Clipper Race Crewman Clinches Top Award

10 January 2017

An extraordinary act of bravery and seamanship has resulted in Clipper 2015-16 Race crew member Gavin Reid being named as the boats.com 2016 YJA Yachtsman of the Year.

The 28-year-old amateur sailor, who was born profoundly deaf, has beaten “his heroes”, Rio 2016 Gold medallist Giles Scott and Brian Thompson, the Round the Island Race Record Holder, for the pinnacle of British Sailing Awards. In winning, Gavin has joined an illustrious club, which includes Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Sir Ben Ainslie.

“To be named boats.com 2016 YJA Yachtsman of The Year over some of my absolute heroes of the sport, feels like an incredible honour," says Gavin.

“If someone had told me two years ago when I was starting my training for the Clipper Race that I would be here today collecting this award, I couldn’t have believed it. I have learned and experienced a huge amount and hope I can inspire others to take up the challenge of ocean racing. It’s been a fantastic adventure.”

The reason for the honour occurred almost exactly a year ago, when Gavin was racing in Race 6 from Hobart to the Whitsundays, as part of the 2015-16 edition. On January 5, 2016, Gavin was with his team aboard the yacht Mission Performance, when an SOS was picked up from a non-Clipper Race yacht, off the New South Wales coast of Australia. The boat was returning from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race when a crewman became stuck at the top of the mast.

As Mission Performance was closest to the stricken vessel, Gavin volunteered to swim between the two yachts, as conditions prevented transferring alongside. He found four other crew on board, all incapacitated and unable to help their crewmate, who had been tangled in halyards at the top of the mast for several hours.

Gavin used the one remaining staysail halyard to hoist himself two thirds of the way up the swinging mast, then climbed the rest of the way, hand-over-hand, to reach the crewman, untangle the lines, and lower him to safety.

©Sam Kurtul

Gavin achieved all this despite having zero sailing experience before signing up to the race. Like 40 per cent of the some 700 crew members who decide to take on Mother Nature and race across the world’s oceans, the Clipper Race training was the foundation for his preparation for the 11 month, 40,000 nautical mile race around the world.

“Gavin impressed tremendously during his time on the Clipper Race,” says Sir Robin.

“For a young man who had never sailed before he started our training, Gavin showed great commitment and never let his inexperience hold him back. He quickly developed excellent sailing skills under the guidance of his Skipper, and early on was selected to be a Watch Leader.”

“The Clipper Race is highly competitive but faced with any situation where a fellow sailor on another boat was in serious trouble the crew of Mission Performance, who are fully trained with a safety first mentality, upheld the tradition of the sea that you do not hesitate to go to the assistance of another sailor in distress, setting an excellent example of seamanship which is a crucial attribute for all good ocean racing sailors.

“This is the pinnacle of British sailing awards and amongst the most prestigious accolades in the sailing world. I’m very proud of Gavin and the entire crew.”

The Yachtsman of the Year Award was presented by last year’s winner, Ian Walker MBE, at Trinity House in London. It was voted by members of the Yachting Journalist’s Association.

It’s not the first time Gavin’s bravery has been recognised. He was given the Henri Lloyd Seamanship Award at the Clipper 2015-16 Race finish in London last Summer, the Royal Ocean Racing Club Outstanding Seamanship Award, and through a special recognition at the 2016 Australian Sailing Awards.

Feel inspired? If you would like to be like Gavin and race the world's oceans, there are still a limited number of Clipper 2017-18 Race crew places available for both round the world berths and individual legs. Visit our website here to apply.

All images ©Sam Kurtul