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California Dreamin' Series - Round one to Bennett

'St Francis Yacht Club - California Dreamin’ Series'    Chris Ray ©

California Dreamin' Series, the course to the Congressional Cup - San Francisco Feb. 26-27, Butler Cup at Long Beach March 5-6, San Diego March 12-13,

Two guys who have spent most of their lives sailing on San Francisco Bay should have heaps of advice for America's Cup match racers from around the world who'll be dipping into these cool and quirky waters over the months leading to the 34th America's Cup defense in 2013.

There were a few examples over the weekend climaxed by Tiburon resident Shawn Bennett's 2-0 victory over Russ Silvestri Sunday to win the first stop of the California Dreamin' Series. The other two events are at Long Beach's Butler Cup next weekend and at San Diego March12.

'It was [blowing] 15 [knots] the last few races,' said Bennett, 43, who over two days won all 11 of his races, including sailoffs. 'It went down to 6 and got a little shifty but then it settled into the San Francisco stuff … a little shifty and wintry, a little puffy and the ebb tide.

'It changes the match race game a little bit. Those of us who are used to the tides certainly have a little advantage until the other guys start to feel the rhythm.'

Five of the eight sailors were Bay veterans and three of them took the top three spots, led by Bennett's 7-0 sweep of the round robin and 2-0 sweeps against Dustin Durant of Long Beach in the semifinals and Silvestri in the finals. He sailed with a crew of Melissa Purdy, Tom Purdy and Mike Sterman.

Silvestri and John Horsch tied at 5-2 and Silvestri swept his semi against Horsch, 2-0. Next in the round robin were Durant, 4-3; Bruce Stone, San Francisco, 3-4; Dave Storrs, Pequot Yacht Club of Southport, Conn., and Saverio Ramirez, Italy, 2-5, and Nick Dugdale, San Francisco, 0-7.

Silvestri, who raced a singlehanded Finn in the 2000 Olympics, was called for a foul in the decisive race against Bennett that essentially settled the championship.

'Russ and I have sailed a lot against each other in the Wednesday match race stuff here,' Bennett said. 'He tacked a little close to us underneath our bow and the umps called him on it. It was a tight race at the time. He's taken me to school several times around the course. We were fortunate to get by him two times in a row.'

Silvestri had no opportunity to erase the penalty and carried it to the finish.

Bennett is looking forward to the America's Cup two years hence.

'That's gonna be a blast,' he said. 'I'm general manager of a tugboat company and we have a dock right at Pier 17, so the finish line is going to be right near us.'

As for offering advice to the participants based on his local expertise, Bennett shied away.

'I doubt if I have the credentials to give anybody coming in here for the America's Cup any advice,' he said.

However, he added, 'I can tell 'em about some good restaurants probably.'

The overall winner of the California Dreamin' Series gets a pass to the Ficker Cup at Long Beach March 17-19 to determine that contest's traditional entry into the Grade 1 Congressional Cup against the world's top pros March 22-26.


by Rich Roberts


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4:46 AM Mon 28 Feb 2011 GMT

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