Tajima-Direct.com, the premier polarized lens maker in the world, spoke to the former Rolex US Sailor of the Year, Olympic Silver Medalist and multiple world champion about why lens technology on the water matters to him.
American sailor Steve Benjamin needs no introduction. Always technical and known for his unwavering focus on speed development, Benj, as he’s known around the sport, has done it all and has the hardware to prove it. From College Sailor of the Year to Rolex US Yachtsman of the Year, he’s won Olympic Silver in the 470, multiple world championships in fast and technical boats such as the 505 and Fireball, along with his latest passion, the Etchells class, and amassing offshore titles most notably aboard his yachts named SPOOKIE. Benj’s speed edge comes from hours of preparation, practice and knowledge earned over how he sets up his boats and adjustments made on and off the water. As he describes below, his lens technology preferences are as analytical as his hardware and software preferences. Tajima-Direct.com co-founder and polarized lens developer Steve Rosenberg, a champion sailor in his own right, recently sat down with Benj to find out why lens technology matters to him.
Tajima Direct: In almost every picture of you sailing you’re wearing sunglasses. What do you look for and require in your lens technology?
Steve Benjamin: Yes, I prefer wearing the best lenses for a number of reasons. Most importantly, my eyes have always been sensitive to sunlight so I prefer a dark polarized lens most of the time so I don’t squint and stay as relaxed as possible. I want protection from the elements and I want sharp, clear, crisp vision – I want details in vivid color and contrast! I also rely on the sunglasses to keep the salt spray out of my eyes. Just as irritating, draining and damaging as the bright sun is the wind and constant salt spray. Especially in boats like the 505 and 470, it was imperative I kept my eyes shielded from the elements as much as possible, and I find it’s no different today in the Etchells.
TD: How important is superior polarized lens technology to you when it comes to Breeze Reading? Do you have specific lens tints or lens elements you look for?
SB: Superior polarized lenses are far better for reading the wind gusts and shifts on the water, so that’s all I wear. I’ve found there’s a big difference between all the various lenses on the market. And I want it all! (laughing). I want the glare removed that only superior polarized lenses offer. I want the lenses sharp and crisp, and I want the right lens tint that’s dark enough in bright conditions but also increases contrast. Dull lenses just don’t do it for me. By combining all of these elements, I feel like I’m seeing details and reading the water and shifts without hesitation. I’ve been going between your Tajima Gray with Black Mirror and Gray with Blue Mirror. On cloudy days I tend to prefer your Copper lenses that are dark with added contrast for when changing light goes flat, and in fog there is nothing better than the Yellow Green low light lenses that let in more light, block the irritating bouncing glare on a flat light day that also adds more contrast and breeze reading details.
TD: You’ve won in 470’s, 505’s, Etchells, offshore keel boats and everything in between. You have different sails and gear for various conditions, sounds like you prefer different lens tints for various light conditions, too?
SB: I carry all three types of polarized lenses with me to every event – darkest grays, copper for changing light, and the low-light yellow green. Here in Miami this winter, I have been using the darkest grays only, but in New England, the copper and yellow green lenses often are better for the changing conditions there, especially in the Spring.
TD: You’ve been a professional sailmaker by trade and expert technician when it comes to setting up your own boats and assisting your customers with their questions and needs. How would you describe your experience with Tajima-Direct.com when you came to us with your specific lens needs and requests?
SB: I was a Kaenon customer of yours (Rosenberg was the founder of Kaenon) for a very long time until you sold the company and then their business model changed.
Tajima-Direct provides the highest quality lenses and best customer service of any brand I have ever used. Focusing on premier polarized lens technology with concierge service is unique – and appreciated. I did experiment with another big-name brand for a couple of years, broke three pairs, no warranty, and then experienced the superior Tajima-Direct solution. It doesn’t get much easier…a couple months back during an Etchells regatta in Miami, my crew and I were talking about lenses and Dave Hughes, who swears by your lens technology, kept talking about the Blue Mirror and why he liked them. So I pulled out my phone, texted you about it, then made the order right then and there from the starting area between races! That’s how I’ve become a recent fan of the Blue Mirror! Quality and Service. When both work, they’re hard to beat!