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Tenacity honoured in YJA Yachtsman and Young Sailor of the Year Awards

by Yachting Journalists' Association 10 Jan 2018 03:40 GMT 9 January 2018
Alex Thomson clinched the YJA Yachtsman of the Year trophy, beating yachting champions Dylan Fletcher, Stuart Bithell and Paul Goodison © Jari Salo

British round the world sailor Alex Thomson has been named the 2017 Yachtsman of the Year winner for his remarkable performance in last year's Vendée Globe solo round the world race.

Joining an elite group of yachtsman that includes Sir Francis Chichester, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Dame Ellen MacArthur and Sir Ben Ainslie, the 43-year-old Welshman from Hampshire, not only set the fastest times from the start at Les Sables d'Olonne, France to the Equator (9 days 7hrs 2mins) and the Cape of Good Hope (17 days 22hrs 58 mins) but a 24 hour solo monohull record of 537 nautical miles – an average of 22.4 knots.

Thomson's tenacity shone through on Day 13 of the race in overcoming a near-terminal setback when his Open 60 yacht Hugo Boss hit an unidentified object, snapping off the yacht's starboard foil. The damage severely hampered his progress over the rest of the 27,000 mile course, but despite this and continued problems with his autopilot, Thomson still finished the race with the second fastest time on record - 74 days 19 h 35 min 15 sec – just 16 hours behind French winner Armel Le Cléac'h, setting a new British record for an East/west solo circumnavigation.

Voted on by members of the Yachting Journalists' Association, Alex Thomson's nomination beat two other great performances last year:

World No 1 ranked 49er pair Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell won gold in a history-making feat at the class World Championships in Porto, Portugal. During a week of extremes which saw the first two days hampered by light winds and fog, and gale force winds at the end of the series, Fletcher and Bithell, who also won the European 49er championships last year, kept the chasing pack at bay to beat New Zealand's top sailors who had held the World title for the previous six years by just four points.

Paul Goodison: winner of the Moth World Championships for the second year in succession. His performance in this class is all the more notable given the calibre of competition in this hi-performance foiling class, which attracted the top America's Cup skippers and sailors with more Olympic medals around their necks than any other regatta with exception of the Olympic Games itself.

The famous trophy was inaugurated back in 1955 by Sir Max Aitken, and past holders include the biggest and most successful names in the sport. Eric Hiscock, Francis Chichester, Olympic medalists Keith Musto, Rodney Pattisson and Iain Macdonald-Smith, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (four time winner) Sir Chay Blyth, Eric Tabarly, Pete Goss, Dame Ellen MacArthur (twice) and of course Sir Ben Ainslie (also four times).

Alex Thomson was returning from holiday in Africa when the Awards were announced and he will be presented with the famous trophy at a ceremony at the London Boat Show at 2pm on Thursday, January 11.

YJA Young Sailor of the Year, 2017

The 2017 YJA Young Sailor of the Year Award goes to 17-year-old Montel Fagan-Jordan from Tottenham, London in recognition of his leadership in first raising the money to restore the 1980s classic American Admiral's Cup yacht Scaramouche, then leading a crew of fellow students from the Greig Academy in Tottenham to compete in last year's 605 mile Fastnet Race.

Nominated by his school teacher, Jon Holt says of Montel: "This was unique yachting project in which a multi-cultural crew spent three years undertaking more than 50 fund-raising talks to buy and restore the famous Gérman Frers designed yacht. Montel is able to helm almost any yacht. Not only was he the driving force behind Scaramouche — raising most of the money himself, but then developed as the helmsman, after receiving tuition from David Beford and Lawrie Smith. In 2017 he entered the Etchells 22 class Gertrude Cup and finished 4th overall before steering the Lloyds X55 class yacht Lutine during Cowes Week. He steered Scaramouche for most of the Fastnet Race Given that Scaramaouche is an old yacht, which rolls madly, his ability to hold a course for four hours in the dark, surfing down wind without broaching was amazing. Scaramouche may have finished 142 out of 368, but as a school team in an old yacht, they more than proved their point."

Other worthy performances short-listed for the YJA Young Sailor of the Year Award were:

Crispin Beaumont and Tom Darling (19)
Crispin and Tom won gold at the Youth Sailing World Championships sailing a 29er class dinghy at the event held in Auckland, New Zealand in December 2016. in December 2016. The two from Hayling Island and Birmingham also won a number of 29er domestic and international events including the 29er Inland Championships, a Grand Prix event and Eurocup. Beaumont and Darling have since transitioned to the Olympic 470 class and now part of the British Sailing Team's Podium Potential Pathway squad.

Matilda Nicholls (16)
Winner of the Laser Radial Girls under 17 World Championships. Matilda, who started sailing in Bermuda in an Optimist when she was eight, has forged herself a reputation as one of the brightest young British sailing stars having also captured Laser 4.7 under-16 European Championship gold last year. She ended the season by scooping the Women's Laser Radial Inland National Championship at Rutland Water.

The Portsmouth based sailor also competed in her first RYA Youth Nationals at Hayling Island, competing in the girls' Laser Radial class where she finished runner-up in the under-19 category and fourth in the under-21s age group.

The success of this Portsmouth High School student was crowned when she became the Under-17 Champion at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in Nieuwpoort, Belgium in August. She went on to compete at the senior National Championships later in the summer where she finished eighth overall and first youth girl.

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