The Governor’s Cup is the oldest international youth match racing regatta in the world, with the 55th edition held this summer July 26 – 30. Twelve teams competed in the Governor’s Cup 22 sloops, which are provided to the competitors by the event’s host, Balboa Yacht Club.
According to information provided by the Governor’s Cup, this year Jordan Stevenson of New Zealand won his first Governor’s Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship presented by DISC Sports and Spine Center after last appearing at the Cup in 2019.
Before his final race victory, he must have thought he was jinxed since it took him three tries to get that final race in.
Stevenson won the first and second races against defending champion and newly crowned World Youth MR Champs Jeffrey Petersen, Max Brennan, and Scott Mais of the Balboa Yacht club to go up 2-0 in the “first to three”’ point series.
The intense competition between very evenly match race teams became dependent on Petersen coming back to get a win as Stevenson was only one race away from winning the Cup.
In the 4-6 knot wind conditions, Stevenson had exceptional boat speed, both upwind and downwind. His starts were never disastrous, and he often had a slight advantage. As the boats started the last downwind leg of the third race, Stevenson had a comfortable lead about halfway down the leg.
At that point, the Race Committee started to move one of the leeward “gate” marks to square the gate to the wind. Since the move couldn’t be done by the time the boats were approaching the mark, that left a single mark, which needed to be rounded in a clockwise direction.
Stevenson did so and started up the course. Petersen then rounded in the other direction, and once he realized his mistake, he returned to round again. Even then he did not “unwind the string” of his first incorrect rounding and therefore had still not rounded the mark. By then, Stevenson had sailed so far away that the Cup was to be his in a walk.
Petersen raised a red protest flag, and after what must have been a discussion between Principal Race Officer Dr. Don Becker and the umpires, it was signaled that all races in progress were abandoned. At that point, Stevenson remained at a 2-0 score against Petersen.
Stevenson could not have been pleased, but both boats prepared for another start and a crucial race. Stevenson and crew put that “almost win” behind them, and although the boats in any race were typically less than two boats apart, eked out another lead on the second and final downwind leg.
By mid-leg, Stevenson had increased his lead, and with all the marks in their proper place, looked to complete a sweep. It’s a good thing that Stevenson is not superstitious, like many sailors, because what happened next would have had him thinking he was jinxed.
“GovCup” TV commentators Tom Ehman (USA), Tom Spithill (USA), along with former Governor’s Cup winners Andy Rose (USA) and Christophe Killian, and Matt Whitfield (GBR) were discussing, that while the “fat lady may not be ready to sing, she was on stage.”
Almost immediately after the comments, Stevenson notably slowed down. Spithill thought perhaps he had hit some kelp, and that turned out to be the case. Petersen forged ahead to win and after the finish, and Stevenson discovered what they described as, “40 kilos of kelp on the keel.”
With the score now 2-1, Petersen was back in the hunt. Observers wondered how Stevenson would handle two “almost wins,” but without any additional points. This set up what was to be the final race and the start kept the umpires busy.
Petersen at first incurred a penalty before the start, but in shepherding Stevenson down the line before the starting gun, Stevenson made a critical mistake and was over the line when the gun went off. As he returned to the line with no rights against Petersen, he committed a double penalty for an intentional foul, which meant he had to do his penalty turn immediately.
This erased the penalty for Petersen but left Stevenson with one penalty turn to do. His boat speed and tactics were again sufficient to eke out a lead, but it was unclear whether he had enough distance to finish his turn before the hard-charging Petersen finished.
Stevenson and crew did an excellent job with the turn, but Petersen got a puff, got an overlap, and was surging past Stevenson.
The large spectator fleet had to wait for the Race Committee to raise a yellow flag indicating that the New Zealand team had won by 2-3 feet giving Stevenson the Cup.
The best to two petit final stage between the other two semifinalists, Marius Westerlind (SWE) and Jack Egan (USA) was equally as close with one mistake at the start, or downwind, and a change of lead would occur.
With the score tied 1-1, like Stevenson, Egan looked to take the race and place third in the final standings. The abandonments of the final race described above also made this race meaningless, even though Egan and crew were within a few boat lengths of the finish.
In the next race, Westerind’s team was excellent upwind, but not as fast as the virtual perfection of Egan and his team, and Egan won the race and achieved a “podium finish” in the Cup.
Visit https://www.govcupracing.com/ for more information.