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Jeffrey Petersen rallies, delights host club with Governor’s Cup win

Winner of the 54th Governor's Cup Jeffrey Petersen, left, accepts the Balboa Yacht Club Beer Can Regatta trophy.
Winner of the 54th Governor’s Cup, Jeffrey Petersen, left, accepts the Balboa Yacht Club Beer Can Regatta trophy as he sits with opponent Emil Kjaer of Denmark on Saturday at Balboa Yacht Club in Corona del Mar.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

When the host club wins, the celebration cannot be contained.

So it was when Balboa Yacht Club’s Jeffrey Petersen and his crew sailed through the finish line in the decisive race of the 54th annual Governor’s Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship on Saturday.

Spectator boats blew their horns in celebration, and on land, cheers and a round of applause emanated from the bar from members watching a livestream of the regatta.

In a back-and-forth final, Petersen emerged victorious 3-2 against Denmark’s Emil Kjaer, winning the last two races of the championship series to give Balboa Yacht Club its second winner of the last four Governor’s Cup events.

“I love that boat a lot,” Petersen said. “You’ll see pictures of me. I went and kissed it, said, ‘Thank you, boat.’ I mean, the boats are great, but this one in particular has a got a little special place in our hearts now.”

Christophe Killian had been the most recent winner for Balboa Yacht Club in 2017. Australia’s Harry Price won in 2018 and then New Zealand’s Nick Egnot-Johnson in 2019. The Governor’s Cup was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Joining Petersen on the boat were main trimmer Max Brennan and bowman Scott Mais, both members of the Newport Harbor High School class of 2019. Petersen graduated from Mater Dei in 2020.

Balboa Yacht Club's Jeffrey Petersen, right, competes versus Royal Danish Yacht Club's Emil Kjaer during the Governor's Cup.
Balboa Yacht Club’s Jeffrey Petersen, right, competes against Royal Danish Yacht Club’s Emil Kjaer during the Governor’s Cup. Petersen defeated Kjaer 3-2.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The final series provided great intrigue from the beginning, as the initial race of the best-of-five championship round had a photo finish that put the Danish team in front.

Petersen’s crew endured penalties early in the showdown with Kjaer, falling behind 2-1 in the final, but they overcame that deficit in back-to-back elimination races.

That accomplishment was in jeopardy in the last race of the series when Petersen’s boat had an issue with the jib halyard approaching the windward mark.

Mais, who said he was proud to be included among the list of sailors who have found their names on the Governor’s Cup, talked about the team’s resolve in that moment.

“I think that was a really good moment for us because although we had something go wrong with our boat, it showed that we had the composure to stay calm and just fix the issue and deal with what was happening, instead of breaking down or complaining about it,” Mais said. “Just move on, move forward, and sail the best we can, and ultimately win.”

Petersen repeatedly praised the work of his fellow crew members, and at the awards ceremony, he joked that Brennan and Mais finished in front of him in every race, referring to where he was steering the boat from as skipper.

Brennan said the first emotion he felt was one of relief when their boat crossed the finish line for the title.

Newport Harbor Yacht Club's Morgan Pinckney, left, competes against Annapolis Yacht Club's Porter Kavle in the petit final.
Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s Morgan Pinckney, left, competes against Annapolis Yacht Club’s Porter Kavle during the Governor’s Cup petit final.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“The issue with the jib halyard, I think the boys managed to stay calm, but it’s always a little nerve-racking when you have a technical failure,” Brennan said. “To realize that we weren’t going to lose off of that was a big relief.”

The Lew Beery Continents Cup was handed out for the first time. In a regatta that featured seven American teams and three from Europe, the award was presented to the top three crews from the best-performing continent.

With three semifinalists — Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s Morgan Pinckney and Annapolis Yacht Club’s Porter Kavle were the others — the honor went to the Americans.

The results of the initial double round robin, in this case, were indicative of future success. Both Petersen and Kjaer swept their semifinals after earning the top-two seeds. The other two semifinals berths were decided in an additional round robin, or repechage.

“It’s a pretty difficult situation actually because on the one hand, you want to go straight to the semifinals to be assured to get into the semifinal,” Kjaer said. “On the other hand, you actually want to go to the repechage to get the extra training and extra time in the boat.

“It’s actually an advantage to be in the repechage, I’m 100% sure, because the boats are completely new for us. We’ve never sailed in these boats before, and it’s the same for most people when you go to match-racing events.”

Kjaer will certainly consider his experience at the Governor’s Cup as valuable training, as he remains in town for the Youth Match Racing World Championship, which will also be hosted by the Balboa Yacht Club from Aug. 9-14.

Pinckney, whose uncle, Mike, won the Governor’s Cup in 1982 and 1983, placed third in the regatta to secure a podium finish at just 16 years old. The young Newport Harbor Yacht Club standout is eligible for six more Governor’s Cups, as competitors do not age out until their 23rd birthday.

Balboa Yacht Club’s David Wood finished in fifth place in the regatta.

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