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2016 Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship awarded to Gavin Reid

by Jan Harley 20 Mar 2017 19:37 GMT 20 March 2017
Gavin Reid is presented with the Cruising Club of America Rod Stephens Trophy © CCA / Dan Nerney

The Cruising Club of America (CCA) has selected Gavin Reid (Devon, UK) to receive the Club's 2016 Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship for his selfless action in swimming over to a vessel in distress and singlehandedly rescuing one of its crew members trapped at the top of the mast.

The award was presented at the CCA's annual Awards Dinner at the New York Yacht Club in New York on March 3, 2017. The trophy is given "for an act of seamanship that significantly contributes to the safety of a yacht or one or more individuals at sea."

Reid, 28, from Cambridge, England, had no sailing experience before he signed up to compete in the Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Race. The fact that Reid is deaf in both ears did not deter his decision to join the crew of Mission Performance. Off the coast of New South Wales during Race 6 (the Hobart to Whitsundays leg), a distress signal was received from a yacht returning from the Sydney Hobart Race that had a crewman fouled in halyards at the top of its 65-foot mast. Mission Performance was the closest to the boat in distress. Reid volunteered to swim across the open water to rescue the endangered crewman.

Once on board, Reid realized that most of the crew were incapacitated and unable to help in the rescue. Nonetheless, using the only remaining halyard, Reid hoisted himself two-thirds of the way up the swinging mast, then climbed hand-over-hand to reach the crewman. It took over two hours to free the crewman who at this point was mentally exhausted and badly bruised. Reid was then able to lower him to the deck just prior to the arrival of a predicted storm. The fact that this happened at night and Reid relies partially on lip reading only makes the rescue more courageous and exceptional.

About the Cruising Club of America

The Cruising Club of America is dedicated to offshore cruising, voyaging and the "adventurous use of the sea" through efforts to improve seamanship, the design of seaworthy yachts, safe yachting procedures and environmental awareness. Founded in 1922, the Club has 11 stations throughout the U.S., Canada and Bermuda, with approximately 1300 members who are qualified by their experience in offshore passage making. In even-numbered years, the CCA organizes the Newport to Bermuda Race in conjunction with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

For more information on the CCA, go to