Allen Brill, the president and CEO of Rolex, called 2008 "a remarkable year in sailing." In a letter to congratulate the two winners of the 2008 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswomen of the Year, he continued, "From Anna Tunnicliffe's gold medal winning performance in the Laser Radial at the Olympic Games, to Terry Hutchinson's world championship win in the TP52 class, these two sailors delivered standout performances again and again during a year of phenomenal achievement." A remarkable year it was, and what better place to celebrate the past year in sailing than at the Model Room of the venerable New York YC, a room that humbles and inspires all who enter. Just as a shawl wraps a woman in its soft luxury, the Model Room envelopes visitors in nautical history and traditions, bringing to mind visions of adventures at sea -both past and present as man continues his quest to conquer Mother Nature.
Year after year, this prestigious award is celebrated at a luncheon at the NYYC, and brings together the journalists who voted on the recipients, their family and friends, and sailing dignitaries. This year was no exception. Gary Jobson, sailing's most noted media personality, was the emcee for the luncheon. He set the tenor for the day with his comments, "What a phenomenal year on the water. Anna Tunnicliffe won the Gold Medal in Laser Radials at the Olympics, the first U.S. woman gold medalist in 20 years. Terry Hutchinson tore up the race course in TP52, Melges 24s and now the Farr 40s. An interesting common denominator between these sailors is that both were All Americans at Old Dominion University, although they were 15 years apart." Charlie Leighton, executive director, US SAILING, added, "Look at all the faces around this room - an impressive sailing crowd. Thank you, all of you, for all you do for sailing."
Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, FL) was the unanimous choice for the 2008 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. She was cited by one panelist for "an unbelievable year" culminating in winning the Laser Radial Gold Medal at the Olympic Games. "Winning the Olympic medal was a dream, and branching out to other boats and expanding myself as a sailor is one of my goals. I want to win another gold medal for the U.S. but I think it will take more than just Laser sailing." To that end, her post-Olympic schedule included a triathlon, some match racing - she won the US Women's Match Racing Championship - and a return to dinghy sailing. Tunnicliffe first started sailing at the age of 3 with her mother, who is an accomplished sailor. In 2005, she was named the Quantum Female College Sailor of the Year, a recognition that capped her college sailing career at Old Dominion University where she was All American three times (2003-05). On accepting her award, Tunnicliffe recalled, "My first memory of sailing when I was 3 years old with my mom. It was windy and cold and we capsized 300 meters off shore, instilling some toughness in me. My loss of College Sailor of the Year award my junior year by two hundredths of a point taught me how to lose and my Gold Medal win in Beijing taught me how to win. All these parts have influenced me and have made me a better person, athlete and competitor."
Winning on the water, in a variety of classes, earned Terry Hutchinson (Annapolis, MD) the coveted 2008 Yachtsman of the Year Award. Members of the selection panel noted that in 2008 Hutchinson had "redefined himself" after he "emerged from the America's Cup to be an awesome fleet racer." He was the tactician aboard Emirates Team New Zealand in the 32nd America's Cup. He was also the tactician aboard Jim Richardson's Farr 40 Barking Mad which won Acura Key West and Acura Miami Grand Prix. As skipper on a TP52, Hutchinson racked up four major victories in Europe, which led to his overall win of the Audi MedCup series. In Spain, Hutchinson finished his great sailing year by winning the TP52 World Championship on Quantum Racing. In typical fashion, Hutchinson remarked about his latest honor, "This award is obviously an acknowledgement of a great year on the water. But I would be incredibly remiss if I didn't acknowledge that it is a privilege to represent the bigger picture - the people I sail with and the teams on which I compete. I feel so strongly about the support they gave me; this wasn't just my achievement, it was the Barking Mad, Samba Pt Ti and Quantum Racing teams' too. Every morning I get up and go to work doing something that I love. Being recognized is just icing on the cake." Born and raised in Annapolis, the 40-year-old father of three first learned to sail at age 3 in a Dyer Dhow that was attached by a line to his parent's Concordia yawl. During his college years at Old Dominion University, he earned Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association All-American honors four times (1987-1990) and was twice recognized as the College Sailor of the Year (1989 and 1990). In accepting his Rolex award, Hutchinson said, "For me to arrive at this part in my career has taken the better part of 20 years. I had three goals: to win the J/24 World Championship, win the America's Cup and Win the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. I have two out of the three. The intense competition with really good friends gave me an overwhelming sense of pride. Thank you to Rolex and all those involved for making this the coolest moment of my sailing career."
The Rolex Award was established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex Watch U.S.A. Since 1980, the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards recognize outstanding on-the-water achievement in the calendar year just concluded. These prestigious awards are treasured by the sailing community as the nation's top sailing distinctions. A slate of finalists nominated by the membership of US Sailing is presented to a panel of recognized sailing journalists, who discuss the merits of each nominee and then vote by secret ballot to determine the ultimate winners.
These prestigious awards are not only treasured by the sailing community, they are very much the highlight a sailing career and mean to much to the recipients. This was evident on that Friday afternoon at the NYYC as each sailor in turn spoke passionately about the award, sailing, and their families. It was an emotional time for not only these two newest additions to the Rolex Award, but to all who witnessed their joy. Memorable moments indeed, as once again the Model Room served as the background for yet another stellar event recognizing two sailing greats. For more information, go to: www.ussailing.org/Awards/roles/index.asp
Keeping with the theme of today's column, there was a big celebration over at Manhasset Bay YC this past weekend. It was the Commodore's Ball, which is held every two years as a new commodore is elected to serve. This is a tradition at most yacht clubs, but what made this year's gala noteworthy was the celebration of Sue Miller's election as the club's first female commodore in the history of the MBYC. So to make the event extra special, the club hired the venerable Lester Lanin Band. How exciting to have the band who played at the weddings of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, Charles and Diana, Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, not to mention Queen Elizabeth's birthday party. The band, lead by Music Director, Spencer Bruno, played the wonderful romantic tunes of years past, and great contemporary music that got everyone out on the dance floor into the wee hours of the night. And what a celebration it was to mark this historical event. Congratulations to Sue Miller and MBYC. For more information on Lester Lanin music, go to: www.LesterLanin.com.