DAVID LIEBENBERG — WILL RICKETSON / US SAILING
lympic hopeful David Liebengerg, now 27, starting racing aboard his parents' Express 27 Friday at the tender age of 2. By age 3 had became a regular on the crew, but he had to wait until he was 7 to join the Richmond Yacht Club Junior Program. There he raced his first El Toro, Killer Bee. When David was about 8, his dad John switched to the Antrim 27 Always Friday. On the Antrim, David learned about asymmetrical kites. At age 10 he transitioned from the El Toro to the Optimist, and, over the next three years, found success in national and international regattas. He followed that up, in 8th grade, with sailing on an RYC pickup team in 420s and CFJs. At age 14 he discovered speed when he started sailing the 29er skiff with his friend David Blackett.
Latitude 38: You found the 29er to be a lot more exciting? David Liebenberg: Yes, exactly. I discovered that I liked going fast pretty quickly. L38: How did your 29er sailing evolve? DL: I started driving, for two different people, David Blackett and Michael Scott. Then I switched to crewing. I sailed with Max Fraser for four years. So he was my long-term partner in youth sailing. L38: And then you went to Tufts, class of 2014. So you would have still been at Tufts when you were with the
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• March, 2019
David Liebenberg and Sarah Newberry are striving to make it to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the Nacra 17 class. Below: David has been sailing his entire life.
American Youth Sailing Force team in the Youth America's Cup in 2013? DL: Correct. That was the summer between my junior and senior year. That was a truly unique experience. In some terms, there's never going to be a chance again to sail on multi-million dollar boats with some of your best friends in the world and no owner, no one paying the bills, and no one paying you. It was just us doing exactly what we wanted to do. L38: How did that team come together, and how did you get on the team? DL: Ian Andrews was the team manager, and he asked me pretty early on right after it was announced. I said, "That sounds like a great idea — let's do it!" We started with four or five people and tried to start building. It's an interesting situation because you don't have the boats or anything like the boats to train on. So we tried to get on F-18s and A-Class catamarans and all sorts of different stuff. We kept adding people as we identified roles. OK, we need a big strong bowman, and we need a trimmer, and basically finding
our friends that we sailed with in the past and building a team based on ability and body size around it. L38: Watching the Youth America's Cup was some of the most interesting and fun racing to watch of that whole event. The fleet racing was so tight. DL: It was unbelievable. It was such a blast to be in. With the helicopter flying low overhead, it was really something else that I haven't experienced since then. L38: After the America's Cup in 2013 did that program just end suddenly? DL: Yeah it did. There were two guys on the team who were young enough to do the next one. There was talk about trying to keep the team going, and there was a little bit of effort made. Officially it sort of fell apart, but we're all still friends and still sailing with each other a lot in all sorts of different boats. So it didn't just disintegrate and evaporate; all the connections are still there. And we had a couple office managers for our team that I still worked with in my Olympic campaigns, who helped me out quite a bit. L38: After that you got into the 49er, to do the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Who did you sail with? DL: I sailed with Dan Morris. Throughout the summers while I was in college, Dan and I would actually go sail a 49er after work most days and go get our butts kicked in the Berkeley Circle. So I had finally sorta figured out how to jibe the boat in 20 knots, which is a feat of itself, but had no idea how to actually race them or sail them or tune them. We'd never sailed against another boat. When I graduated I worked for a couple months right afterward, then Dan and I said, "Hey let's do this full time," and it all fell in line. We just scraped by funding-wise for the first couple months until we had a couple good results. It was an abbreviated campaign, because it was basically 14 months before the trials started that we decided to sail full-time. So it wasn't a proper four-year cycle. We crammed quite a bit of stuff and pushed pretty hard for the little time we had. L38: Did you qualify? DL: We did not. We ended up third at
The March 2019 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.