YOTY 2013 Winner

 ARCTIC EXPLORER, 79, IS TOP YACHTSMAN

A retired youth leader and former church curate with a passion for sailing icy Arctic waters has been voted British yachtsman of the year by Britain’s top sailing journalists.

The Rev Bob Shepton, a former Royal Marine, later a parish curate and subsequently full time youth leader in London’s East End, was awarded the YJA Apollo Yachtsman of the Year title at a ceremony in London.

The Rev Bob Shepton, now living in Argyll, Scotland, completed the unique feat of sailing his 33ft sloop through hostile Arctic conditions of the North West Passage in both directions in successive years, His latest voyage last July, when aged 78, west to east, was in particularly bleak conditions and was managed by only three boats this year. His was one of two by members of the Royal Cruising Club.

The adventure youth leader who was chaplain to two London schools, cruises extensively in the Arctic on his Westerly, Dodo’s Delight, and last year faced extremely harsh conditions with 30-40 percent more ice, and strong head winds. This led to no Spring at all in Alaska and rivers frozen later than at any time in 96 years. Yet, as well as completing the passage successively, he also found time to carry out underwater filming for a Scottish marine biology consultancy to analyse the Arctic seabed flora.

The Rev Bob Shepton won the award in a close-run vote ahead of Jeanne Socrates,  a 70-year-old retired maths teacher from Ealing, West London, who  last July, became the oldest woman to sail solo non-stop around the world, on her third attempt, and Mike Golding from Southampton, following completion last year of his sixth competitive circumnavigation.