On Thursday night aboard the historic USS Midway in San Diego at Navy Pier, US Sailing honored the best American sailor athletes of 2019. The national organization named International 5O5 World Champions Mike Martin and Adam Lowry, both from Mill Valley, as Rolex Yachtsmen of the Year. IKA Formula Kite Class World Champion Daniela Moroz of Lafayette won Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year for the second time in her young life.
Moroz’s second Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award is all the more remarkable given that she just had her 19th birthday. She continues to power through the women’s world kiteboarding fleets with a string of firsts in 2019. She described the variety of venues such as Lake Garda, where she tackled the shifting lake winds while flying a kite, standing up on a foiling board, and weaving her way to the front of a fleet of elite of women.
Foiling kiteboarding is on the list of new classes for the 2024 Summer Olympics to be held in France. The kiteboarding event will feature a new and unique format with a mixed male/female relay. This will mean each male/female team will sail a course solo, then sail into a box, at which point their teammate will sail out of the box to do the next lap. Moroz is already focused on bringing home the gold in 2024.
For Mike Martin this honor was especially sweet after his previously being on the ballot for the Rolex award six times but always ending up the bridesmaid. In his acceptance speech, Martin recognized his outstanding crew, Adam Lowry, who is out on the wire and calling tactics. As Martin said, “I just steer while Adam is telling me where and when to tack from the wire. I just keep doing it until there are no more boats looking through the jib window.”
After the award ceremony we overheard Martin and Lowry talking about the challenges of jibing. We were a little confused, wondering how it could be a problem for this world champion team. Turns out they were discussing jibing foiling kiteboards which, for them, is much trickier than the wire-to-wire spinnaker jibe aboard a 5O5.
The winners also noted the other competitors with whom they shared the stage. It’s a very competitive world and, despite having a strong track record, it’s not easy to take home a Rolex when you look at the other stellar performances coming from sailors across the country. Martin knows this all too well after his prior six nominations. They gave credit to the support from St. Francis Yacht Club, and to their Bay Area and California competitors who have kept them challenged and at the top of their game.
In January, US Sailing shortlisted the top performing American sailors of the year. Panels of past award winners and sailing media journalists voted for the winners from the list of panelists. In a perhaps controversial twist to the process this time, fans got to vote online for the 2019 winners. Votes from the three groups counted equally in determining the winners.
The presentation was part of US Sailing’s Leadership Forum, wrapping up tomorrow in San Diego. More on that next week in ‘Lectronic Latitude.