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February 26, 2014

Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman Awards

Brian Porter and Jody Starck formally accepted their respective 2013 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards yesterday at the St. Francis Yacht Club. The event, emceed by Gary Jobson, highlighted the careers of two of America’s finest sailors. With family, friends and a room full of sailing notables the awardees gave heartfelt accounts of how they’ve succeeded in sailboat racing and expressed their true appreciation of the sport that enjoy so much. 

Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Jody Starck with (from left) US Sailing President Tom Hubbell; Justin Hogbin, Rolex Watch U.S.A. Vice President, Communications; Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Brian Porter; and Peter Nicholson, Rolex Watch U.S.A. Senior Advisor, Communications

© 2014 Rolex/Tom O’Neal

Jody Starck has won the award twice before in 1989 and 2004. She earned remarkable success last year as crew for her husband, David Stark, winning the Lightning World Championships and then as a skipper she won the Lightning Atlantic Coast Championship and finished third at the Lightning North American Championship.

She was asked what winning the Rolex award meant for her this time. "Being here today proved to me that it’s still possible. It’s possible to have fun, do what I love and still do well at it," she said. "The most important part of that is it’s possible for everyone else to do the same thing; it doesn’t matter if you are a junior sailor heading out for your first race or a veteran who hasn’t been out in a long time. If you put your heart in it and put in the time and effort, it’s possible to achieve your goals.”

Peter Nicholson, Rolex Watch U.S.A. Senior Advisor, Communications; and Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Jody Starck

© 2014 Rolex/Tom O’Neal

Brian Porter had an impressive series of successes in 2013 as well. He won the Sperry Top-Sider Melges 24 World Championship and the Melges 24 division at Quantum Key West. He also finished third at the Rolex Big Boat Series and the E Scow National Championship. 

Peter Nicholson, Rolex Watch U.S.A. Senior Advisor, Communications; and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Brian Porter.

© 2014 Rolex/Tom O’Neal

Brian was humbled to have been given the award and acknowledged its significance. "One of the things that struck me when I was told I won this award was just how difficult it is to win. Like sailing in any regatta, you need some luck, and I had my fair share of it last year.

“Although we are all competitive and want to win," he said, "I think we would all agree that the journey is what’s most important. The people we meet, the friends we make, and the great sportsmanship are what it’s all about. I’ve been very fortunate to have been blessed with many great moments, and nothing has touched my heart more than the outpouring of support and good wishes from friends and competitors.” 

Past winners in attendance included: Paul Cayard (1998), JJ Fetter (1986, 1991, 1997, and 2000), John Heineken (2012) and Dave Ullman (1996).

Caribbean 600

Now in its sixth year, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s annual Caribbean 600 has become one of the darlings of the North Atlantic’s ocean racing calendar. With a course that beats, reaches and runs its way through eleven islands and a fleet that includes a who’s who of AC, VOR and Olympic talent, winning is no easy task. Beginning in typically beautiful tradewind Caribbean sailing conditions off Antigua, the 60 starting yachts raced upwind to Green Island before cracking sheets and reaching towards the island of Barbuda at warp speed. Pre-race line honors favorites Bella Mente, Rambler 90 and Shockwave wasted no time in locking into a three-way battle at the pointy end of the fleet. Reaching at 20 knots, the leaders rounded Nevis and peeled into spinnakers for the run north to St. Barth and St. Martin

The start of the 2014 Caribbean 600

© RORC Caribbean 600/Tim Wright

Sailing upwind and close reaching south toward the French island of Guadeloupe, the fleet encountered one of the biggest tactical decisions of the race; how close to sail to Guadeloupe. The wind shadow to the west of one of the Caribbean’s largest and tallest islands can be all-enveloping, spelling out lost miles for any yacht that finds itself trapped in the shadow. Despite the tactical challenge, the three leaders stayed glued together before emerging from the shadow and drag racing north toward a hair-raising late-night reach-to-reach gybe at Barbuda before rounding a mark and beating toward the finish.

When the dust settled, Hap Fauth’s JV 72 Bella Mente stole a thrilling line honors victory from her Reichel-Pugh designed rivals, including George David’s 18-ft longer Rambler 90 and George Sakellaris’ 72-ft Shockwave, with the three boats finishing within half an hour of one another. After leading early, Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer has slipped to third overall, while Johnny Vincent’s British TP52 Pace is in a race against the clock to finish quickly enough to correct out over Shockwave for the win. Matt Brooks’ Bay Area-based S&S 52 Dorade is deep in the fleet, currently ranked 39th.

Update on La Paz Good Samaritan

In our recent posting For Lack of a Kill Cord we told the story of a good Samaritan, John Spicher, who was badly injured in La Paz while helping out a fellow boater who had fallen out of his motorized dinghy. John’s leg was severely mangled by the prop of the rescued man’s boat, which twice ran over him. 

It’s good to see John smiling after his horrible ordeal.

© Jeanne Walker

John was medevacked to the UC San Diego trauma center, where he has subsequently been operated upon and is recovering. For those interested in monitoring John’s progress, a blog has been created to keep supporters up to date. There is also information on the blog that allows individuals to make PayPal donations towards John’s medical expenses.

From the looks of John, he’s recovering well, and we hope he can be back on his feet soon.

Forestay fittings have failed among the fleet’s 12 boats causing race officials to divert the fleet to Hong Kong.
A horrific accident occurred near La Paz, Mexico late last month that could have been avoided by the use of a couple of simple pieces of plastic: an outboard kill switch key on a lanyard.