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Benn Smith impresses at US Open Sailing Series opener in Florida

Benn Smith finished eighth in ICLA 7 dinghy in Florida

Benn Smith made a promising start to the new year in the West Marine US Open Sailing Series season-opener in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Bermudian placed an impressive eighth among the 28 sailors who competed in the Olympic class ILCA 7 dinghy and was also the highest ranked non-American in the fleet.

Smith posted two top-five showings with a best finish of third in the penultimate race of the six-race series, which was contested in trying conditions.

“It was a really light wind, trick shifty event so I was happy to stay mostly consistent,” he told The Royal Gazette.

The 23-year-old was in contention for a podium finish heading into the final race but lost ground after posting his worst finish of 18th.

“Going into the last race I had the opportunity to be second overall if I had a good race but unfortunately it did not pan out,” added Smith, who used the event as a warm up for upcoming Pan American Games and Olympic qualifiers.

“But I am still happy with eighth place and I think it shows improvement. Coming into the Pan Am qualifiers, it’s a little a bit of a confidence boost that I am right there with the top guys.

“I think I really showed how I improved and that I deserved to be there. Being the highest non-American finisher also helps with confidence.”

American sailors swept the podium positions, with Chapman Petersen claiming gold, Guthrie Braun silver and Robby Meek bronze respectively.

Smith, who was unsuccessful in his bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo along with compatriot Rockal Evans in the Laser, is training in Miami in preparation for next month’s Clearwater US Open, which also serves as a Pan American Games qualifier.

He is also scheduled to compete for a spot in the next Olympics at the ILCA 7 World Championships to be held in Scheveningen, The Hague, this summer.

“Hopefully we will be able to get a spot for the Olympics sooner rather than later and qualify for Pan Am Games in Clearwater,” Smith said.

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Published January 19, 2023 at 7:41 am (Updated January 19, 2023 at 7:41 am)

Benn Smith impresses at US Open Sailing Series opener in Florida

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