The highest accolades for the sport of sailing were awarded last Friday, Feb. 15 to Steve Fossett, 57 of Chicago, Illinois, and Cory Sertl, 42, of Rochester, NY, at a luncheon ceremony held in the Model Room of the New York Yacht Club. Fossett, who is already known for holding nine world records flying jet airplanes and balloons, received the 2001 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award for shattering five world speed sailing records on board his 125-foot catamaran Playstation. His best record, earned when he was sailing the Atlantic Ocean from east to west, from the Ambrose Light Tower off New York to Lizard Point off Cornwall, England - considered by sailors around the world to be the Holy Grail of distance sailing - shaved off just about 48 hours from the existing record and set a benchmark of four days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and six seconds. During that same crossing, Fossett beat the record for distance sailed in a 24-hour period, covering 687.17 nautical miles (790.2 statute miles) at an average speed of 28.63 knots. Fossett, who has been sailing only since 1993, hobbled to the podium with the help of crutches from a sky diving injury, "I'm a happy, happy guy," said Fossett. "It is very gratifying to be recognized by my peers in the sport, especially for the kind of sailing I do. Normally sailors measure themselves against others in boats of the same class. My goal is also to be the fastest". He continued, "The TransAtlantic record is far and away the most important to me. There have been 24 attempts in 11 years to break it, and three of those were made by me. The second is the 24-hour record, since it defines who has sailed the fastest in an ocean, anywhere in the world, any time." After the luncheon, your reporter had a few moments to speak to Fossett and congratulate him on so many world records. He was emphatic that his broken leg would be mended in the next few weeks, and said, "He probably won't be sky diving again very soon". That might get in the way of his plans for this summer's launching of his single-handed around the world trip in a balloon.
Cory Sertl, the 2001 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year recipient, who is making a bid for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, was selected for her versatility in two sailing disciplines: fleet racing and one-on-one match racing. She won the prestigious Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship held in September and the Boat U.S. Santa Maria Cup, an elite-level women's match racing championship. Four past winners of this prestigious award attended the luncheon to celebrate with Sertl: Pease Glaser, Dawn Riley, Courtney Day and Jody Swanson. Glaser and Swanson crewed for Sertl during the Santa Maria Cup, and the team plans to compete in all of the US Sailing Team clinics and ranking regattas and will sail in the Yngling World Championships in Switzerland this summer. Walter Fischer, president and CEO of Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc., (who lived in Sands Point a while back), presented the award to Sertl, who had received an identical watch five months ago for winning the Women's Keelboat Championship, asked "What are you going to do with this watch?" The audience did not have long to wait for the answer, as Sertl asked her husband, Mark "to stand next to me" at the podium. Then she proceeded to give him her newest award for the support and love he has shown her throughout her sailing career. She then said, "The last time I won this award it wasn't for winning a lot of regattas so much as it was for consistently doing well. This time around, it's more satisfying having won some regattas that I'm really proud of." Sertl not only wins regattas, she is known for her tireless dedication to promoting sailing. She is a past board member of US SAILING and its Olympic Sailing Committee; she has been instrumental in the development of the nationwide Junior Olympic Sailing program. She currently serves on US SAILING's Women's Sailing Committee and is a member of that organization's delegation to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Additionally, she sits on the ISAF Council as an elected women's sailing representative and coaches high school sailing at Rochester Yacht Club, where she is a member. Sertl, who has two children of her own, 5 year old Nicholas and Katja, 7, when asked about her thoughts on children and sailing, said that she "does not push them" and hopes that her love of sailing is transferred to her children. She continued, "Sailing is a life time sport...truly a sport that we can enjoy throughout our lives." Before the ceremony, Sertl fondly remembered match racing in Manhasset Bay two times as a competitor at the USAF grade 1 Knickerbocker Cup.
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.
Last Sunday, February 17, on a day that threatened rain, had some sunshine and winds out the NNW at 10-15 knots, five teams of frostbiters completed six races. There was no crew race. Results for the day: 1. #514, Ted Toombs/Mimi Berry, 2. #121, Fee Mitropoulos/Amelia Amon, and 3. #538, Greg Corkett/Lynn Kochendorfer. The Race Committee, who consistently brave the cold each Sunday to give frostbiters a good competitive day on the water, and who at times must rescue sailors and their boats after a capsize, are rarely mentioned as they do not compete for standings. This week, your reporter would like to mention the folks who were out there last Sunday running the races. The RC for February 17 were: John and Nan Berry, Peter Bergen, Charlie Comer, Dick Field, Sue Miller, Flo Paterno, and Mike Yorke. Reed Whittemore, who is usually on RC, but was unable to attend last Sunday, provided lunch.