2014 Etchells World Championship- Former hockey star takes the lead

Skipper Hank Lammens (left) and his team are in first place after four races at the 2014 Etchells World Championship off Newport, R.I.
Sharon Green/New York Yacht Club
Hank Lammens (USA) has taken the overall lead in the 2014 World Etchells Championships being sailed off Newport RI. He overtook the overnight leader Bill Hardesty (USA) after the second day of sailing in the regatta.

Like many of his fellow competitors in 2014 Etchells World Championship, Hank Lammens (Brockville, Ontario/Norwalk, Conn.) was an All-American athlete during college. The significant difference is that Lammens earned his All-American honors in hockey. The Canadian sailor was a stalwart defenseman for St. Lawrence University during the late 1980s, and was drafted by the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League.

This week, however, it's all about winning on ice in its liquid form; and Lammens (center) and his team of Jens Bojsen-Moller (right) and Steve Girling (left) have proven themselves more than up to the challenge. With four of nine races in the books, their scoreline of one – eight – one - twelve is good enough for a three-point lead over two-time world champion Bill Hardesty, who himself is two points ahead of reigning world champion Marvin Beckmann.

2015 SSL Lake Grand Slam

'We're starting with 100 boats, anything can happen,' said Lammens. 'So anything in the top little bit is pretty good. We feel kind of fortunate because there's a lot of roll of the dice with which end of the line to start at, the black flags. It's worked out pretty well so far.'

Lammens is no late-comer to the sport of sailing. He was a stand-out youth sailor and continued after graduating from college, winning the Finn world championship in 1990 and 1991, while he was working his way through hockey's minor leagues. He took the 1991-'92 hockey season off to prepare for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, but finished a disappointing 13th in that regatta. He returned to hockey the following season, captaining the Canadian National Team before finally making the NHL, playing 27 games for the Ottawa Senators in the 1993-'94 season.

'Where I grew up there were a couple of guys on the Canadian National [Sailing] Team, so I started sailing like any other kid and I had some success when I was young,' said Lammens of his dual-pronged athletic career. 'But on September 1, it was hockey, because that's all I wanted to do. Looking back at it, I probably should've played more hockey in the summer and I should've sailed more in the winter. It probably hurt me doing both things, but it's good for me to be busy.'

After retiring from both hockey and Olympic-class sailing, Lammens embarked on a successful career in finance. Etchells sailing has been one of his competitive outlets—golf being another. Not surprisingly, he's had some success. He's a five-time Canadian National Etchells Champion and also won the U.S. National Championship in 2009 and the North American championship in 2011. The world title, to date, has eluded him, though he's finished as high as fourth in three attempts.

Yesterday's leader, Bill Hardesty, struggled in today's first race. After a subpar start, Hardesty found himself rounding the first mark smack in the middle of the fleet. He was able to claw back to 20th and then won the fourth race of the regatta to move into second overall. He spoke about the importance of exercising caution during the early stages of this event.

'We're trying not to put all of our eggs into one basket, to be conservative and play the first beat up the middle,' said Hardesty. 'Our goal is to round in the top 15 or top 10 and pick people off from there.'

2014 Etchells World Championship results:

(Place, Sail Number, Boat Name, Skipper, Hometown, Race One, Race Two, Race Three, Race Four, Total)

1.CAN 1396, Hank Lammens, Norwalk, Conn., 1-8-1-12 22.0
2. USA 979, Line Honors, Bill Hardesty, San Diego, 2-2-20-1 25.0
3. USA 1378, The Martian, Marvin Beckmann, Houston, 8-3-11-5 27.0
4. AUS 1383, Triad, John Bertrand, South Yarra, Australia, 4-10-5-28 47.0
5. USA 1388, Annie, Gary Gilbert, Oakton, Va., 45-5-2-2, 54.0
6. HKG 1333, Swedish Blue, Ante Razmilovic, London, U.K., 3-6-8-44 61.0
7. USA 1296, Appreciation, Jeffrey Siegal, Portsmouth, R.I., 17-17-16-17 67.0
8. USA 1372, Aretas, Skip Dieball, Beaver Dam, Wis., 38-13-4-19 74.0
9. USA 1228, Terrapin, Stephen Benjamin, Norwalk, Conn., 16-22-17-25 80.0
10. USA 1394, American Baby, George Francisco, Houston, 18-24-23-23 88.0

The 2014 Etchells Class World Championship will run through Saturday, June 28. The regatta is being hosted by the New York Yacht Club at Harbour Court in association with Sail Newport. The racing, which is expected to take place on Rhode Island Sound, is scheduled to start each day at noon, with the exception of Saturday, when the first start will take place at 1100.