Smith’s Tokyo bid off to flyer
Benn Smith got his 2020 Olympic Games qualifying campaign off to a flying start at the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta in Florida last week.
The Bermudian sailor placed fourth in the Laser fleet to cap a strong debut competing in the single-handed Olympic class dinghy. Smith, whose father, Malcolm, competed for Bermuda at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, posted three victories, including two back-to-back triumphs on the final day of the regatta.
“It felt good to end it on a strong note because the first couple of days were tough,” said Smith, who sails out of Spanish Point Boat Club and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
“After the first day, I didn’t really expect to gain that much, but with the last day being so good, I ended up with a 1-1-4 and jumped two places.
“It was pretty difficult at the start, changing our boats and getting back up to speed in the bigger rig.
“After a few days I was able to get my boat speed up and it felt a lot better by the end.
“The wind was light at the start of the event and then it picked up on the last day.
“When the wind picked up I was a little heavier than the rest of the people and that helped.
“The couple of days that I trained in Bermuda was in a little bit more wind, so that also helped.”
The College of Charleston freshman’s late surge led to him finish just shy of the podium.
“It was disappointing not to get on the podium because I felt I could have beaten a couple of the guys in front of me,” the 18-year-old said.
“The calibre of sailing there was high. There were 20 boats in the full rig and the top ten were all pretty quick.”
Smith is scheduled to compete in his first Olympic qualifier for Tokyo in Denmark this summer.
“It’s going to be tough because 40 per cent of the spots are available there and the other 60 per cent the year after that,” Smith said. “It would be amazing to qualify and a huge honour and great experience to represent Bermuda at the Olympics.”
Smith was among several Bermudians competing in Florida, including Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club’s Matthew Arruda, who placed third in the Optimist green fleet. Ava Rosser and Trey Whaley also impressed, with eighth and ninth-place finishes in the same fleet.