Winner of YJA Yachtsman of the Year revealed

YJA Winners

The winners of the YJA Yachtsman of the Year and the YJA Young Sailor of the Year for 2023 have been revealed.

In the presence of family, friends, former winners and guests, Cliff Webb, chair of the Yachting Journalists’ Association (YJA), was joined by Hattie Rogers, the 2022 YJA Yachtsman of the Year, on the main stage at the BoatLife exhibition in Birmingham, UK, to announce the winners on Saturday (17 February 2024).

YJA members voted for Lawrie Smith, 67, an accomplished Olympian and America’s Cup skipper, who has 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 trophy on his behalf.

“Lawrie’s skill in being able to sail a Dragon fast,” says Moss. “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.”

“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,” says 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.”

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

Powell, 13 years old, 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.

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.

“It’s an amazing feeling and such an honour to win the award,” says Powell. “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.”

Greenhalgh, 15, says: “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.

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

YOTY trophy with voucher

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.

Henri Lloyd was the supporting sponsor of the 2023 YJA awards. “Henri-Lloyd congratulates all the winners,” says Graham Allen, CEO of Henri-Lloyd. “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.”

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