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Reigning Governor’s Cup champion Jeffrey Petersen clinches spot in semifinals

Jeffrey Petersen's boat, left, competes against Ansgar Jordan during the Governor's Cup on Thursday in Newport Beach.
Jeffrey Petersen’s boat, left, competes against Ansgar Jordan during the Governor’s Cup on Thursday in Newport Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

If Jeffrey Petersen began to pen an autobiography, he would have some grand adventures to tell.

Only a few days ago, Petersen found himself in Pornichet, France, where he became the newly minted victor of the Youth Match Racing World Championship.

There was no rest for Petersen and his crew, as they arrived Monday for their sole day of practice in advance of the Governor’s Cup, the international youth match racing regatta held annually by the Balboa Yacht Club in Newport Beach.

An intercontinental flight and limited sleep have not taken the wind out of Petersen’s sails.

Porter Kavle's boat, left, competes against Jordan Stevenson's boat during the Governor's Cup on Thursday in Newport Beach.
Porter Kavle’s boat, left, competes against Jordan Stevenson’s boat during the Governor’s Cup on Thursday in Newport Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Petersen, a 20-year-old skipper who sails out of Balboa Yacht Club, gave the host club a thrill last year when he claimed the Governor’s Cup just one year after his graduation from Mater Dei High School.

Once again, Petersen is sailing with the same crew, comprised of main trimmer Max Brennan and bowman Scott Mais, both 2019 graduates of Newport Harbor.

Their experience has paid dividends. Petersen had won 12 of 13 flights through two days, just past the midway point of the double round robin.

“The biggest thing that we’ve got going for us right now is just our team and our experience in the boats and being at home in home waters,” Petersen said Thursday morning before the third day of the event. “We just got back from France on Monday. We flew in from France, landed at 3 p.m., went to sleep, woke up and started the Governor’s Cup.

“While we were a little bit jetlagged, we also were fresh right off of a world championship win, and so we came in with the exact same team that we sailed with last year, and we just spent a week racing, and then to come into these boats. We’re just working really well together.”

Robbie McCutcheon's boat, competes against Jack Egan's boat during the Governor's Cup on Thursday in Newport Beach.
Robbie McCutcheon’s boat, competes against Jack Egan’s boat during the Governor’s Cup on Thursday in Newport Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The 55th annual Governor’s Cup features 12 teams from five countries. The American contingent includes Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s Morgan Pinckney, 17, and Eastport Yacht Club’s Porter Kavle, who were both semifinalists a year ago.

Ansgar Jordan (Coronado Yacht Club), also sailing under the American flag, picked up a victory over Petersen early in Thursday’s action.

After the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc in the form of travel restrictions last year, the representation among the international teams looks a bit more familiar with the return of Australia and New Zealand.

Will Sargent, Cole Tapper and Marcello Torre are representing Australia. Tapper is sailing with his older brother, Finn, who has competed as a skipper in the Governor’s Cup before.

Regatta veteran Jordan Stevenson and Robbie McCutcheon are from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The other competing skippers are Great Britain’s Robbie King (Royal Thames) and Sweden’s Marius Westerlind (Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club).

Petersen, who clinched a spot in the semifinals Thursday with a 15-3 record after the 18th flight of the total 22 in the double round robin, is among a group of teams competing in the Youth Match Racing World Championship and the Governor’s Cup in back-to-back weeks.

Westerlind, Tapper and McCutcheon also had to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to sail in the Pacific after competing in the world championship.

“It’s a testament to the quality of the regatta that the Balboa Yacht Club runs when you see four teams willing to put themselves through 16 hours’ worth of immediate travel and a nine-hour time difference to go right back into sailing,” Petersen said. “It speaks to the competitors in the field and how competitive they are and how willing they are to race and willing to put everything, including their bodies, on the line for competition.

“I think that really speaks to the … character and quality of the competitors at the Governor’s Cup this year. … It just shows that the Governor’s Cup truly is one of the pinnacles of youth match racing in the world, hence there’s so many people that want to compete in it that they’re willing to do that just so they have the chance to come sail in this event.”

Stevenson went unbeaten through six flights on Thursday to clinch a semifinals berth with a 14-5 record through 19 flights. Egan (12 wins) is in third, Westerlind (11) is fourth, and Sargent (10) leads the chase pack with three races remaining.

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