Summer Spotlight: David Liebenberg
Summer Spotlight: David Liebenberg
School is out for the summer, and so is college sailing. Without a detailed practice and regatta schedule, young sailors across the country have to find alternative ways to keep their skills sharp and their sunglass tans sharper. We caught up with a handful of students to find out what they’re doing during these sunny months, ensuring that at least a few memories of Summer 2012 will outlast Orientation Week.
A rising junior at Tufts University, David Liebenberg has been sailing this summer on California Condor, an Antrim Class 40. The boat has needed quite a few repairs, many of which Liebenberg, a San Francisco native, has shouldered himself. In addition, he has been practicing his skiff sailing and recently joined in the hunt for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
During the 2012 Coastal Cup, California Condor had to stop racing because you lost one of your rudders. What was that like?
It was a little bit hectic. Class 40s have two rudders, and at about 1:30 in the morning we lost our windward rudder—luckily, since it was our windward rudder we didn’t crash. We got the kite and the main down so that we were drifting in the 15-foot swells, and then secured our windward rudder. Then we turned on the engine and set a staysail and sort of power-sailed in.
Sounds intense. What were you doing when the damage occurred?
I was sleeping and I woke up to a whooshing sound and I knew that something had gone wrong. Someone yelled down the hatch of the companionway “all hands on deck, we broke the rudder off, we’ve got to get the kite down!” I got my [foul weather gear] and harness on as fast as I could and got on deck.
What do you think you learned from this experience? Would you react differently if it happened again?
I learned not to rip your rudder off 70 miles off the coast! Staying calm in a moderately scary situation can help. I think we handled the situation pretty well.
What has been your favorite moment on the boat thus far?
Getting to drive downwind at night when it was blowing 25 knots, that was a really cool experience and I just learned a lot.
You’ve been busy repairing Condor for the Pacific Cup. Do you enjoy doing boat work?
Yes I do; sometimes I have to convince myself of that when I’m cramped in a corner filled with fiberglass stuff, but I really enjoy it. It’s relaxing and really rewarding to do work on a boat that you’re going to sail across an ocean.
What is the dynamic on the boat like?
I’m the youngest person on the boat by 30, maybe 35 years, so it’s a little interesting for me, but everyone’s really laidback and nice and they’re all excellent sailors—I respect them a lot. I definitely do more physical work like dragging sails around on the boat, and bow is more physical than a lot of the other positions.
Do you think your experiences now will be relevant to your spot on the Tufts keelboat team?
Just doing bow on a boat like a Class 40 makes you better at doing bow on every other vessel. You’ve seen more situations and things that have gone wrong, so that when something goes a little bit wrong you can fix it quickly without it turning into a big problem.
You’re one of six young men on the American Youth Sailing Force (AYSF), a team that has thrown its hat into the ring for the Youth America’s Cup. How do you think your training on other boats will help you prepare for the AC45, which maxes out at nearly 30 knots?
Without sailing a high-speed, 44-foot catamaran, it’s very hard to get exactly the right training. Right now I’m just broadening my sailing background; the boats aren’t quite as high-speed, and won’t react the same way [as the AC45]. It’s very important to get as wide a variety of experiences as possible, and no one applying for [the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup] has sailed anything like an AC45 previously, so we don’t know what to expect. The best way to train is just to sail as much as you can, on as many fast boats as you can.
What has it been like organizing and running the team without any outside support?
It has been a challenge. We all have to balance our jobs with all of the responsibilities of running the team. The first few weeks after launching the team were hectic; we had to make our website, make a sponsorship packet, make a schedule, prepare a budget, and find sponsors.
What gives your team an edge over your opponents?
Our team has a very widespread background collectively. I think that really helps us, because we have a lot of keelboat experience and variety. –A.Q.
Know a college student who's involved in something noteworthy this summer? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.