The 2016 boats.com YJA Yachtsman of the Year is Clipper Round the World Race hero Gavin Reid. Twenty-eight-year-old Gavin fought off tough competition for UK yachting's top accolade from Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott and two-time Isle of Wight course record breaker, Brian Thompson. The award is decided by votes by the Yachting Journalists' Association, whose membership includes the world's leading boating journalists and former winners include Sir Ben Ainslie, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Sir Robin Knox Johnston and Ian Walker.
In receiving the award, Gavin said, "“I can honestly say I did not expect to win. A year and a half ago I didn’t know the difference between a halyard, a sheet or a jib. So to be here today with so many amazing names and people who have achieved so much, it is quite astonishing. ”
What's so special about Gavin Reid?
In an Olympic year that saw a number of outstanding performances (see Giles Scott wins gold with a day to spare and Gold for Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark), many expected a gold medallist to take the title. The fact that the award went to a little known name is testament to the heroic actions undertaken by the yachtsman who undoubtedly deserves recognition.
Gavin Reid from Cambridge, was crewing on the Clipper Round the World race yacht Mission Performance when an SOS was picked up off the New South Wales coast of Australia from a yacht returning from the Sydney Hobart Race which had a crewman stuck at the top of the mast. Mission Performance was competing in the Henri-Lloyd Hobart to Whitsunday’s leg of the Clipper Race and was nearest to the stricken vessel.
Gavin, who is profoundly deaf and had zero sailing experience prior to signing up for the Clipper Race, volunteered to swim between the two yachts and found four other crew onboard all incapacitated and unable to help their crewmate who had been tangled in halyards at the top of the mast for several hours. Using the one remaining staysail halyard, he was able to hoist himself two thirds of the way up the swinging mast, then climbed the rest of the way hand-over-hand to reach the crewman, untangle the lines and help to lower him down safely.
Interviewed after the awards ceremony, Gavin said "I’ve always wanted to sail. Winning an award like this has given me even more motivation to go out and achieve what I want to do, which is to sail for a career."
boats.com YJA Young Sailor of the Year
The boats.com YJA Young Sailor of the Year was also announced. The title went to 15-year-old Elliott Kuzyk, from Parkstone Yacht Club. Elliott won the 2016 Topper class World Championships, which was held in Ireland. Two hundred boats competed in what was the class's the second largest World Championships ever. Elliott eventually took the title after a seven-way battle for the top spot. He also won the Topper southern area championships for an unprecedented fifth year in succession.
On accepting his award, Elliott said, “I would like to say thank you very much; it wasn’t quite how I imagined my second day of GCSE mock exams turning out! I would like to thank my parents for their continued support over the years and hopefully for the years to come.”