Sailor Smith claims bronze in New Jersey
Benn Smith sailed his way into the history books after earning Bermuda’s first medal in the men’s Standard Laser rig at the North American Championships in Long Beach, New Jersey, at the weekend.
The 19-year-old won bronze among the formidable 40-boat fleet.
He posted six top-three finishes during the 11-race series, contested in variable conditions, including three firsts to surpass his expectations.
“I wanted to finish about top four and I did that, so I met my goal,” Smith, who celebrates his 20th birthday on Thursday, said.
“It’s my best finish at a North American Championship, so I’m happy with that.”
The son of Malcolm Smith, the former Sunfish world champion, topped the standings going into the final day on Sunday but was overhauled by eventual winner Noah Collinson and runner-up Leo Boucher.
“I didn’t have a great day and so I fell back a little bit to place third,” said Smith, who attends the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
“I wish I could have won the event. Overall, though, I am happy with third.”
Martin Siese, the Bermuda Sailing Association vice-president, hailed Smith’s feat, which is all the more impressive given the short time the sailor has spent in the Olympic class single-handed dinghy.
“Benn has only spent the last year in the full-rig Laser having come up through the youth system and into the Laser Radial,” Siese said.
“We always knew there would be an adjustment period as he puts some weight on and gets used to the bigger sail and wouldn’t expect this too have happened this soon. This is a fantastic result.”
The podium display was an ideal warm up for Smith, who is set to compete at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
“The windy conditions were what I was looking to train in going into Pan Am Games, which is going to be a windy event, so it was good practice,” Smith said.
Smith missed out on securing automatic qualification for the Games, to be held from July 26 to August 11, but successfully applied for one of the universality spots up for grabs.
The sailing event will be held in the city of Paracas, a 3˝-hour drive from Lima.
Siblings Cecilia and Michael Wollmann are the other sailors representing Bermuda at the Games in the foiling Nacra 17 catamaran.
Cecilia, who represented Bermuda in the Laser Radial at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, is on the helm while her sibling is serving as crew.
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