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Winners of prestigious yachting awards crowned at YJA Stoneways Marine Awards Gala Dinner

by YJA 11 Sep 2021 09:36 BST 10 September 2021

A star-studded evening at the Grand Café Southampton held on Friday 10th September saw the crowning of the highly prestigious YJA Stoneways Marine Yachtsman of the Year, Young Sailor of the Year, and the new Young Journalist of the Year 2021 Award winners.

The Gala Dinner and Award ceremony attracted a plethora of sailing stars, including many Olympic medallists, legends of the sport, special guests, and members of the Yachting Journalists' Association with representatives of Stoneways Marine. The mood was understandably buoyant after 18 months without large gatherings and it was a fitting way to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of British sailors in 2020/2021.

The evening started with a drinks reception in the Grand Lobby, sponsored by Boatlife Events, followed by a delicious meal in the Grand Café before the awards were presented. The guest presenter was double Olympic gold medallist and YJA member Shirley Robertson OBE, who kept everyone entertained throughout the proceedings.

YJA Stoneways Marine Young Journalist of the Year Award

First up was the presentation of the YJA Stoneways Marine Young Journalist of the Year. This is a brand new award introduced in 2021 to encourage aspiring journalists to start a career in the marine sector.

The Tokyo 2020 49er gold medallist Stu Bithell presented the inaugural award to Katie McCabe, who wrote emotional and vividly descriptive blogs of her recently accomplished and record-breaking solo journey around Britain.

YJA Stoneways Marine Young Sailor of the Year

The YJA Stoneways Marine Young Sailor of the Year Award was the next to be announced, with images highlighting the achievements of each of the nominees, Katie McCabe, Lucy Kenyon and Millie Irish & Jess Powell.

Guy Prest of Stoneways Marine presented this award, and in a first for these prestigious annual awards, we have a double winner, with 14-year-old Katie McCabe again capturing the vote of the YJA members to win the trophy for her recent anticlockwise sail solo round Britain on her 26ft Morgan Giles, Falanda.

The young sailor and writer was understandably ecstatic about her historic wins and her story began well before her sail around Britain:

"We'd just come back from a boat festival and went to a yard as I'd been looking for a boat for ages. I found this 71-year-old 26' Morgan Giles yacht Falanda which was full of fresh water and had been out of the water for ten years and had a couple of rotten planks. I instantly loved the lines of the boat and her long, deep keel. We bailed her out, towed her back home, and the following winter I spent the whole time outside of school restoring her. I replaced the rotten planks, which I didn't know how to do so my dad showed me as he's a boat builder, then I had to replace the cockpit combings and a couple of bulkheads - lots of work and then all the varnish and paintwork.

"I had the idea of sailing around Britain around two years ago having sailed to the Scilly Isles and back on my own with my parents following. That's when I thought 'maybe I can do it'. Then I met fellow young journalist nominee Timothy Long on his way back round Britain and found out then I'd be the youngest person to do it if I did!"

On the double win, and what it might mean for her future sailing, Katie said:

"I didn't expect to be nominated at all, and I see all these amazing sailors and didn't realise that anyone would know me. It was really, really cool. After this I'd like to get in to racing and might be considering the Mini Transat one day."

The YJA Stoneways Marine Yachtsman of the Year 2021

It was then time to announce the final award of the evening, the YJA Stoneways Marine Yachtsman of the Year 2021. This famous trophy was initiated in 1955 by the late Sir Max Aitken, a Battle of Britain Spitfire Pilot and Chairman of Express newspapers.

The audience enjoyed an overview of the incredible achievements of the three shortlisted nominees: Hannah Mills, Pip Hare and The Team GB Olympic Sailing Squad - Tokyo 2020. Then the 2019 YOTY winner, Lucy MacGregor, was called upon to present the award to Pip Hare. Regrettably Pip was unable to attend the ceremony and the famous trophy was collected on her behalf by her delighted Technical Director Joff Brown and Pip's Operations Director Lou Adams.

Pip is the Vendée Globe star who captured all our attention over the winter with her incredible sailing in the famous non-stop, solo around the world race, her first Vendée, and all the time communicating the adventure in powerful detail to an ever-growing fan base. Pip recorded a special video message in advance of the ceremony and, on hearing that she'd won the YJA Stoneways Marine Yachtsman of the Year, said:

"Wow! I've always felt like a bit of an outsider in the sailing world because there is no kind of accepted performance pathway into solo sailing in the UK - you've got to go off and do it on your own and make it all happen. To receive this award is the validity that I really wasn't expecting.

"I'm really pleased a wider audience engaged with the Vendée Globe because it's an incredible event on many levels and is so much more than just a sailing event. It's a proper, hardcore, endurance event and is special for so many reasons. Having that platform to share our stories during the winter was important, and I hope the traction sailing gained continues and it helps the sport grow."

She was also full of praise for her fellow shortlisted sailors:

"Our Olympians are amazing, and we regularly produce the most incredible sailors. What Hannah has achieved is unrivalled - it's amazing and I really enjoyed watching the Olympic sailing this summer and to be shortlisted amongst these great sailors was an incredible honour, and then to actually win the award was unexpected."

Pip also had a message for all aspiring sailors who may be looking into solo offshore sailing:

"I am 47 years old - don't ever believe that it's out of your grasp. Just keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. One of things I love about sailing that I think we don't always acknowledge is that it's one of the most diverse sports out there. There is a kind of sailing for all people, regardless of age, background, gender, or ability. Sailing is so adaptable as a sport and offers so much to so many people and there isn't one right way to do any one thing. Anyone, anywhere can benefit enormously from getting on the water!"

Remembering...

The Yachting Journalists' Association has lost some great names in the past year and a tribute was shown remembering those who have recently 'Crossed the bar'. The tribute to John Goode, YJA Treasurer Mike Ford, Bob Satchwell, David Pelly, Dag Pike and 'Mr America's Cup' Bob Fisher.

Clifford Webb, Chairman of the Yachting Journalists' Association, was elated by the success of the evening and thanked Stoneways Marine who stepped up to sponsor the Gala Dinner and Awards, saying:

"It's been a wonderful evening of celebration. Everyone has enjoyed it, we've had some marvellous sponsorship, we've had three Tokyo 2020 gold medallists here - what an incredible celebration of British sailing this has been. Absolutely delighted.

"It's been amazing to see the young generation, both the journalists and the sailors, the present generation of sailors and all together with the sailors who are literally legends of the sport."

A delighted Keith Lovett of Stoneways Marine, who is himself a YJA member, made particular note of the incredible array of sailing talent and yachting legends attending, saying:

"We feel privileged to be involved with yachting's pinnacle awards event. It was another night to remember."

The Yachting Journalists' Association's aim is to promote greater awareness of all aspects of leisure boating through the services offered by its members. To find out more, and if you are interested in joining, then please visit yja.world

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