor’s Cup debut and is the youngest skipper in the fleet. His boat will sport the only four-person crew with Will Glasson, Marbella Marlo and Jack Flores joining him.

Cohesion is of vital importance, especially on a crowded boat.

Skipper Morgan Pinckney, Jack Flores, Will Glasson, and Marbella Marlo, left to right, at the Governor's Cup banquet.
Skipper Morgan Pinckney, Jack Flores, Will Glasson, and Marbella Marlo, left to right, at the Governor’s Cup banquet at Balboa Yacht Club on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I think we certainly will [have teamwork], especially sailing with four, we’ll have an extra set of hands that other teams won’t have, and today was our first day actually all together on the boat,” Flores said at the banquet. “It went quite well, the cohesion. We’re all very mature sailors, I think, and I don’t see that being an issue.”

When asked if it was time for him to experience a breakthrough at the Governor’s Cup, Wood responded, “Why couldn’t it be?”

Max Mayol, the main trimmer for Wood’s crew, said that kids watch the event and wait for their moment to compete. He added that the team is ready to seize the moment.

“At one point, we were those kids, and it’s a special place to be, so we’re excited,” Mayol said.

France’s Thimoté Polet was considered one of the favorites entering the regatta.

French racers Thimote Polet (skipper), Gaultier Tallieu and Emilien Polaert stand at the Governor's Cup banquet.
French racers Thimote Polet (skipper), Gaultier Tallieu and Emilien Polaert stand at the Governor’s Cup banquet at Balboa Yacht Club on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“If we win, it’s better training for the next event, the Youth [Match Racing World Championship],” Polet said. “It’s very important.”

The Youth Match Racing World Championship will also be hosted by Balboa Yacht Club.

Another twist to the Governor’s Cup this year is the path to qualifying for the semifinals. The top two finishers in the double round robin will get the first two spots in the semifinals. If wind conditions permit, regatta officials also plan to have a subsequent round robin with the remaining eight contenders to decide the other two semifinalists.

“It’s blowing today, so as long as we don’t have breakdowns, they’ll get in a lot of races today, and it’s supposed to continue like this for at least a day or so,” Rose said. “It’s a way to provide a lot more racing, and that’s what these sailors came for.”

Petersen was undefeated through six rounds on the first day of action, but he had yet to face Denmark’s Emil Kjaer, who had won all five of his reported matches as of 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

American Porter Kavle had posted a first-day record of 5-2 as of this writing.

American racer Jack Egan greets a club member at the Governor's Cup banquet on Monday evening at Balboa Yacht Club.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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