Two firsts marked the 2018 Yachting Journalists’ Association Yachtsman of the Year and Young Sailor of the Year Awards: all-female winners and a tie for the YJA Yachtsman of the Year trophy. The awards were held today on the 45th floor of the iconic Leadenhall Building and hosted by MS Amlin Yacht after a breakfast reception celebrating Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s 80th birthday.
Sir Robin, himself a four-time winner of the YJA Yachtsman of the Year trophy, was kind enough to present the awards. The event was also live-streamed which you can replay via this link.
The YJA Young Sailor of the Year was announced first, with 15-year-old Emily Mueller collecting the award for winning the Volvo Gill Optimist British National Championship – only the third ever girl to win the national title.
Emily said on winning the award: “It is just such an honour. I never really expected to go this far in sailing; I just did it for fun at first, but now I love the competitive element. It was all such a surprise because I didn’t even know I was nominated. Thank you all so much!”
Next up was presentation of the YJA Yachtsman of the Year voted by its membership. In over 60’s years of the YJA Awards, it was an unprecedented result, with a tie, and so the 2018 YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award was presented to joint winners, Tracy Edwards and Nikki Henderson.
Nikki Henderson made history when at 24 she was the youngest ever skipper to compete in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. By finishing in second place to Australian Wendy Tuck, she secured an all-female one-two.
Nikki mentioned the recognition of female sailors: “It is a step in the right direction. I think it is important to recognise that the Clipper Race aspect isn’t just about the female skippers winning, but also the fact that almost half the crews are women. It is a really good example that the sport should not be all male; it should – and can be – a 50:50 mixed sport. I think that is what we really need to push for.”
Tracy Edwards, who inspired a generation of women as the skipper of the first all-female crew to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1988/89, has now extensively restored the yacht Maiden to play the central role in the Maiden Factor campaign to raise awareness of the education of girls worldwide.
A new generation of highly talented all-female crew members, including Nikki Henderson, are sailing Maiden on a world tour with over 23 destinations in 13 countries, flying the flag for girls’ education, working with local charities and supporting community-led educational projects.
Tracy said on receiving the award for the second time: “It’s very surreal. The first time I won the trophy I didn’t know what it was as I wasn’t really part of the racing or sailing world! It was amazing, and I thought at the time that it was very forward-thinking, very visionary, of the Yachting Journalists’ Association to award it, considering the flak they had given us getting to the start line. To win it again is extraordinary, because amazing women like Nikki and other fantastic female sailors are out there, but I think Maiden did play a part in that, so we’ve come full circle. I think that what Nikki, Wendy [Tuck] and Dee [Caffari], and other girls like Emily here, are doing – it is the future, and it is really important so that means a lot to me.”
We asked Sir Robin whether the unprecedented three female winners reflected the recognition of gender equality in sailing, to which he answered in typically forthright fashion:
“No, I don’t think it does. What is reflects is that this year, it happens the three best people to win this award are ladies – a very different thing. In any year, whether they be ladies or blokes, what they have achieved has put them where they should be; deservedly winning this trophy. It simply recognises excellence in sailing.
“The YJA Yachtsman of the Year has always been the top of the tree. It is the one that everyone strives for, that everyone would like to win and have their name on. It is a historic trophy. If anyone says, ‘what have you won?’ the YJA Yachtsman of the Year trophy is the one that matters.”
MS Amlin also announced their sponsorship of the 2019 YJA Yachtsman of the Year, Young Sailor of the Year and Young Blogger of the Year Awards, which will be presented at a Gala Dinner on Friday 13th September in Southampton, on the Press Day of the Southampton Boat Show.
Paul Knox-Johnston of MS Amlin Yacht said of their support:
“The main attraction was for us was getting people into boating through inspiration. That is what the award ‘says’ to us – it is inspiring the next generation. You go back to when Sir Robin sailed around the world 50 years ago; he inspired a generation to not only get involved in sailing as a sport, but to get involved in the marine industry itself. Therefore it self-generates people coming into the industry.”
On the 2018 winners Paul said:
“Going back to when Tracy Edwards first sailed around the world, with the first all-women crew, all that hype – we are now beginning to properly celebrate the skills, achievements and what women are bringing to the sport.”
Cliff Webb, Chairman of the Yachting Journalists’ Association said on MS Amlin’s sponsorship of the award:”
“I think it is an extraordinary achievement to have become involved with a company like MS Amlin Yacht. We are absolutely delighted at the decision they have made to join us. We think it will be a mutually-beneficial journey as we try to expand what the YJA does, and how we can bring in future generations. For example, we would love to provide a scholarship in the future for somebody to study journalism. We’re going to be working very hard on expanding our range of operations and working with MS Amlin Yacht to develop their exposure and publicity, which we are in a perfect place to maximise.”
Announcements on voting for the MS Amlin Yacht 2019 YJA Yachtsman of the Year, Young Sailor of the Year and Young Blogger of the Year Awards will be made in due course. Huge congratulations to our 2018 winners.