Steve Benjamin wins Etchells Worlds

Published on September 30th, 2017

Belvedere, CA (September 30, 2017) – The overall winner of the 9-race 2017 Etchells World Championship, hosted by the San Francisco Yacht Club, is Steve Benjamin (USA) with crew of Dave Hughes, Ian Liberty, and Michael Menninger.

Benjamin, a past Olympic medalist, 505 World Champion, and 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, finally claimed the championship after numerous attempts. He also wins the Senior (helm over 60 years of age) and Masters (helm over 50 years of age) trophies.

With one race to be held on today, the overall standings were anything but certain. No single boat had dominated this regatta. The race committee, with PRO Jeff Zarwell at the helm, opted for two postponements to ensure a fair starting line given the wind shifts and current influence which had boats piling up on the favored right end of the line.

At the picture perfect start, the wind was building from 10 to 12 knots, and only one boat was hailed OCS.

The final race brought yet another first place finisher to the tape. Marty Kaye (HKG) with his crew of Charlie Cumberley and Marco Pocci were first to finish, putting them in tenth place overall. Dirk Kneulman (BER) finished second for an eighth overall, and Don Jesberg (USA) finished third for seventh overall.

Benjamin was clearly elated, “It feels great to win. It’s been 37 years since I won my last world championship, and I have to give the credit to my crew. Mike Menninger is our main trimmer and calling tactics, Dave Hughes is on jib and spin trim, and Ian Liberty is our bow/pit guy.”

He added, “We did lots of work to prepare – we built a new boat, a birthday present from my wife Heidi. Dirk Kneulman of Ontairo Yachts built us a great boat, and we also did a lot of work with North Sails on the sail inventory.“

With an eight point lead, Benjamin’s strategy for the day was to keep his options open since his wind forecast wasn’t very certain. “Our forecast had more wind velocity on the left, so even though the shift would be on the right, there would be more wind on the left,” said Benjamin.

While much of the fleet went upwind on the right side of the course, Benjamin mostly stayed in the middle. He was seventh rounding the first windward mark, and broke away from the crowd on a wind shift to sail down the middle of the course. This tactical decision was pivotal in today’s performance. On a day when the wind settled in at 10 to 14 knots, Benjamin finished the race in fifth place, for a total of 41 points.

Graeme Taylor (AUS) with James Mayo and Steve Jarvin finished the day in 11th place, but held on to second place overall.

Senet Bischoff (USA), the top Corinthian finisher with his team of Ben Kinney and Clay Bischoff, remained in third overall with an eighth place in the final race.

Dirk Kneulman (BER), with Grant Simmer and Mark Strube, wins the Grandmaster Trophy (a crew of three with a combined age of 150 or more).

The top woman skipper was Shannon Bush (USA), with Brad Boston and Phil Trinter, in 24th overall.

“With the warm temperatures, we were concerned that this might be a light air regatta,” admitted Julie Wiard, regatta co-chair. “However, the breeze filled in every day, and sailors were treated to some very typical San Francisco Bay conditions – everything from fresh to frightening.”

The 2017 Etchells World Championship was held from September 26 to 30.

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Final Results (Top 10 of 51; 9 races, 1 discard)
1. Steve Benjamin, USA 1427, (33), 3, 7, 3, 15, 2, 5, 1, 5; 41
2. Graeme Taylor, AUS 947, 15, 5, 6, (24), 10, 3, 2, 3, 11; 55
3. Senet Bischoff, USA 1349, 6, 13, 5, 4, 3, 1, (OCS-52), 19, 8; 59
4. Jim Cunningham, USA 1404, (31), 7, 4, 2, 9, 7, 17, 7, 16; 69
5. Mark Thornburrow, HKG 1406, 10, 6, 10, 7, 17, 6, (24), 17, 9; 82
6. Martin Hill, AUS 925, 12, 22, 16, 1, 22, 4, 4, 6, (31); 87
7. Don Jesberg, USA 1429, 19, (27), 2, 8, 11, 21, 3, 21, 3; 88
8. Dirk Kneulman, BER 1454, 8, 1, 8, 20, 25, 26, 7, (32); 96
9. Scott Kaufman, USA 1198, 20, (28), 3, 16, 1, 16, 20, 16, 4; 96
10. Marty Kaye, USA 1198, 4, 11, 14, (28), 19, 25, 22, 9, 1; 105

About the Etchells Class
For over fifty years the Etchells class has enjoyed solid and steady growth with over fifty active fleets worldwide. Etchells sailors are enthusiastic and loyal supporters of their boat and class association. The Etchells is a big, fast, simple, stable, and sleek racing sloop that can be sailed competitively and in comfort by three or four average sailors. It can tack in 70 degrees and has a low wetted surface hull form that keeps moving in the slightest breeze. In 20+ knots it absolutely flies.

The strict one-design principle of the Etchells class was established from the outset and is controlled by a strong, established and well-administered class association. Control of construction by the class association and World Sailing ensures quality and uniformity. It’s easy to trailer and light enough to dry sail; and Etchells hold exceptional resale value.

Source: Leslie Richter

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