The overall winner of the 2017 Etchells World Championship, hosted by the San Francisco Yacht Club, is Steve Benjamin (USA), representing the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, 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.
Going into the final race of the regatta, 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 – 12 kts, and only one boat was hailed OCS.
After nine races, the final race brought yet another first place finisher. 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. “
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. In a day when the wind settled in at 10-14 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 place second overall.
Senet Bischoff (USA), the top Corinthian finisher, 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.
“This was a great regatta with some of the best sailors in the world”, said Julie Wiard, regatta co-chair. “And the camaraderie among the sailors exudes the Corinthian spirit of the sport. With the warm temperatures, we were concerned that this might be a light air regatta. However, the breeze filled in every day, and sailors were treated to some very typical San Francisco Bay conditions – everything from fresh to frightening.”
Final Results (top 10):
1. Steve Benjamin, USA 1427, Seawanhaka Corinthian YC, (33), 3, 7, 3, 15, 2, 5, 1, 5; 341
2. Graeme Taylor, AUS 947, Morningtown YC, 15, 5, 6, (24), 10, 3, 2, 3, 11; 55
3. Senet Bischoff, USA 1349, NYYC, 6, 13, 5, 4, 3, 1, (OCS-52), 19, 8; 59
4. Jim Cunningham, USA 1404, SFYC, (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, RSYS, 12, 22, 16, 1, 22, 4, 4, 6, (31); 87
7. Don Jesberg, USA 1429, SFYC, 19, (27), 2, 8, 11, 21, 3, 21, 3; 88
8. Dirk Kneulman, BER 1454, RCYC, 8, 1, 8, 20, 25, 26, 7, (32); 96
9. Scott Kaufman, USA 1198, RSYS, SIYC, 20, (28), 3, 16, 1, 16, 20, 16, 4; 96
10. Marty Kaye, USA 1198, SIYC, 4, 11, 14, (28), 19, 25, 22, 9, 1; 105
For complete regatta information and results, please see the event website.
by Leslie Richter