Durban sailing duo crowned world champs in California

In motion, Alex Burger working hard hoisting the kite as they round the weather mark with Benji Daniel helming the 29er on their way to winning the Zhik 29er World Championships in Long Beach, California this weekend. Pic Matias Capizzano.

AN astounding performance saw Durban’s Benji Daniel (16) and his team member, Alex Burger (21) from Cape Town crowned number one at the Zhik 29er World Champions. The newcomers were the absolute surprise package from start to finish in the weeklong event that took place at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club in Long Beach, California. Ending the fairy-tale week, taking 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.

Daniel and Burger are the first team in recent South African 29er history to take the top spot in the Zhik 29er World Championships. The newly crowned world champs have only been sailing together for four months, this being their first major event together. With a result like this, it promises a bright future for the team. Burger stated that his experience in other world championships, and in other boats, helped overall. “We came to the championship regatta with the goal of simply doing our best, but after a solid day of racing yesterday (Friday), and consistently placing in the top five throughout the finals, it occurred to us that we could win this thing,” said Burger.

The young team composed themselves in the eleventh and final race, returning to the tactics that had worked the entire regatta by not taking any major risks, instead doing what they did best, sailing fast, and in so doing taking a magical bullet and the title of 2017 world champions. They led out of the starting blocks and didn’t look back, until 20 yards beyond the finish, when helmsman Daniel released his tight hold on the tiller and slid backward into the water in celebratory relief.

Talking on the beach, a visibly delighted Daniel representing Point Yacht Club said, “We have had worse days. We wanted to end in style.” And that they did, annihilating the more experienced sailors, finishing with a marvelous 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, totaling 23 points.

“We complement each other as a team, not only physically in size, but in making smart decisions. Daniel, at the helm, is responsible for making sure the boat is going top speed all the time. Whoever sails the shortest distance at the highest velocity, wins,” said Burger.

Daniel directed them along the shortest, fastest route possible, but credit he said goes to both team members for sharing responsibilities half and half on the boat – tactics and implementation. The next event for Point Yacht Club is the Band on the Bay this Wednesday with sailors participating in a sail past, followed by the funky band South Jersey Pom Poms performing from 3pm.

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