Sailor of the Week: Dec. 30, 2009
Longtime racing rules expert, Bill Bentsen, has an extensive record of service to the sport, espec ia lly in the area of race administration. In November, Bill was presented the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) Beppe Croce Trophy at ISAF’s Annual Conference in Busan, Korea. This prestigious award honors an outstanding voluntary contribution to the sport. For 25 years, Bill was a member of ISAF’s Racing Rules Committee, including a stint as vice-chairman.
“I especially appreciate this honor because it confirms the importance of the racing rules and ISAF’s recognition of the fact, and also because it associates me and my work with six previous recipients and their work, all of whom dedicated their efforts to improving the rules,” Bill explained while accepting this award.
Bill is a member and past chairman of US SAILING’s Appeals Committee and the Racing Rules Committee. He was also a member of US SAILING’s Race Management Committee and Olympic Yachting Committee. Bill played an intricate role in initiating the US SAILING Judges Certification Program.
Bill is a renowned racing rules pioneer. He and his race management staff developed procedures for repositioning marks while a race is in progress at the 1976 U.S. Olympic Yachting Trials (and other world and national championships). Bill and his team produced a Standard Sailing Instructions template that was used as the key criteria for the first ISAF Sailing Instructions Guide. He authored The Yacht Racing Rules Today (1974) and several editorials for sailing publications about boat speed targets, course design, scoring, and the racing rules.
In 1994, US SAILING honored Bill with the Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy for outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing, and in 2008 US SAILING Bill received the Harman Hawkins Trophy for excellence in race administration.
Bill started sailing when he was six years old. When he was eight, his father sold his old Scow to buy Bill his own boat. Hid didn’t pick up racing until he was 16. However, Bill was a fast learner. He burst onto the racing scene as a successful competitor by winning a gold medal in the Soling class as crew for Buddy Melges at the 1972 Olympic Games.
Bill is an avid Scow class and Iceboat sailor, and a member of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club in Wisconsin.
When asked what motivated Bill to get so deeply involved in the racing rules, he explained: “It’s because the quality of the sailing instructions, race management, protest hearings and appeals procedures, and of course – the racing rules are what produces the fairness in competition. Basic integrity in the competitors is essential too – and perfect fairness is probably never achieved, but the concern for fairness is what motivated me the most.”