Teenager Smith on crest of a wave
Benn Smith may not be one of the most instantly recognisable names in the Bacardi Moth World Championships fleet.
But that has not stopped the 18-year-old Bermudian from making waves in the Great Sound this week.
Smith is holding his own among a star-studded fleet boasting world champions, Olympic medal-winners and America's Cup-calibre sailors on his debut at the championships.
He is 30th in an overall fleet of 40 and is perched atop the local standings heading into today's penultimate day of the regatta.
But it has not exactly been a case of smooth sailing for the College of Charleston freshman who has endured his fair share of challenges over the past several days.
“It's tough but it's a good experience,” Smith said. “I have been learning a lot over the past couple of days we have been able to sail and maybe in a few years I can be competing with the top guys.”
Smith's campaign got off to a rocky start after he did not finish the opening race of the championship and then missed the second while his foiling dinghy was being worked on to repair structural damage to its hull.
“The front of the hull cracked under loads from the forestay,” Smith said. “My boat is getting a bit old so it's falling apart a little bit.
“I had to come in and some guys helped me fix the boat. It was pretty significant so I had to put some carbon fibre on it and missed all the races on the first day.”
Smith, the youngest sailor in the fleet, was back on his foils the next day, posting a 27-26-26-27 record in the next four races to surge to the top of the local leaderboard.
“My starts were really good, I was right online but speed was lacking,” he said. “I've done a lot of changes to the boat, some good and some bad. But I just haven't had time to get used to the changes.”
Weather-wise it has been a frustrating week for the Moth fleet with three race days, including yesterday, being postponed either because of strong winds or lack of.
“It's disappointing that we have not been getting more sailing in,” Smith said yesterday. “The first day it was windy but I think it was just in control and then the second day it was windy but not out of control.
“It would be nice to get some light wind racing in just so we can see all the conditions and hopefully we can get some racing in tomorrow.”
Smith finished third among the local field and 27th overall at last weekend's truncated Bacardi Moth Bermuda National Championship.
His compatriot Joshua Greenslade was declared the winner after the final day of the two-day regatta was cancelled because of strong winds.
Only a local sailor could be crowned Bermuda national champion, even though the regatta was open to overseas competitors. England's Paul Goodison topped the overall racing fleet.
“It was tough with nationals as I wasn't able to sail all the races because the boat was falling apart,” Smith said. “But I want to try and make top Bermudian in the Moth World Championship.”
Greenslade trails Smith by 15 points in 33rd followed by James Doughty, the Bermuda Moth Class Association president, in 38th at the Moth Worlds.
Goodison, the two-times defending world champion and Olympic gold medal-winner, leads the overall fleet with fellow America's Cup sailors Francesco Bruni, of Italy, and Rome Kirby, of the United States, in second and third after six races and a throw-out.