The YJA MS Amlin Yachtsman of the Year and the YJA MS Amlin Young Sailor of the Year Awards were presented during a Gala Dinner at the Grand Café Southampton at the Southampton International Boat Show. The event drew together the great and the good of the marine world, distinguished guests and many previous winners of the awards.
Guest presenter for the evening was triple round the world yachtsman and the star of Channel 4’s ‘The Mutiny’ Conrad Humphreys with the 2018 winners’ invited to the stage to present the main awards during coffee.
First up to the stage to join Conrad were Clifford Webb, Chairman and Mark Jardine, Vice Chairman of the Yachting Journalists’ Association, and Keith Lovett from the evening’s hosts, MS Amlin Boat Insurance. Cliff talked about the new format for the awards, followed by Keith on MS Amlin’s support of the event and people involved in boating, then Mark described the growth and future direction of the YJA.
Then it was on to the awards themselves, starting with the MS Amlin Seamanship Award, presented by 2018 winner Sean Rose. The trophy, previously awarded for acts of seamanship in the Round the Island Race, has been extended worldwide in 2019, this year being presented to Roy Disney, the owner of Pyewacket who rescued the team on John Sangmeister’s Santa Cruz 70 OEX during July’s Transpac 50 Race after they were forced to abandon ship due to water ingress from damage to their rudder post.
Roy Disney, who travelled over especially for the evening said: “Offshore sailing is a lonely sport ultimately. People see you at the start and the finish and they don’t see what happens in the middle. This event and these awards make people aware beyond the sailors themselves, which is important. It’s critically important that we all watch out for each other and we all know in the back of our heads that things like that can happen. We didn’t give what we did in the situation a second thought, and I’m sure that if it was the other way around, that boat and team would have done the same for us. When we go out to sea, we want to have that thought in the front of our head.”
Next up was the YJA MS Amlin Young Blogger of the Year Award which was presented to Alex Rabbitt, who produced a fabulous short video story, filmed over a year, which is about the experience a group of youngsters went through in passing their sailing instructor course in Manchester, called ‘Journey to Instructor’.
Moving on to the YJA MS Amlin Young Sailor of the Year 2019, Conrad invited the 2018 winner Emily Mueller to the stage to open the envelope and reveal the winner as Matilda Nicholls. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly given her passion for sailing, Matilda was away training on Lake Garda, so her father Ben came up to the stage and accepted the award on her behalf.
The final award of the evening was the big one – the YJA MS Amlin Yachtsman of the Year 2019. Initiated in 1955 by the late Sir Max Aitken, a Battle of Britain spitfire Pilot and chairman of Express newspapers.
In 2018 the vote was split between two great sailors from different generations – Tracy Edwards and Nikki Henderson – the first time this has happened in the history of the event. Conrad invited Nikki to the stage to present the award to Lucy MacGregor – four-time winner of the Women’s Match Racing World Championship after her victory at the Lysekil Women’s Match in August. ‘Team Mac’ took the final 3-0 against French skipper Claire Leroy.
MS Amlin’s Paul Knox-Johnson said: “With the YJA MS Amlin Yachtsman of the Year I have the connection and affinity with it as my uncle has won it four times, and it is the pinnacle, the Oscar of the yachting world – the one everyone wants to win. From MS Amlin’s point of view, this is an event we’re hugely proud to be part of. It’s been great to see everyone here having a good time, enjoying their food and their evening. What a great night!”
Words by Mark Jardine