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Governor's Cup 2019 at Balboa Yacht Club - Preview

by Susan Kenney 3 Jul 11:37 PDT 15-20 July 2019
Close downwind action at Governor's Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship © Tom Walker

Cameron Feves of Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club in Los Angeles and David Wood of host Balboa Yacht Club claimed the last two spots in the 53rd Governor's Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship, presented by Disc Sports and Spine Center, which will start on Monday, July 15 at Balboa Yacht Club, Newport Beach, California.

The Governor's Cup—for skippers and crews that have not reached their 23rd birthday—is the most prestigious and oldest youth match racing regatta in the world. Alumni have reached the top of the sport including the America's Cup, the Congressional Cup, and in events very different than the GovCup, including the Olympics and Round the World Race. The quality of this year's skippers is likely to result in the granting of "Grade 1" status by World Sailing for the second consecutive year. Last year's organizers believe the 2018 Grade 1 designation was the first ever for an age-limited event, with that grading normally reserved for regattas dominated by professional sailors.

Ten skippers from six countries had previously been named by BYC based on resumes, but the last two spots were both decided based on the results of the U.S. Youth Match Racing Championship for the Rose Cup held June 28-30 in San Diego, California. Feves won the Rose Cup and received the automatic invitation extended to the winner, and Wood won the host club invitation by beating fellow club member, Jeffrey Petersen, in the petit final of the Rose Cup for third place. BYC had decided that creating a "sail off" for the spot within the Rose Cup was the fairest way to pick among these two accomplished match racers.

Feves and Wood will join an international group of the best youth match racers in the world at the "GovCup." Leonard Takahashi (NZL) is product of the Performance Programme of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, as are his fellow Kiwi invitees, Jordan Stevenson and Nick Egnot-Johnson. Observers are looking forward to seeing if two-time GovCup runner-up Takahashi can quickly re-sharpen his match racing skills given that he has skipped match racing for much of the last year, opting instead to sail foiling catamarans for the Japanese "SailGP" professional team (Takahashi has dual citizenship). He will be pushed hard by both Stevenson and Egnot-Johnson, who have focused on and excelled in both age-limited and open regattas in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand since the last GovCup.

Two-time United Kingdom Youth and Intercollegiate Match Racing Champion, Matt Whitfield, will return for his third and final Governor's Cup, representing Great Britain and his native Wales. Two European teams will also compete, led by Mans Holmberg, a World Sailing top-25 ranked skipper based largely on his success on the professional World Match Racing Tour, and top Scandinavian match race skipper Jeppe Borch of Denmark.

Former U.S. Youth Match Racing champion Jack Parkin (Riverside YC / Stanford Sailing Team) will again sail in the Governor's Cup after finishing just out of the semi-finals in his first GovCup last year, and Frank Dair, (California YC), who won Australia's Musto Youth MR Championship and was a podium finisher at Australia's Harken series last fall, will complete the four team U.S. contingent.

Teams from Australia have been prominent in GovCup history and the country is again well represented by two teams from rival New South Wales clubs. Finn Tapper will represent the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and will hope to emulate last year's winner from CYCA, Harry Price, who won his second Cup in 2018. GovCup veteran and the world's 13th ranked female match racing skipper, Clare Costanzo, will sail in her third and final GovCup representing Australia's Royal Prince Alfred YC, which also has been regularly represented in the top ranks of past Governor's Cups.

The Governor's Cup's new presenting sponsor is Disc Sports and Spine Institute, founded by BYC member Dr. Rob Bray. One of the top orthopedic surgeons in the United States. Dr. Bray and his wife, Tracey Kenney-Bray, are committed sailors and supporters at BYC and beyond. In 2013, Dr. Bray served as team doctor for the Oracle Team USA America's Cup team.

The Cup will be raced in identical "GovCup 22" sloops provided to all competitors. They were designed by former BYC Commodore Alan Andrews, built by Westerly Marine in nearby Santa Ana, and used in the 50th Anniversary regatta in 2016. Skippers and crews since then have uniformly praised the boats which perform well in the lighter winds often experienced in Newport Beach but also proved exciting in 18 knots of breeze. They feature a "flat top" mainsail, masthead spinnaker, modern "T" keel and an "all up" weight of only 1470 lbs (666 kg).

Again this year, an all-volunteer "GovCup TV" team will live-stream via Facebook (facebook.com/bycgovcup/) the Monday evening opening dinner and "roast" of the skippers and teams, the racing on Friday and Saturday, and the post-race press conferences Friday and Saturday, including the Saturday afternoon presentation of the Governor's Cup and Purcell Sportsmanship trophies. Live "Pre-Race Shows" featuring a preview of the day's racing, and interviews with competitors, will also be aired Wednesday through Saturday mornings.

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