Steve Benjamin wins Etchells Florida State Championship
Published on February 7th, 2016
The third event of the 2016 Etchells Biscayne Bay Series attracted 59 teams for the Florida State Championship on February 6-7 in Miami, FL. Hosted by Etchells Fleet 20 and the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, the 5 race series was won by Steve Benjamin with crew Michael Menninger, George Peet, and Ian Liberty. The annual winter circuit concludes with the Mid-Winter’s East Regatta on February 26-28.
Report by John Payne:
Saturday’s weather was not exactly Chamber of Commerce. A drizzling rain with light patchy wind, eventually gave way to cloudy skies and dying breeze. Though some puffs to eight knots were seen early on the course, by 2:00pm, the wind had completely shut off.
The first race was won by Seamus McHugh, sailing with David Vera and Louis Doreste. Coming second were Tom Carruthers, and crew Chris Busch and Andrew Palfrey. Third place went to perineal Etchells success story Peter Duncan, with Jud Smith and Tom Blackwell. That trio has sailed the Biscayne Bay Series together for several years, and usually wind up on the podium.
The second race went to Andy Beadsworth and that new boat (SUI 1425) of his, along with crew Finn Hill and Simon Fry. Michael Gavin, Bill Abbott and Guy Rittger held on for second beating Steve Benjamin and his crew of Michael Menninger, George Peet, and Ian Liberty, who finished third.
Leading overall at the end of the first day was Steve Benjamin, followed by Peter Duncan and Shannon Bush in second and third respectively.
Steve said, “It was a great day of racing with SE winds of 5-8 knots in flat water. There were some right shifts so it was not at all straight forward.”
The fleet enjoyed the post racing social with hopes for three races on Sunday in good breeze.
Perhaps they should have been careful what they wished for.
Sunday began with very chilly temperatures in the low 50’s under sunny skies with a strong NW wind of 19-23 knots. Several gusts were in the 30’s! A few boats decided to stay home, and many more probably wished they had. By the end of the day, half the fleet had picked up one or more scores of DNF or DNS.
It was a tough day for many. In what probably cost Andy Beadsworth a spot on the podium, in the first two races Sunday he had to save two OCS’s and a man overboard.
Jeff Nehms, Fleet Captain for Fleet 20 commented, “It was the kind of day where you strap everything down, hold on, and hope nothing breaks. And it was cold!” He continued, “We had a girl sailing with us who was new to the class, and as the day went on she was getting really uncomfortable and cold. We took a vote on whether to skip the last race, and the decision to head in was unanimous.”
There were numerous crazy broaches on the downwinds and several near collisions at the gate. Amazingly there were no dismastings, and no major damage.
Meanwhile, of the boats who toughed it out, Steve Benjamin was on fire. Fresh on the heels of being named U.S. Sailing 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, Steve rolled a perfect line of 1-1-1 to finish 16 points ahead of Peter Duncan who finished the day 9-6-7. By virtue of having the top Fleet 20 boat, Steve also takes home the Tom Piper Memorial Florida State Champ Trophy.
Steve remarked, “We’ve been sailing the boat hard for a couple of years now and Sunday was the first time we planed on most of the downwinds.” He continued, “Our usual fourth, Norman Berge, was not available so we added Ian Liberty for the weekend. The team worked very well together and had great communication on the boat, and some great starts.”
Easing into third were Luke Lawrence, Barry Allardice, Tomas Hornos, and Chiara Bruzzi. Luke has spent quite a bit of time crewing in the Etchells but this was his debut as skipper. Fourth went to Jim Cunningham sailing with Mark Fuey, Bryin Bachman, and Jeff Madrigali. Fifth place went to an even newer Etchells, Don Jesberg’s new VIVA, (USA 1429). All in all 8 points separated 2nd through 8th overall! That’s some very close racing.
In conclusion, Steve Benjamin commented, “I have the utmost respect for the sailors in this class. The level of competition is amazing and everybody is friendly.”
To qualify for the overall Etchells Biscayne Bay Series (formerly known as “The Jaguar Cup”) prizes, boats must count their place in the Mid-Winters Regatta, and any two of the other three individual regattas (Piana Cup, Sidney Doren Memorial, Florida State Championship).
2016 Etchells Biscayne Bay Series
Louis Piana Cup Regatta – December 5 & 6, 2015
Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta – January 9 & 10, 2016
Florida State Championship – February 6 & 7, 2016
Mid-Winter’s East Regatta – February 26 -28, 2016