Steve Benjamin wins Etchells North Americans

Published on September 12th, 2015

Rye, NY (September 12, 2015) – The final day of the Etchells North American Championship provided a feeding frenzy, not so much for Steve Benjamin’s Terrapin team, but the magnificent display of sea life being devoured by a humpback whale in the middle of the race track. Sailors were greeted by a fading NNE to E breeze alongside a hopeful forecast.

Race 6: Course 4, 4-7 KTS, Flood Tide, Breeze 075-100 going to 175…!
Donny Dowd’s American Yacht Cub RC were on station and ready to go after a brief postponement. With a flooding tide, this determined fleet was called all clear for the first start of the day. With the pin half of the line the place to be, it was a challenge to get into the front row in light airs and foul current. Pre-race, there had been bursts of left pressure and shift AND right pressure and shift, so it was clearly going to be a tough beat to call!

Off the line, the teams with the best starts flipped onto port and began the march towards streaky right pressure. Bischoff and crew were furthest right, Girling came off the middle and Gavin, Kauffman and Kneulman made good escapes from closer to the pin. Generally the boats to the right made gains, except for Bischoff, who was unfortunate not to connect with the pressure inside him. At the weather mark, Kneulman tacked in under Kauffman, Gavin and Girling, and managed to squeak in ahead on a private Canadian puff…!

Down the run, there was a lot of temptation to gybe early, to go back out to the first beat pressure. However, this move also forced Kauffman and then, Gavin, who followed a couple of minutes later, under the Starboard lay-line snow fence, and so Kneulman and Girling, who had extended further right, gained distance.

At the leeward mark, Kneulman led to the favored right gate, Girling followed, rounding second and Kauffman and Gavin (who had been joined by Kevin Grainger and Wade Edwards, who had both sailed a nice run) split 3 left and 1 right.

Up the second beat, it was the dark raining cloud in the top left corner that brought the best looking pressure, although, noticeably, the boats in the bottom right corner also found pressure and a right shift to stay in the game. At the top mark, things got flakey. Kneulman managed to stay just ahead of Edwards, who marched in from the top left, while Kauffman, Gavin, Grainger, Dieball, Brush and Bush all sailed around Girling (on both sides) who parked in a private hole.

The full shut down continued on the ‘run,’ which turned into a pole-forward port reach as the new breeze built in from the South over Long Island. The biggest gains were made by Dieball, Bush and Siegel, but it was Kneulman over Edwards and Gavin for the top 3 places.

Race 7: Course 4, 12-17 KTS, Start of the Ebb, Breeze 155-180
With rigs wound up and some changes to heavier jibs, the fleet was away clean in race 7. Girling and Benjamin fought for the best start at the pin, with the two coming off the port biased line and able to cross the fleet. Benjamin continued all the way right, while Girling played the shifts middle left. At the weather mark it was Benjamin, Hornos and Kneulman from the right and Girling from the left.

Down the first run, Hornos and Girling gybed early to set up for the left gate, while Benjamin and Lammens went to the right. The next band of pressure and shift came to Girling and Hornos, with Benjamin still just ahead.
The leaders chose their sides into the weather mark about halfway up the track with Hornos and Girling working right and Benjamin, choosing the left and putting a loose cover on Knuelman, for the overall scores.

Hornos rounded ahead of Girling and Benjamin, but it was Benji who picked the right time to gybe and converted the new pressure and shift into a 50 yard gain. This same pressure also brought Grainger into the picture, with Hornos unlucky having lost ground. At the finish it was Benji with a comfortable win, Girling by a hair over Grainger and Hornos right on their transom. Peter Duncan sailed a solid second lap to claim 5th.

Race 8: Course 4, 15-17 KTS, Start of the Ebb, Breeze 145-175
Off the line in the final race of the regatta, it was a strong band of left shift and pressure that split the top 15 boats away early from the right side pack. This was the largest (20 degrees) shift of the afternoon and lasted for two thirds of the first beat.

This observer was in the cheap seats for this race in the right half pack, so with apologies to those competing, I have no idea what the mark rounding sequences were, but it looked like great racing…!

Scott Kauffman and team sailed a fantastic couple of laps for the victory. Don Brush finally put it all together for a fantastic 2nd and Steve Benjamin and team closed out the regatta with a creditable 3rd and a 15 point overall regatta win.

Stick a fork in it
So the 2015 North American Championships is a wrap. Steve Benjamin, George Peet, Luke Lawrence and Julian Sudofsky are the new champions after sailing a solid regatta for a decisive win. Dirk Kneulman, Hank Lammens and Kent Paisley sailed a solid last day for second overall. Michael Gavin, Bill Abbott, Guy Rittger and Austin Schaefer sailed an excellent series for third. In the minor placings, Kevin Grainger, Scott Norris and Max Skelley pulled through the pack with a boat of the day performance for 4th overall and Steve Girling, Zeke Horowitz and David Lutian were 5th.

Final Results (Top 10 of 36; 8 races, 1 discard)
1. Steve Benjamin/ George Peet/ Luke Lawrence/ Julian Sudofsky, USA – 1 -11 -4 -2 -1 -[16] -1 -3 ; 23
2. Dirker Kneulman/ Hank Lammens/ Kent Paisley, USA – 11 -5 -3 -1 -[28] -1 -9 -8 ; 38
3. Michael Gavin/ Bill Abbott/ Guy Rittger/ Austin Schaefer, USA – 13 -2 -2 -7 -9 -3 -7 -[15] ; 43
4. Kevin Grainger/ Scott Norris/ Max Skelley, USA – 4 -1 -20 -14 -[36] -4 -3 -10 ; 56
5. Steve Girling/ Zeke Horowitz/ David Lutian, USA – 6 -4 -10 -9 -12 -15 -2 -[29] ; 58
6. Peter Duncan/ Jud Smith/ Tom Blackwell, USA – 2 -14 -6 -10 -16 -[18] -5 -5 ; 58
7. Jim Cunningham/ Jeff Madrigali/ Alan Nakanishi/ Bryn Bachman, USA – 9 -8 -7 -6 -3 -20 -[23] -6 ; 59
8. Scott Kaufman/ Lucas Calabrase/ Victor Diaz/ Grant Simmer, USA – 17 -16 -5 -5 -[30] -7 -13 -1 ; 64
9. Jon McClean/ Skip Dieball/ Jeff Eiber, USA – 3 -7 -[37] -11 -22 -5 -14 -12 ; 74
10. Jay Cross/ Marcus Spillanz/ Mike Buckley/ Lauren Gilooly, USA – 15 -10 -[24] -15 -2 -13 -18 -4 ; 77

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Report by Steve Girling.

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