Tactician In Tune
Jackson Benvenutti is on a roll. In 2017, he won the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup with a talent-rich squad from Southern YC. As a tactician, he followed up by winning the Viper North American Championship, and before that won the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta in Annapolis, Maryland, as a Viper skipper. Earlier in the year, Benvenutti won the St. Petersburg NOOD on the J/70 Tea Dance Snake as tactician, and as a trimmer and helmsman on board Warrior, a Volvo 70 campaigned by New Orleans’ Stephen Murray Jr., Benvenutti helped notch two course records: the Annapolis to Bermuda Race and the new Antigua to Bermuda Race. With an ever-expanding trophy haul, Benvenutti, a two-time All American at College of Charleston, brings a little New Orleans to every team on which he sails, with his recognizable Southern lilt and laid-back but excitable personality.
As a sailmaker, what are your primary responsibilities at the loft?
I’m in sail sales! I focus mostly on one-design classes, but because I’m in New Orleans, the market is pretty diverse, so I do a bit of everything — from Vipers to J/111s and the Volvo 70.
If you were a dance move, which one would you be?
A disco one.
If you could swap places with any sailor in history, whom would you choose?
Paul Elvström. He’s amazing in what he was able to accomplish and has such a respectful vision of his competitors. “You haven’t won anything if you’ve lost the respect of your competitors.” He invented hiking too.
It’s the Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championship, and you’re in the final against Peter Burling. Who wins and why?
I’m a professional rock-paper-scissors player, so obviously, me. My winning move depends on what he has played; it’s strategic.
You and your friends at the loft start a cover band. What’s the band’s name and what are you covering?
In San Francisco, I actually was in a cover band called the Tin Whiskers. I played guitar and was the lead singer. We listened to local radio, so we had a lot influences from the area. A Southern rock/funk/jazz band, I would say.
What song describes your work ethic?
It would probably be something by the Grateful Dead.
A penguin walks through the door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
He’s probably hot because the weather is changing, and he’s like, “What the heck, mate?” Because he’s wearing a sombrero. Get it?
You’ve got your team over for dinner during a regatta weekend. What are you cooking?
It could be boiled shrimp, a spicy Cajun meatloaf, chargrilled oysters — I’d probably stick with the NOLA fare, so good seafood or something gamey like duck or dove gumbo.
Best tactical advice you’ve ever given? Keep it simple, stupid. It’s more of a mental thing than one specific piece of information. “Get to the right at the top” is one I’ve used recently.
How lazy is the wind?
It’s as lazy as you are. It likes to go over and around things, not through things.
Are you actually the coolest?
I was the coolest out of the people we were hanging out with.
You’re the editor. What’s on the cover?
I’d be cheering on Vestas 11th Hour Racing to kick some ass, all the shore workers and everyone — they don’t get enough credit and they contribute a lot. The headline is “Vestas the Bestest.”
Tack, duck or send it?
I’m going to get grief for this but, send it!
No. Unless you want to have boats smash into each other. I’m curious how many people from my generation actually know that rule once existed. No, that’s not a good rule.
Best beverage to drink from a sailing boot? The only thing I’ve ever drunk out of is a sailing boot, I certainly don’t have a clue what it was.
This story was originally published in the March/April 2018 issue