Olympic Bronze Medalist Caleb Paine (San Diego, CA) and IKA Formula Kite World Champion Daniela Moroz (Lafayette, CA.) have been selected as US Sailing’s 2016 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. Paine and Moroz will be honored on Thursday, March 2 during a luncheon at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan when they will be presented with specially-engraved Rolex timepieces.
Under immense pressure to return Team USA to the Olympic podium in sailing, Caleb Paine prevailed in an epic medal race to earn a bronze medal in the Finn class, the Men's Heavyweight Dinghy at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In his first career Olympic Games, Paine led the medal race at every mark, which in turn allowed him to pass Croatia's Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic in the overall standings to earn a place on the podium.
“It was a tough battle for me, and I feel fortunate to come up with a medal in the end,” said Paine. “I didn’t get off to the best start, but I kept my eyes open and saw an opportunity to make a gain on the right side, and it was, go all the way or nothing at all, so I had to fully commit and fortunately it paid off.”
In winning the bronze Paine became the first American to medal in sailing since Zach Railey and Anna Tunnicliffe earned silver and gold respectively in the Finn and Laser Radia classes at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Paine, 25, grew up in Southern California and inherited his father's love of sailing at an early age. Together with his younger brother Olin, Paine sailed anything he could get his hands on in San Diego as a kid and devoted himself to mastering the one-person, Sabot. Deciding earlier than most to pursue an Olympic dream, Paine passed on a traditional campus-based college experience in favor of a life on the high-performance sailing path.
“It was definitely nerve-racking at the time and people questioned the decision I made, but I truly believed in my goal and I believed I could achieve it. To be honest, the opportunities I had because of that decision really paid off for me.”
As for foiling prodigy Daniela Moroz, she has shown equal grit in reaching the pinnacle of her sport at the age of 15. This was especially the case when the high school sophomore rose to the occasion on the final day of racing at the IKA Formula Kite World Championship last September in Weifang-Binhai, China.
Moroz was on equal points with reigning world champion, Russian Elena Kalinina, 18, on the last day of racing. Despite the light air, which had typically favored Kalinina, Moroz won all four races to secure the world championship. She won eight of 12 races overall.
“It didn’t feel real at first,” said Moroz. “I couldn’t believe it actually happened. It’s always been something I dreamed of doing ever since I started kiting. I’ve been training and racing with Erika Heineken since the beginning and she is a role model and inspiration to me. To be able to do what she did means a lot.”
Moroz also posted top results throughout 2016 on the Hydrofoil Pro Tour. She placed first in the women’s fleet at the Final Round in Rockingham, Western Australia and first place at Round Three in Pointe d'Esny, Mauritius. Moroz’s consistent results propelled her to the top of the Hydrofoil Pro Tour women’s final standings.
“The Hydrofoil Pro Tour was awesome,” Moroz said. “It is one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Traveling around the world and being able to compete is a dream. The racing is a big part of it, but it’s not everything. I’ve made some great friends along the way.”
Moroz learned how to kiteboard at the age of 11 while taking lessons on Sherman Island. In the summer of 2013, she had her first racing experience out of Crissy Field at one of the Thursday Night Races. Soon after, she learned how to foil and raced the entire 2014 season on a Sword.
“Both of my parents were windsurfers, so they introduced me at an early age. I chose kiting because this sport had really taken off. Soon after I began racing, the progression from raceboards to hydrofoil had started and I followed that progression.”
Moroz currently has her sights set on another world championship and she would like to race on the Hydrofoil Pro Tour again in 2017. She also has high hopes that kiteboarding will be selected as a sailing event for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Moroz will also be preparing to compete at the Buenos Aires 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games.
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 44 men and 35 women, including these distinguished sailors who have claimed the honor multiple times: Ed Adams, Betsy Alison, Sally Barkow, Dave Curtis, Dennis Conner, JJ Fetter, Allison Jolly, John Kostecki, Buddy Melges, Lowell North, Jan O’Malley, Jane Pegel, Ken Read, Cory Sertl, Lynne Shore, Jody Starck, Anna Tunnicliffe and Ted Turner.
For more information about these awards, visit http://rolex.ussailing.org.