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Henri-Lloyd 2020 LEADERBOARD

2019 Kilroy Realty U.S. Match Racing Championship - Day 2

by Scott Armstrong 5 Oct 2019 22:36 PDT 4-6 October 2019
Pearson Potts, Jeffrey Petersen and Chris Nesbitt during Day 2 of the 52nd USMRC © Scott Armstrong/St. Francis Yacht Club

Shortly before the Saturday morning competitors' briefing at the Kilroy Realty U.S. Match Racing Championship, the San Francisco area experienced a 3.5-magnitude earthquake. That little morning jolt portended a day of racing at St. Francis Yacht Club that also featured its share of faults and tremors from the eight competing boats.

After a spirited Second Round Robin that kept the race umpires busy, four sailors advanced to Sunday's knockout stage of the 52nd USMRC: Peter Holz, Jeffrey Petersen, Nicole Breault and defending champion Pearson Potts.

While many skippers can list two or more USMRC titles on their résumés, a Potts victory here would make him only the third skipper in the history of this regatta to repeat as the winner. Mason Woodworth lifted the Prince of Wales Bowl three straight years from 2000-02, and Ed Trevelyan captured back-to-back titles in 1976 and 1977.

Of note, Potts (Boston; Guardians of the Monohulls) is already attempting a "three-peat" of sorts as the reigning two-time national champion. David Storrs hoisted the Prince of Wales Bowl at the 2017 event by defeating Potts in the finals—an achievement Storrs, who passed away in March, cherished—but Potts was named the U.S. champ because Storrs competed with an international crew.

As they did Friday, Potts and his crew sailed to a 6-1 record on Saturday, with a loss to Petersen the only blemish. In fact, Petersen (Santa Ana, Calif.; Balboa YC) didn't lose to anyone today. He and his crew ran the table to surmount their 2-5 mark after Day 1.

"We made a huge change to our pre-start routine," Petersen said when asked about the turnaround. "We just said, 'Look, we are going to get the start that we want and we're gonna be more aggressive in forcing other people's hands in the pre-start,' and I think that was the key to today."

Petersen's final victory to complete the Saturday sweep came against Breault (San Francisco; St. Francis YC), who has already achieved her best-ever result at the USMRC by reaching the semifinals. "I am so psyched," said Breault after learning she had clinched the semis berth. "This was my goal going in...I'm very happy. And that's gonna take some pressure off my shoulders and hopefully I just come out to play. And it's anyone's game, really."

The homestanding Breault, who went 4-3 both Friday and Saturday, has estimable experience with teammates Dana Riley Hayes and Hannah Burroughs. Yet here in a national championship, she is sailing with the other crewmember Jack Barton for the first time. "We've never sailed together before," Breault said, and Barton "brings a totally awesome energy to the team. When you're starting off new against [opponents] like this, it can be challenging—you have to do a lot of communication and talk through things."

Meanwhile, Holz (Glennview, Ill.; Chicago YC) has bested his quarterfinal finish at his home club last year, and credits his crew for their overall 10-4 record in the round-robin. "We got around the track relatively cleanly, which I think was the biggest component to our success," he said. "Today was a bit more [about] boat speed than yesterday, being a bit breezy."

The small-by-California-standards quake, centered four miles off the coast of neighboring Pacifica, came about five hours before racing began. Participants sat through a three-hour delay to wait for the breeze to arrive, compared to a two-hour holdup on Friday. At the first start, the Bay featured light flooding conditions with wind at 8 knots, conditions that persisted throughout the afternoon.

The faster track contributed to several pileups, near-misses and disputes, which made for compelling viewing from the St. Francis Race Deck, where spectators could eavesdrop on a good portion of the competitors' dialogue. Noting a shift in the current, the Race Committee adjusted the courses for the final few flights of Day 2. "You could not ask for a better breeze," Petersen added. "I mean, the current's always tricky here, but you just had beautiful 10 to 12 knots out of the west."

A wind delay is again anticipated for the final day of racing, with temperatures possibly flirting with the 80-degree mark. If the semifinals, petite finals and finals follow the narrative of the round-robin, then viewers can expect to see close-in skirmishes tight around marks when these four elite sailors reconvene here on Sunday.

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