Steve Benjamin Wins Etchells US National Championship
Published on March 20th, 2016
For over a decade, Etchells sailors have flocked south in the winter to enjoy beautiful weather, warm water and outstanding sailboat racing of Biscayne Bay in Miami, FL. Annually, the Coral Reef Cup hosted by Coral Reef Yacht Club and Biscayne Bay Fleet 20 serves as the winter finale for the Etchells Class “Southern Circuit”, following the four regatta Biscayne Bay Series. This year, Coral Reef Cup also served as the 2016 Etchells US National Championship on March 18-20.
The forecast for the 3 day event called for light southerly winds building over the weekend with a strong chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. PRO Carl Shellbach informed competitors at the skippers’ meeting on Friday that he intended to get in as many races as was feasible Friday and Saturday, just in case Sunday proved to be a washout.
Friday was a very long day. After a short postponement in the morning, the breeze filled in from the south at about 6 knots and the first race was off. The light and tricky southerly resulted in 4 different race winners. Barry Parkin (GBR 1424) took race one, while the second race went to Charles Kenahan in (USA 1099). Race three went to 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the year Steve Benjamin (USA 1228). The final race of the day went to 2015 World Champion Jon McClean/ Skip Dieball (USA 1372). Multiple day-one winners left the standings tight at the top, but that would soon change on the second day of racing.
Saturday saw substantially more breeze with another southerly, but this time at 12 knots building to 18 plus by the third race of the day. Steve Benjamin (USA 1228) owned the day taking all 3 races. After a very dominant day, ‘Benj’ and crew Michael Menninger, George Peet, and Ian Liberty had victory in the bag after seven races. The 8th and final race on Sunday was a fight for second place as the 2nd through 6th spots were still tight after 7 races.
The final race was won by Scott Kaufman (USA 1198). Shannon Bush (USA 1415) went into Sunday in second place. Shannon rounded the last weather mark deep in the pack, but worked the last run very hard picking up more than a half dozen boats to finish tenth in the race, holding on to second overall by a single point over 3rd place Steve Girling in USA 1200. Jon McClean/ Skip Dieball (1372) and Jim Cunningham (1408) tied for 4th with the tie breaker going to McClean/Dieball.
Final Results (Top 5 of 29; 8 races, 1 discard)
1. Terrapin, Steve Benjamin , USA – 2 - -1 -2 -1 -1 -1 -2 ; 10
2. La Tormenta, Shannon Bush , USA – 5 -2 - -10 -12 -2 -2 -10 ; 43
3. Lion heart, Steve Girling , USA – 7 -9 -6 -6 -5 - -5 -6 ; 44
4. Aretas, Jon McClean , USA – 4 - -10 -1 -3 -14 -8 -12 ; 52
5. Lifted, Jim Cunningham , USA –  -13 -7 -5 -2 -7 -14 -4 ; 52
Photo (from left): Michael Menninger, George Peet, Ian Liberty and Steve Benjamin.
Report by event media.