The Kilroy Realty U.S. Match Racing Championship in San Francisco Bay started with two days of long postponements that yielded what chief umpire Glenn Oliver termed “champagne conditions.” The scheduled 28 total matches over two round-robins went as planned. But with no significant winds to permit the start of semifinal racing, Sunday at St. Francis Yacht Club turned into a “lay day” that nobody wanted. Not even Pearson Potts (Newport, R.I.), the chief beneficiary of the cancellation.
Potts, who sailed to a 12-2 record over the Friday and Saturday sessions to take first place in the round-robin, thus successfully defended his national championship. After racing was called off, Potts raised the Prince of Wales Bowl as he did in Chicago last year, and the Boston resident has been named U.S. champion for the third year running. With the victory, Potts also earns a berth in next April’s Ficker Cup at Long Beach Yacht Club.
“We came in to defend; we never really saw ourselves [that way],” Potts said, “so we tried to win rather than defend. Any time you come to St. Francis…there are so many currents and variables.” Potts and his crew of Robert Savoie (Bristol, R.I.), now also a repeat champion, Lucas Adams (Middletown, R.I.) and Tim Siemers (Mapple Grove, Minn.) sailed the USMRC under the name Guardians of the Monohulls, a nod to the incumbent, classic America’s Cup design.
Peter Holz (Glennview, Ill.; Chicago YC) ran second to his close friend Potts with a 10-4 mark over the two days, for the best USMRC finish of his career. By going 7-0 on Saturday to finish 9-5 for the weekend, 17-year-old Jeffrey Petersen is thought to be the youngest skipper in USMRC history to stand on the podium, finishing in third. The other semifinalist Nicole Breault ended up in fourth, also the best USMRC finish of her decorated match-race career.
“We love going against Potts,” said Holz, who skippered a USMRC entry for the fourth time in five years. “We’ve got a pretty even record against him over the years, and it’s always a good battle, so it’s pretty disappointing that San Francisco didn’t turn it on today.” Holz’s Windy City Racing crew included IG Schottlaender, John Hammond and Ellis Tonissi.
“When I come up to these regattas, I want to show that youth sailors can do just as well anyone else in the room,” said Petersen, who in 2017 set the mark for youngest-ever skipper at this championship, when he sailed to ninth place as a 15-year-old. “I’ll tell you this,” Petersen added, “I’m gonna try to be the youngest winner of the [Prince of Wales] Bowl in the coming years.” His Cricket Racing crew this week consisted of Max Brennan and Ken Sherb, both 18, and Daniel Pegg, 16.
“I feel good about our results. I know we made mistakes, and I wish I could get those races back, because they ended up counting a lot,” said Breault, who competed with longtime Vela Racing teammates Dana Riley Hayes and Hannah Burroughs, and with Jack Barton, who was sailing with Breault for the very first time.
“For two days, we had very challenging conditions but excellent boat handling and highly competitive teams. The seawall came into play and some teams played it very, very well,” said Event Chair Bruce Stone, who also noted the significance of both a female skipper and a youth crew among the final four. “This is a very difficult place to sail—anywhere else in the country, they would have been able to get a race off, but we have some current here and we had some unusual wind direction today because of the excessive heat, so we couldn’t really race across current and set a fair racecourse.”
That said, Stone was quick to praise the Race Committee, headed by St. Francis Race Director Graham Biehl, match umpires and the rest of the organizing team for running the best races possible. “I think they did a phenomenal job. I mean, the wind and tide lined up perfectly on the first two days of racing, so we were racing into a flood. The ebbs picked up at the end of each day and we were able to readjust the racecourse pretty quickly without losing any time. The mark boat team are very accomplished at that and I think we have a great group of volunteers here making it happen.”
The final standings of the 52nd U.S. Match Racing Championship:
1. Pearson Potts, Boston, Guardians of the Monohulls
2. Peter Holz, Glennview, Ill., Chicago YC
3. Jeffrey Petersen, Santa Ana, Calif., Balboa YC
4. Nicole Breault, San Francisco, St. Francis YC
5. Chris Nesbitt, San Diego, San Diego YC
6. Ryan Seago, Grosse Pointe, Mich., Bayview YC
7. Cameron Feves, Long Beach, Calif., Cabrillo Beach YC
8. Allie Blecher, Long Beach, Calif., California YC