BALBOA PIER — Sporting a yellow and green spinnaker on its massive sail, the Newport Harbor Yacht Club drifted past the finish line Wednesday.
It had handily defeated a boat from the Royal Yachting Assn. out of Great Britain, after the three-member Newport Harbor team lost its first two races.
That led to a five-match winning streak out of seven races overall to close Day One of the 45th annual Governor's Cup a few miles off the coast of Balboa Pier. The five wins tied with Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club from New Zealand, San Diego Yacht Club and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron from Australia for the most wins.
Although there are several new competitors in this year's competition, Newport Harbor is potentially perceived as among the early favorites. Skipper Chris Segerblom, a 19-year-old sophomore this fall who also sails for Yale University, was a runner-up in last year's Governor's Cup. Crew members Connor Bathen, a sophomore this fall at Santa Clara University who was on the runner-up boat last year, and Brooks Clark also contributed to the five-match haul.
"It was a good Day One," said Segerblom, a Newport Harbor High product. "We picked it up, pulled it together, kind of found a groove. I guess [the runner-up result last year] puts us in good position, people like to think. We really don't look at that too much, just because, first of all, there are so many new teams here. Also, I think we're more confident in our match racing ability."
The sailboats will compete in a double round-robin format through the week, with the top four teams competing Sunday morning for the Governor's Cup. The No. 1 boat gets to choose which team among the top four it will race in a best two-of-three semifinal, with the other two boats racing against each other in another best two-of-three match. Also, consolation match races will be held Sunday, where the fifth-place boat will race against the sixth-place boat, the seventh-place boat races the eighth-place boat, and so on.
The winners of those semifinals will race each other in Sunday's best two-of-three final for the Cup.
Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club and Cruising Yacht Club of Australia both collected four wins, while two-time defending champion Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Balboa Yacht Club and Scuttlebutt Sailing Club each picked up three opening wins.
Also putting itself in a strong position as a returner is Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club skipper Tim Coltman, who was a crew member on a crew that finished third last year.
Matthew Steven, who was the skipper on Royal Port Nicholson YC, turned 21 this year and therefore is ineligible to participate this year at the 20-and-under event.
Royal Port Nicholson won its first race in one-on-one racing against Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and won its second one in a laugher over Royal Yacht Assn.
"[Steven] definitely passed on all his knowledge to me," Coltman said. "We got here about three days ago, practiced a bit. It's a bit different, because we don't have the same boat, so we have to adjust. It wasn't bad [Wednesday], a few errors cost us some close races."
One interesting note was the only girl in the competition, Caitlin Beavers, a member of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club who competed with Scuttlebutt, based from San Diego. Beavers competed in the back position, pulling up the spinnakers being among her main duties.
"A lot of girls have competed in this before," Beavers said. "I don't think that it's anything special that I'm the only girl here. A lot of people keep saying that … I know a lot of junior sailors, and maybe it's good for them to see a girl to do things that boys are doing, too. I don't think we came in with any expectations. I think we did OK. I think we made a few mistakes out there that didn't need to be made. But I think we did well."
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version misspelled the writer's last name.