Written by Andrea Watson Friday, 17 February 2012 00:00
The Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awardees have been announced and it seems to be no surprise that both of them are match racers, with all the new interest in match racing taking hold of racers across the United States. But what might be surprising is that both these terrific racers have ties to our community. Bill Hardesty has been to Manhasset Bay Yacht Club during the Knickerbocker Cup in past years and Anna Tunnicliffe has raced in two Knickerbocker Cup regattas. And all those tons of volunteers that make the Knickerbocker Cup a reality would agree that these two individuals are most deserving of their award – not only for their skills on the water but also for being great, down-to-earth people. Both give back to the sport of sailing, both are fair and honest sailors, and best of all, they are a lot of fun to be around.
Etchells World Champion Bill Hardesty (San Diego, CA) and Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.) were named US Sailing’s 2011 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year a few weeks ago. A shortlist of eight male and seven female sailors – determined from nominations submitted by members of US Sailing – was evaluated by a panel of sailing journalists who selected these two sailors for the noteworthy distinction. The winners will be honored on Feb. 22 during a luncheon at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, when they will be presented with specially-engraved Rolex timepieces.Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex Watch, U.S.A. since 1980, the annual presentation of US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards are considered the sport’s ultimate recognition of an individual’s outstanding on-the-water achievements for the calendar year. Over its history the coveted award has been presented to 40 men and 32 women.
Bill Hardesty was first shortlisted for the award in 2008 – when he won the Etchells World Championship – Hardesty reclaimed that class’ top title in 2011 after a dominating performance in an 81-strong fleet. He had several other class wins, including the Etchells Midwinters West Championship, and transitioned from skipper to tactician and translated his skills into wins in a number of additional classes which led the selection panel to commend the diversity of his achievements during the year. Hardesty’s notable performances as tactician included winning the 47th Congressional Cup in Catalina 37s and the CMRC Grade 2 Invitational in Tom 28s, along with top finishes at the Rolex Big Boat Series in Express 37s (second) and the Farr 40 World Championships (fourth).
From a personal standpoint, however, Hardesty is most proud of winning the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Match Racing World Championship as tactician for skipper Ian Williams (GBR). The world championship series title was earned through wins of the Portimão Portugal Match Cup in Portugal, the Stena Match Cup in Sweden, and the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia.
“This is a huge honor,” said Hardesty after receiving word that he had been named the 2011 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. “The long list of past winners is very impressive and includes people who I have always considered to be the best in the world. I would first like to thank Rolex for making sailing what it is today. Without their sponsorship of sailing, the sport would be a lot different.”
“A lot of credit goes to the teams I raced with this past year,” Hardesty continued. “Sailing is truly a group effort and winning this award would never have been possible without great teammates: the Etchells World Championship team of Steve Hunt, Mandi Markee and Craig Leweck, and Team GAC Pindar skippered by Ian Williams.
Hardesty graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1998, the same year he received College Sailor of the Year honors from the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association. A native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Hardesty grew up sailing in San Diego and learned to sail with his father on Hobie beach cats prior to joining the junior sailing program at Mission Bay Yacht Club and subsequently San Diego Yacht Club.
After college graduation and a brief Laser campaign for the Olympics, Hardesty worked for a power plant in Los Angeles and then a solar tube company in San Diego. Now a professional sailor, he spends more than half the year living aboard a Wauquiez Hood 38 on which he is currently cruising Central America.
ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Sailing World Champion Anna Tunnicliffe was shortlisted for the honor for the seventh consecutive year, she is the first woman in the award’s history to earn it in four consecutive years. A member of the selection panel noted her level of dedication to the sport, while another remarked that she is a tremendous ambassador for sailing. She joins the rare company of four-time winners JJ Fetter Isler (1986, ‘91, ’97, ’00) and Ted Turner (1970, ’73, ’77, ’79). Only five-time award winner Betsy Alison (1981, ’82, ’84, ’93 and ‘98) has eclipsed them.“I’m honored to win the 2011 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award,” said Tunnicliffe. “It is a great acknowledgment of Team Maclaren’s success in 2011. Molly [Vandemoer], Debbie [Capozzi] and I worked incredibly hard to achieve our 2011 goals and we are now focused on our 2012 goal – to win a gold medal in Weymouth.”
Tunnicliffe, the 2008 Laser Radial Olympic Gold Medalist, committed to a match racing campaign in the Elliott 6m two years ago with a goal of again representing the U.S.A. at the Olympic Games. During 2011 she skippered Team Maclaren to podium finishes in three ISAF Sailing World Cup events: US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR in Florida (silver); Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia MAPFRE in Spain (bronze); and Skandia Sail For Gold in Weymouth, England, venue of the 2012 Olympic Regatta (gold). The year culminated with a win of the ISAF Sailing World Championship that also qualified the U.S.A. a berth in the Elliott 6m event at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Also notable were Tunnicliffe’s win of the Santa Maria Cup and her second-place finish at the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship, both of which were sailed in J/22s. The 29-year-old Tunnicliffe, a native of England, grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio, sailing from the North Cape Yacht Club in Michigan. She attended Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Va.), where she earned ICSA All-American honors three times (2003, ’04, ’05), and was named the 2005 Quantum Female College Sailor of the Year. A member of US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, Tunnicliffe currently holds the number one ranking for women on the ISAF World Match Race Rankings.
For additional racing results for each winner, please visit: http://about.ussailing .org/Awards/Rolex.htm.