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Jeffrey Petersen (USA), Cole Tapper (AUS) and Liam O'Keefe (USA) commit to 2024 Governor's Cup

by Susan Kenney 27 Mar 22:39 PDT July 22-27, 2024
Jeffrey Petersen (USA) in a tight battle with Morgan Pinckney (USA) in the 2023 Governor's Cup with Petersen ending up on top and Pinckney in Third © Tom Walker

Governor's Cup will be July 22-27; World's match race skippers under 23 invited to file a Request for Invitation.

The field for the 57th Governor's Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship is starting to take shape and already is likely to be one of the most competitive in history. The Selection Committee has issued early invitations to two-time winner Jeffrey Petersen from the host Balboa Yacht Club and two other skippers who will also be co-favorites with Petersen, Cole Tapper (AUS) and U.S. Intercollegiate Match Racing Champion Liam O'Keefe, Miami, FL a member of the Brown University sailing team.

The Governor's Cup, presented by Terry Causey and the Call of the Sea Foundation, is the oldest youth (under 23 years old) match racing championship in the world and includes among its "alumni," many of the finest sailors in the world led by two-time America's Cup winner James Spithill (AUS) and multiple Congressional Cup and World Match Racing Tour champ Taylor Canfield (USA). The Governor's Cup Selection Committee will choose eight more skippers based on Requests for Invitation ("RFI") received by April 12, 2024. RFI forms and other information is on the event website govcupracing.com under "Race Documents." The twelfth and final invitee will be the winner of June's U.S. Youth Match Racing Championship for the Rose Cup.

Petersen, who was also the 2022 Youth Match Racing World Champion, will attempt to make Governor's Cup history with a third win, and surpass the two-win total of 12 fellow skippers in the Cup's 57 years. He has his work cut out for him, though, as both Tapper and O'Keefe have beaten him in the last year, in the 2023 Worlds and the Intercollegiate championship, respectively. When asked how he and his team dealt with the pressure, "We make it our goal not to put any weight on prior wins or losses and treat every year as if it were our first year racing the event. We know we have a target on our back—or perhaps two targets—but we welcome it and look forward to getting in that first pre-start and letting our sailing do the talking!"

Tapper, the 2023 Australian youth MR champion, is currently the premier youth match racer in the southern hemisphere, with a runner-up finish in both the 2023 "GovCup" and the 2023 Worlds. He is looking forward to having yet another rematch with Petersen.

O'Keefe is less experienced in match racing than Tapper or Petersen, but could not have had a better start to his match racing career than the intercollegiate result where, in addition to Petersen, he also beat Morgan Pinckney (USA), the 2022 winner of the U.S. Youth Match Racing Championship for the Rose Cup and third place finisher in last year's GovCup. When O'Keefe was asked how he achieved that feat, he said, "It was much closer than it seemed with shifty conditions, current, and there was a lot of luck involved."

Perhaps more modesty in that statement than fact as O'Keefe shared some of his preparation for the regatta, "I took advantage of lots of video of Jeffrey match racing including from 'GovCup TV,' to learn as much as I could about match racing and Jeffrey's tendencies, strengths and (few) weaknesses." A nice complement on the GovCup TV's 11 separate live shows during GovCup Week including full live multi-camera and drone footage of the last two days of racing, broadcast on YouTube and Facebook.

O'Keefe also shares the passion for match racing that all the top skippers seem to have. Despite a great dinghy career in fleet and team racing, and as a star on the Brown University team, O'Keefe said that he would now rank match racing as his favorite discipline with team and fleet racing a ways behind in that order. As he said, "The last thirty seconds of a match race start are the most intense and thrilling moments in sailing for me."

There will be nine other skippers experiencing that "rush" this year. The winner of the Rose Cup will be invited, along with eight other skippers. "With more than two weeks to go before the RFI deadline, we have 17 other RFIs from eight countries, including six GovCup veterans," said Selection Committee Chair, Brian Bissell. "It's going to be tough to decide," he continued.

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