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2023 YJA Awards Winners Revealed at BoatLife

by Yachting Journalists' Association 18 Feb 13:51 GMT 17 February 2024

The winners of the UK's most prestigious awards in British yachting, the YJA Yachtsman of the Year and the YJA Young Sailor of the Year, supported by Henri-Lloyd, have been revealed.

In the presence of family, friends, former winners and guests, Cliff Webb, Chairman of the Yachting Journalists' Association was joined by Hattie Rogers, the 2022 YJA Yachtsman of the Year, on the main stage at the BoatLife exhibition in Birmingham to announce the winners.

The YJA Young Sailor of the Year is awarded to those Under 19 at the end of year who, as voted for by the YJA Members, performed outstandingly. However, once voting was concluded, there was a tie and so the YJA Committee awarded the trophy to joint winners - two rising stars in British sailing, Jess Powell and Ben Greenhalgh.

Thirteen-year-old Jess is the 2023 Topper National Champion and made a successful transition to the ILCA-4 class last year, dominating with six straight wins at an Autumn qualifier. Ben Greenhalgh became a double world champion in 2023, winning the RS Tera World Championships, and also the RS Feva Worlds. Both sailors showed their ability to transition between fleets whilst continuing to excel in the results tables.

Surprised at their joint award, Jess said, "It's an amazing feeling and such an honour to win the award. I love being on the water. It's the freedom, I really enjoy that part. Thank you so much to the YJA and everyone that voted for me."

And fifteen-year-old Ben commented, "I progressed from the RS Tera to the RS Feva and now I want something a bit faster with good competition, so my next focus is the 29er worlds. I am really thankful to have won this award and pleased to be joint YJA Young Sailor of the Year, and I want to thank all in the yachting journalist's association for voting for me."

Both winners also recognised the achievement of the other nominees, Charlie Gran and Sam Webb, who were the 29er National Champions.

In the YJA Yachtsman of the Year category, YJA members voted for a household name in the world of yachting, but one that has never graced this prestigious trophy before. At 67 years old, Lawrie Smith is an accomplished Olympian, America's Cup skipper, participated in four editions of the Whitbread Race, and is a UK National Champion in multiple classes. In 2023 however, he had an exceptional run of success, winning the 75th Edinburgh Cup and the Yanmar Dragon Gold Cup. He is presently competing overseas, and so Andrew Moss, Chairman of the British Dragon Class Association received the famous trophy on his behalf, and said, "Lawrie's skill in being able to sail a Dragon fast, together with the technical capability of the boat, he just has this magical ability to combine these together which led to him winning both of these incredibly challenging events, so well done to him and for this fantastic recognition'.

Other nominees included Charlie Cumbley in the Ok Dinghy class, Ellie Aldridge in Formula Kite, and IQ Foil windsurfing star Emma Wilson.

"Huge congratulations to Lawrie, it's wonderful that he's been recognised by YJA members in this way after the remarkable career he's had in the sport" commented Cliff Webb, "and to have joint winners of the YJA Young Sailor award is fabulous, which we hope will inspire them to go on to achieve more success in their careers."

Previous winners of the YJA Young Sailor of the Year include Dame Ellen McArthur, Hannah Mills OBE, and Sir Ben Ainslie, who has so far also been awarded the YJA Yachtsman of the Year trophy five times. Other notables from the YJA Yachtsman of the Year roll of honour include Sir Robin Knox Johnston, Sam Davies and Pip Hare, indeed Lawrie is the first male winner of the award since Alex Thompson in 2017.

Henri Lloyd were the supporting sponsor of the 2023 YJA awards, and Graham Allen, CEO, Henri-Lloyd said, "Henri-Lloyd congratulates all the winners and it's great to see Laurie Smith, winner of the Henri-Lloyd Outstanding Seamanship Awards in the Whitbread 89-90 race and someone who will always have a special place in the brand's heritage, still showing incredible talent. Henri-Lloyd has over 60 years of experience keeping sailors safe, warm and comfortable, so we understand the importance of maintaining outstanding performance over many years!".

The YJA would like to thank Henri-Lloyd who provided a voucher of £500 to the winners of both of the YJA awards, however, very kindly amended this to £300 for each of the two YJA Young Sailor winners.

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