Thursday, October 10, 2019

Potts Two-peats USA J/22 Match Race Champs

J/22s match racing San Francisco
(San Francisco, CA)- The 2019 edition of the US Sailing Match Race Championship was hosted by the St Francis Yacht in San Francisco, CA. After 28 races, the clear winner was Pearson Potts from Newport, RI taking an unprecedented two-peat for his team. In some respects, it was a three-peat since he won it the previous year as well.

Day 1- Gorgeous Sailing
Skipper Pearson Potts and crewmember Robert Savoie made up half of the winning team at the 2018 U.S. Match Racing Championship at Chicago Yacht Club, under conditions that reinforced the stereotype of the City of Broad Shoulders’ other, weather-related nickname.

When Potts, Savoie and their 2019 teammates Lucas Adams and Tim Siemers arrived in Baghdad by the Bay (the late columnist Herb Caen’s nickname for his beloved San Francisco) to defend the USMRC crown, they encountered stereotypical conditions for October here. It’s nice. Sometimes too nice to run a match race.

Patience, however, was a virtue. When racing began at midday Friday in San Francisco Bay after a two-hour delay, Team Potts posted six victories from seven matches, returning to the docks of host St. Francis Yacht Club with the lead after Day 1.

“We’re happy to be where we are, but we’re more concerned with how we finish rather than how we start,” Potts said back at the clubhouse. “We have yet to sail the perfect race and until we do, we will keep marching.”

Patience was also a virtue for the Race Committee, led by StFYC Race Director Graham Biehl. “October in San Francisco can be a little bit more challenging in terms of the regular wind conditions,” Biehl said. “And we were patient and let the breeze fill in…we set our course quickly and got racing going.”

The regatta thus began in a strong current, an increasing flood, and marginal hiking conditions. More interactive and aggressive match racing took place later in the round-robin as the teams gained comfort with the Bay and the courses. Team Potts, sailing the 52nd USMRC under the moniker of Guardians of the Monohulls, posted four wins before taking a loss to skipper Peter Holz and the Chicago YC group. “[Our] mindset was, ‘Hey, we’re not the underdog anymore; we’ve been at the top before and we can do it again,’” Potts added.

The victory for Holz, who posted a 5-2 mark to end Day 1 in second place, over Potts amounted to a small measure of revenge. Potts knocked out Holz last year in the quarterfinals.

By virtue of winning their matchup in Flight 1, San Diego YC’s Chris Nesbitt stands in third place ahead of St. Francis YC’s Nicole Breault; the two ended the day with identical 4-3 records. Breault demonstrated her knowledge of her home course with some nifty maneuvers around marks, and won her Flight 7 match over Jeffrey Petersen of Balboa YC, who could not recover from a penalty served during that race.

The bottom half of the table lists Bayview YC’s Ryan Seago, who took fourth last year in Chicago; Petersen; Allie Blecher of California YC; and Cabrillo Beach YC’s Cameron Feves. Earlier in the season, Blecher succeeded Breault as the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Champion; Breault had held that title three years running before vacating it to compete elsewhere during the USWMRC.
J/22 sailing San Francisco Bay
Day 2- Earthquake Shattering Day!
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. champion 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 home-girl 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 from Chicago, IL 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.
J/22 USA match race winners
Day 3- Glass Out, Game Over
In a regatta shortened by windlessness, an unusual scenario for San Francisco Bay, Pearson Potts and his crew claimed the Prince of Wales Bowl and the U.S. Match Racing Championship for the second year running.

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. Nevertheless, 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, 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 YC.

“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 (now also a repeat champion), Lucas Adams and Tim Siemers sailed the USMRC under the name Guardians of the Monohulls, a nod to the incumbent, classic America’s Cup design.

Peter Holz (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.”

Behind the Potts team and the Holz crew were Jeff Petersen’s Balboa YC team in third, Nicole Breault’s St Francis YC team in fourth, and Chris Nesbitt’s San Diego YC team in fifth place. For more U.S. J/22 Match Race Nationals sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.