Sailors fulfil Californian dream

Alex Burger hikes out as Benji Daniel keeps a beady eye on on where they are on their 29er during the Zhik 29er World Championships in California. PHOTO: Matias Capizzano

AN astounding performance saw Waterfall’s Benji Daniel (16) and his team member, Alex Burger (21) from Cape Town crowned as the Zhik 29er World Champions.

The newcomers were the absolute surprise package from start to finish in the week-long event at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club in Long Beach, California. They finished third in the opening event, the U.S. Nationals, kicking off their phenomenal campaign.

Following the nationals, they went on to the qualifiers and earned a spot in the Gold Fleet.

Ending the fairy-tale week, they took the top step on the podium after three days of ultimate racing in a hot fleet consisting of the top 50 29er sailors in the world.

The newly-formed team of Benji and Alex were the most consistent on the water, with only one slip up in the penultimate race, where they changed their tactics for a riskier start and almost blew their winning chances, ending with a disastrous 33rd. With two race discards counting, they were lucky to have the 33rd and a 5th scored in the seventh race erased from their overall result.

The young team composed themselves in the 11th and final race, not taking any major risks and opting for fast sailing. They took the lead from the starting block and didn’t look back.

The duo congratulated the other competitors, proudly holding the South African flag high in celebration and later hoisted it atop the mast as they made their way back into the harbour.

The duo finished with a marvellous lead of 33 points over second placed French sailors, Benjamin Jaffrezic and Leo Chauvel who ended on 56 points. At the conclusion of the regatta, their scorecard revealed a 4th, five 3rd places, a 2nd, and two magnificent 1st places. Their two discarded races were the seventh race which they clocked a fifth place and a 33rd in the tenth race, which was their only finish out of the top five, totalling 23 points.

The newly crowned world champs have only been sailing together for four months and this was their first major event together. “We came to the championship regatta with the goal of simply doing our best, but after a solid day of racing, and consistently placing in the top five throughout the finals, it occurred to us that we could win this thing,” said a composed Alex.

“We complement each other as a team, not only physically in size, but in making smart decisions,” he continued.

Benji, at the helm, is responsible for making sure the boat is hitting its top speed continuously. “Whoever sails the shortest distance at the highest velocity, wins,” said Alex.

Benji and Alex are the first team in recent South African 29er history to take the top spot in the Zhik 29er World Championships.



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Lloyd Mackenzie

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