Thomas More skipper ‘aces’ regatta

2016-01-12 06:00
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THOMAS More College Grade 9 pupil, Benji Daniel (14), recently returned from the coastal town of Pwllheli in the north of Wales where he and teammate Euan Hurter competed in the Zhik 29er World Championship Regatta, where they came fourth in the silver fleet category.

Daniel was the youngest skipper competing out of 193 boats.
“I enjoyed the challenge of being one of the younger skippers.
“A lot of the more experienced guys, who were double or triple my age, thought we were a joke, but we managed to prove them wrong, but saying that, I learnt a tremendous amount there, giving a gutsy performance and competing against the older guys.”

Daniel’s impressive international sailing CV grows with each event in which he participates.
“I think that Euan and I have both sailed enough in big fleets to get to grips a bit more on what to focus on. In a big fleet it is vital you sail the fleet, not a particular person. You also have to really focus the whole time because every mistake you make is punished, which is good for gaining places, but you lose out quickly if you don't focus.”

Daniel is originally from Guildford in the south-east of London.
“Sailing in the UK is very structured, you learn to sail on an optimists, then you move up to RS Fevas and then on to 29ers, whereas in South Africa you do a bit of everything, which, in my opinion, is just as good because you become a more rounded sailor capable of sailing anything.”

Having lived in South Africa for just over two years, he talks about the conditions when returning to compete in the country of his birth.
“Worlds was hard because of the venue, there were many land features that you had to know about, but this was only for certain wind directions. Generally it was a pumping south-wester which brought huge chop, that was the biggest challenge, keeping the boat upright in those conditions.

“The moment that stands out for me the most is when we got a second in the eighth race. We had a good start, but had lost out on the first upwind then came the downwind.
“Another moment would be the first day of the UK nationals coming off the water to find we were 11th overall. We didn't expect that.”

At a recent Point Yacht Club prize giving, Daniel cleaned up in both the youth and dinghy awards, raking in certificates, plaques, clocks and a trophy for PYC Youth Sailor of the Year that will take pride and place in his trophy cabinet at home.

His next challenge will be to train his new teammate, Chad Stevenson.

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