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Peter Holz and crew takes top honors at 2021 U.S. Match Racing Championship

by US Sailing 4 Oct 15:36 BST October 1-3, 2021
2021 U.S. Match Racing Championship © Camille Daniels

Chicago Yacht Club's Peter Holz and his crew won the 2021 U.S. Match Racing Championship this weekend, sailing on Catalina 37s at Long Beach Yacht Club in Long Beach, California.

After three days of racing, Holz faced off against Pearson Potts (New York YC) to go 2-0 in the final matchup. Chris Poole (Seawanhaka Corinthian YC) bested Jeffery Peterson (Balboa YC) in the petit final to take third place overall.

"Boat speed wins races, and the guys got us around the track fast," said Holz of his tactics throughout the weekend. "Starts were also key, we got off the line well and got our tactician what he wanted, so it was good....the guys [on board] were rock stars around the course, and got us out of a lot of tough positions"

The winning team included skipper Holz, Ellis Tonissi (Beverly YC), Jonathan Hammond (Seawanhaka YC), I.G. Shottlaender (Norton YC), John Colburn, (Windy City Racing LLC), and Graham Post (Macatawa Bay YC).

Ten teams competed for the overall title, with racing beginning Friday, October 1st and culminating on Sunday, October 3rd. While mornings stayed light throughout the weekend, the LBYC Race Committee was able to set courses in the afternoons on both Friday and Saturday to work through the first stages of racing. "It [was] the lightest Long Beach sailing I've ever seen," said Poole. "Other than Congressional Cup this year, this is the first time I've sailed here this time of year. Now that we're experiencing normal September conditions, it's tricky getting up to speed. But I think everyone is on the same page learning how to sail these boats in 3-5 knots."

On Saturday, the breeze again faded in the later hours of the day, forcing the Race Committee to suspend the final match of the quarterfinals, Holz against Janel Zarkowsky (Scuttlebutt Sailing Club) until Sunday morning. "I'm feeling dangerous!" said Holz on Saturday evening, gearing up for the third and final flight of the quarters. "The conditions for the last race of the day were marginal, but I'm happy to see Janel sailing well." In the end, it was Holz and his team who triumphed, and by Sunday midday, the semifinals aligned with Potts vs Petersen in Match 1, and Poole vs Holz in Match 2.

The Poole/Holz semifinal saw its share of close maneuvering. In one race, "Poole luffed up and tried to shut the door at the committee boat, but there was room for Holz to go through — not much, but there was room," said Chief Umpire Randy Smith. "Poole ended up tacking away without contact, so there was a no penalty." After winning the first race of the semifinal, Holz and his team lost two in a row to Poole. "When our back is against the wall, we'll fight," said Holz. And fight they did, ultimately winning the final two matches to proceed into the finals against Potts, who swept Jeffrey Petersen in their semifinal.

Then, there were two. Potts, the returning champion looking for another title, versus Holz. "Interestingly enough, something similar [to what happened in the semifinal] happened in the final," said Smith. "Instead, it was at the leeward end. Holz was on the right, and Potts was the tacking boat, so he was at risk. He ended up turning a little bit and there was contact, so Potts got a penalty." Holz and his team went on to go 2-0 in the final, taking the overall title.

"Winning the U.S. Match Race Championship has been a goal of ours for the last three or four years, and we've come up second against Potts several times, so it's good to get one over on him," said Holz of the win. "Doing it here at Long Beach, where I've been lucky enough to spend a lot of time, is really great. The hospitality at the Yacht Club is just incredible, there's no better place to do it."

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