The weather in New York City may have been frightful—closing airports and stalling trains—but it did nothing to dampen the celebratory atmosphere during last week’s US Sailing's Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards ceremony in the New York Yacht Club’s famed Model Room.
Attendees, including former award winners Magnus Liljedahl, Hannah Swett and Dawn Riley, had the rare treat of hearing from two of sailing’s brightest young stars, representatives of the future of the sport as a new generation comes to the fore.
In accepting her award, two-time winner Anna Tunnicliffe, who won a gold medal in the Laser Radial class in the 2008 Olympics, made it clear that the successes she has enjoyed thus far are only the beginning, and that she has her eyes on no less than the America’s Cup itself. She also acknowledged that the life of a top-end sailor is not without its sacrifices, thanking her husband, Moth sailor Brad Funk, in particular, for his support.
"I’m proud to say I’ve had another great year,” said Tunnicliffe. “But I am so humbled by the recognition from the sailing community, and this award is a fantastic way to top everything off.”
She also acknowledged what she described as the indispensible contributions of her crew, Molly Vandemoer, Debbie Capozzi and Liz Bower. “What I’ve done is not an individual effort,” she said.
For his part, 2009 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Bora Gulari—the first American to win a Moth world championship since the 11-foot boats were equipped with hydrofoils that lift their hulls clear of the water—seemed to accept the award on behalf of the entire Moth class as much as himself. He singled out Olympic veteran and U.S. Moth pioneer Charlie McKee as an especially important part of the class.
In one anecdote, Gulari recalled how McKee insisted that when Gulari came back from a training trip to Australia he share everything he’d learned from the then-dominant Aussies with his fellow Moth sailors in the United States. McKee also insisted Gulari bring back as many spare parts as he could carry, foils and controls then being next to impossible to obtain in this part of the world. According to Gulari, it was tough subsequently being beaten by McKee himself on a number of occasions. But the result has been a stronger class overall.
“By the time we got to the worlds, we really had raised the bar for the Americans and had the dominant edge as a nation,” said Gulari. “This award means so much to me. I don’t have words for it.”
With the Rolex ceremony behind him, Gulari heads to Dubai to defend his world title at the 2010 Puma Moth World Championships. Among his competitors will be none other than Tunnicliffe’s husband, Brad. With apologies to Gulari, Tunnicliffe couldn’t help admitting, as part of her acceptance speech, that she would be rooting for her husband, although she wished them both luck. Who knew a Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year could blush so beet red?
For her part, Tunnicliffe is currently training with her crew in preparation for the Princess Sofia Trophy, an ISAF Sailing World Cup event scheduled to take place later this month.
For more on the award and a video of the presentation itself, go to http://www.ussailing.org.