Youth Worlds. Benji Daniel Again Takes on the World

Benji Daniel in training off Durban.
pic by Sophie Thompson

Durban’s sailing prodigy, Benji Daniel is about to hit Chinese waters as he takes on 19 other nations at the Youth World Championships.

The 47th edition takes place at Sanya Beach on Hainan Island, in the south of China with race days scheduled from the 10 – 15 December. With an expected 400 sailors from 70 countries, the crème-de-la-crème of the next generation of international sailors, under the age of 19 will go up against each other in nine classes. Only one team from each nation is selected to participate in each class.

Daniel, who was crowned the 29er World Champion in Alamitos Bay, Long Beach in August, will be changing it up. He trades in his familiar 29er to compete in the 420 class and will be sailing with the promising talent, Rivaldo Arendse from Cape Town.

Point Yacht Club’s star sailor will be heading to his third youth world champs, having raced in the 29er fleet with Durban’s Chad Stevenson in Langkawi, Malaysia in 2015 and then in Auckland, New Zealand last December, finishing both times towards the back of the fleet. His raw talent was revealed when, in an impromptu pairing with Cape Town’s Alex Burger, ignited them onto the international stage, and ultimately the top spot on the 29er podium.

The hard-working, modest sailor stated, “We are heading to China with realistic expectations. For Rivaldo and me, this is very much a getting to know you phase. We have never sailed competitively together before, and aren’t hugely familiar with the 420s so we aren’t going to put any unnecessary pressure on ourselves!

“Rivaldo is a really nice guy, he is 14 and I have just recently turned 17. Youths is going to be his biggest event yet. We are both really excited, and justifiably nervous as well. The other teams have a few of years on us, and have the advantage of sailing competitively together in massive regattas. It will be a major learning curve for us but so long as we stick to the basics, we will be alright.”

Benji’s last school exam was on 1 December. The Grade 11 pupil at Thomas More College literally put his pen down, handed in his paper, and then dashed to the airport to fly down to Cape Town for some last-minute training with coach, former Olympic sailor Roger Hudson.

“It has been an unexpectedly exciting year. School and exams have been my main focus, so I can start the process of applying for university. Between the chaos of school, I have been doing loads of quick trips down to Cape Town for training, firstly with Alex Burger leading up to the 29er Worlds and now for the Youth Worlds. Having jetted off to Long Island beach in July and now to be representing South Africa lining up against some awesome sailors in China, it all seems quite surreal.”