2017

January
Winner:RICH WILSON (USA)

The best of the best, the competitors in the Vendée Globe. This is the 66-year-old American skipper’s 2nd Vendée, but he is nominated for his brilliant work developing a full schools’ programme that uses his race to educate, not just about the ‘usual’ things, like cleaner oceans, but with a complete school curriculum, all pre-packed for teachers and ready to download and dial-in. A teacher by vocation, Rich is also a Harvard and MIT double graduate... it shows

February
Winner:ROB GREENHALGH (GBR)

No sooner do we start to compile a list of some of Rob’s bigger achievements, in skiffs, foilers and most of the big ocean races, than he goes and upsets our tidy sheet of paper by banging in another one, winning the Amlin Moth invitational regatta in Bermuda for the second year in a row. Closer to home and this nomination is really in recognition of the big part he has played in reviving Grand Prix racing in northern Europe with the Fast40+

March
Winner:THOMAS COVILLE (FRA)

Who can forget the call back to routeur Jean-Luc Nélias, that Coville was hitting 45kt (solo) and really would like to slow Sodebo down. In a spectacular month for French offshore sailing it’s hard to pick a winner but what Coville achieved – and after 10 years of trying – will be talked about for years to come. He sailed singlehanded around the world in barely more than half the time taken by the fully crewed winner of the first Trophy Jules Verne…

April
Winner:PAUL CALLAHAN (USA)

For many years now Callahan has led the USA National Disabled Sailing Program and in 2016 the organisation had its best year ever, wracking up impressive statistics in both attendance and access. With three different venues, last year the initiative put through 1,410 disabled adults and 1,303 disabled children… and has now secured the use of no fewer than 406 different boats. Callahan’s team must have some kind of sales pitch as well…

May
Winner:MATTEO DE NORA (SUI/ITA)

This only happened once, for Francis Joyon, but our little-loved veto has been played again because of escalating concern for the institution of the America’s Cup. De Nora has backed Team New Zealand for years but now there really could be all to play for. The Cup might soon regain more of its precious allure or it may enter another hiatus under what is looking more and more like a cartel. That there even are two possibilities is largely due to the passion of one man without whom this Cup might be a dull story indeed.

June
Winner:CONRAD COLMAN (NZL)

Every Vendée Globe has its unlikely hero – no disrespect, matey. Others have invested heavily in trying to complete the race without fossil fuels but Colman was first to succeed – his mission gaining extra unplanned coverage when he lost his mast with over 700nm to go but plugged on to become this year’s darling of the fans who flocked to Les Sables to greet him. Not quite Yves Parlier, building a mast in the deep south, but a nice confluence of events

July
Winner:GUILLAUME VERDIER (FRA)

If there’s one thing Verdier works harder at than drawing the best ocean racers of the current era it is dodging public recognition. Well, mon ami, we got you this time – as did the readers who voted for you. For those who quietly marvelled at the superiority of Team New Zealand’s foil solutions and the way that one team had committed so confidently to the wind conditions expected for the final Match look no further than the Kiwi’s secret weapon. How many Cup fans even knew the Frenchman wore an All Blacks shirt?

August
Winner:SEAN REGAN (NZL)

Capsize your boat (brutally) one day and win the next (OK, the day after but the boat was ready). The head of Emirates Team New Zealand shore operations, Regan led his team in a typically calm and quiet but still monumental rebuild of the team’s single ACC raceboat following their pitchpole racing Ben Ainslie in the qualifying rounds. In fact, the broken carbon was not the biggest problem; try soaking the most complex (and effective) control systems in the fleet

September
Winner:RICHARD MEACHAM (NZL)

‘He was instrumental in getting the ETNZ team together early in the AC35 campaign and all the way through to the final race of the AC. He made sure the boat was on the water every day without fail. He never let anyone have an easy day’s sailing and was always pushing for the extra 1%. We all hated him, like really hated him, but ultimately he was the backbone of the team and all the rest of us were just mere ribs’ – a friend writes

October
Winner:STEPHEN BAKER (USA)

There is some ferocious young talent emerging right now: Baker has been on a roll for a while but when he won the 2017 US Optimist Nationals in August people really started to sit up and take notice – including now head of US Olympic sailing, Australian double gold medallist Malcolm Page. Seven races, seven wins, discarding a 1st place in a 103-boat fleet. Impressive? In fact, the whole US Oppi squad is humming right now

November
Winner:GUILLERMO PARADA (ARG)

The Azzurra TP52 team quietly goes about its work, always practising and working away at the small things that make a boat go faster. Helmsman Guillermo Parada has been there from the start, along with tactician Vasco Vascotto… quite the pairing. This year they won the overall TP52 Super Series title and already have a new boat on order for what promises to be a mega-tough 2018 as the Cup teams go back to practising monohull sailing…

December
Winner:IGOR RYTOV (RUS)

In a month that saw Russian crews at the top of almost every major one-design competition Rytov’s achievement stood out as a first in the annals of offshore racing. Sailing with an all-Russian crew on another trusty JPK 10.80, Bogatyr, Igor Rytov is now the first Russian skipper to put his name on one of the classic ocean racing trophies, winning this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race overall by just over 6 minutes, surviving nearly four days of rapidly changing conditions