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 Vendee 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 Cleac’h, setting a new British record for an East/west solo circumnavigation.
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 German 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.”