Steve Benjamin extends lead at Etchells North Americans
Published on September 11th, 2015
Rye, NY (September 11, 2015) – A fresh northerly greeted sailors for today’s two races at the the Etchells North American Championship. Heading out onto the sound, it was clear that the overnight easterly had made quite a mess of things, with an east-west swell dominant under the wind-driven chop from the 12-16 knot gradient.
Race 4: Course 4, 12-16 KTS, Flood Tide, Breeze 340-030
Race Four was again started right on time at 1055 by our trusty PRO, Donny Dowd, and his team from American Yacht Club. It’s Long Island Sound, so it wouldn’t be fun if it was obvious which way to go! Again, there was breeze on both sides of the track, with a geographic influence off the mainland shore (left shift) on the left, and bands of pressure building on the right edge and filling across the course.
Off the line, it was the boats in the left half of the line who were looking good, managing to consolidate their gains back to the middle. Kneulman and Benji were at the head of this group, with a host of others including Shannon Bush and Ken Womack.
Kneulman and Benj went around the mark together and then battled their way downwind in the puffy, shifty conditions. In the end, the race was put to bed by Dirk, who led around the left gate (looking upwind), and immediately hooked into some left pressure that delivered a big jump on the fleet. Everyone else who followed suit gained significantly on those teams who went to the right gate (looking upwind).
From there it was about shepherding Benj along to the finish…not an easy task, but successful nonetheless!
Back in the minor placings, behind Dirk and Benj, Ken Womack snuck ahead of Shannon Bush for 3rd, with Scott Kaufmann, sailing through the fleet on the second beat and run to claim a creditable 5th.
Race 5: Course 4, 6-12 KTS, Slack tide, changing to ebb tide, Breeze 000-060
Again a difficult set up for Race 5, with the forecast playing out as expected and a right progression starting to occur. Off the line, it was the boats in the pin half who were punched. However, Mr. Benjamin and team had seen something out right and were busy putting out their picnic blanket to collect the largest, longest right shift of the day. This hosed the left pack and brought the right half of the fleet into the lead as well. Etchells legend Allan Liebel sailed a beautiful first beat, crossing back to the right pack while he could, to consolidate a nice beat to round behind Benj, with the chasing pack in hot pursuit. A long port gybe run followed, with those not making the early gybe or soaking deep, losing ground to the boats on the left edge.
Up the second windward leg, things got interesting as the new breeze (from the hard right), battled with the old gradient. Some folks were tempted to go for gold in the right and were punished mightily, when the gradient re-established in the form of pressure from the left. Jay Cross, Jim Cunningham and Tomas Hornos sailed great beats and nice runs to the finish to claim the top prizes. Jeff Siegel and team sailed a nice race to finish 5th.
Overall for the regatta
After five races, Steve Benjamin has built a commanding lead over Dirk Kneulman and Michael Gavin, who are tied for second, with only 9 points separating the next three teams. With the final day of racing on Saturday, it remains to be seen whether two or three races can be sailed with a light breeze in the forecast.
Day Two Results (Top 10 of 36; 5 races, 1 discard)
1. Steve Benjamin / George Peet / Luke Lawrence / Julian Sudofsky , USA – 1 - -4 -2 -1 ; 8
2. Dirker Kneulman / Hank Lammens / Kent Paisley , USA – 11 -5 -3 -1 - ; 20
3. Michael Gavin / Michael Gavin / Bill Abbott / Guy Rittger / Austin Schaefer , USA –  -2 -2 -7 -9 ; 20
4. Jim Cunningham / Jeff Madrigali / Alan Nakanishi / Bryn Bachman , USA –  -8 -7 -6 -3 ; 24
5. Senet Bischoff / Ben Kinney / Clay Bischoff , USA – 7 -9 -1 - -11 ; 28
6. Steve Girling/Zeke Horowitz /David Lutian , USA – 6 -4 -10 -9 - ; 29
7. Peter Duncan / Jud Smith / Tom Blackwell , USA – 2 -14 -6 -10 - ; 32
8. Kevin Grainger / Scott Norris / Max Skelley , USA – 4 -1 -20 -14 - ; 39
9. Shannon Bush / Brad Boston / Curt Oetking , USA – 8 -15 -14 -4 - ; 41
10. Jay Cross / Marcus Spillanz / Mike Buckley / Lauren Gilooly , USA – 15 -10 - -15 -2 ; 42
Report by Steve Girling.