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Smith handed Pan Am chance

Next cab in the rank: Benn Smith has been granted an universality spot for the Pan American Games in Lima

The waiting game is finally over for Benn Smith, who has been granted a spot to compete at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, this summer.

The sailor, 19, missed out on securing automatic qualification at the final attempt by one spot after placing 21st in a fleet of 33 at the Laser South American Championships in Paracas, Peru, in February.

He then had to wait to learn whether his application for one of the universality spots available, submitted on his behalf by the Bermuda Sailing Association, was successful.

However, Smith can breathe easier as the BSA has been granted a spot, which will enable him to compete at the Games to be held from July 26 to August 11.

“This is fantastic news and we are really pleased that he is going to get to go,” said Martin Siese, the BSA vice-president.

“Hopefully he will represent Bermuda well and serve us proud. We are very fortunate that other fleets didn’t fill the quota of competitors.

“The kiteboard and women’s 49er FX couldn’t find people to fill the fleet so they offered extra spots to the Laser Standard men’s fleet. Benn, as the next eligible qualifier in the last qualifying regatta, was offered a spot.”

An elated Smith is looking forward to the big occasion.” I’m very excited,” he said.

“I have a good schedule coming up with a three-week training block in Bermuda followed by the World Championships in Japan, where I hope to get in the swing of things with my race strategy after not being in event mode for the past two months.

“After that, I have a two-week, heavy-wind training block in La Rochelle [southwestern France], where I hope to improve heavy-wind, upwind boat speed, as that will be a key factor in getting a top result at Pan Am.”

The Pan Am Games regatta will be contested in Paracas, where Smith competed in February.

“The Pan Am Games venue is a pretty simple but a consistent venue to sail,” he said.

Siblings Cecilia and Michael Wollmann are the other sailors eligible to represent 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.

“It’s all got to be ratified by the Bermuda Olympic Association, but right now Bermuda has basically qualified in the Nacra 17 and in the Laser Standard men,” Siese said.

“From the BSA’s viewpoint, we will be proposing to the BOA that they have Cecilia and Michael Wollmann, and Benn Smith on the team.”