At a Trinity House ceremony in London today, Ian Walker received the award as boats.com YJA Yachtsman of the Year. Elected by the Yachting Journalists Association of the UK, Walker's singular achievement for 2015 was to become the first British skipper to win the Volvo Ocean Race around the world. Leading Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to victory, Walker and his team also won the in-port series and set a 24-hour distance record for the race of 550.82 nautical miles.
These achievements swayed the UK’s top sailing journalists to choose him over nominees that included Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams from Lymington, and Finn Class champion Giles Scott, from Weymouth.
In accepting his award, Walker said, "I’ve always sailed as part of a team so this award is as much about our Volvo Ocean Race winning Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team as it is about me.” He also noted that he was first nominated for the award in 1994 "...so it has been a long road to win it!"
Walker joins an illustrious list of past winners, including Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Dame Ellen MacArthur and Sir Ben Ainslie; Tracy Edwards MBE, Keith Musto MBE and Rodney Pattisson MBE, to name but a few. Regarded by many as “the knighthood of yachting” (see “Knighthood of Yachting” celebrates 60 years), the honour is awarded by the Yachting Journalists’ Association.
boats.com YJA Young Sailor of the Year
The Young Sailor of the Year Award, first given in 1993 to recognize effort and achievement by Britain’s upcoming young sailors, was also awarded at the ceremony. Eleanor Poole, from Dunsford in Devon, impressed members of the YJA, by earning a string of firsts to win the 2015 Topper National championships at the age of 14, and also securing an impressive seventh at the 2015 Topper World Championship on Lake Garda, Italy.
Eleanor topped a strong shortlist of up-and-coming young talents that included Jack Lewis from Rugby and Cameron Tweedle from Oxfordshire.
Lifetime Achievement Award
A special award was also given to make the Diamond Jubilee of the Yachting Journalists’ Association. Mike Peyton, who has been described as ‘The world’s foremost yachting cartoonist,’ was named as the recipient of a special YJA Diamond Jubilee Lifetime Achievement Award (see: Mike Peyton honoured by YJA). Peyton, who celebrated his 95th birthday on January 8th, has been a unique commentator on the sailing scene for more than 60 years. His cartoons have been published in scores of magazines from Japan to America, the antipodes and every sailing magazine in Britain.
Comedian and sailor Griff Rhys Jones says of Peyton: “He captures the anti-glamour of yachting.’ Sir Robin Knox-Johnston says: “Mike’s been my favourite yachting cartoonist for decades.”
Sponsored by boats.com, the global online resource for boating enthusiasts to explore, discover and research, the awards were presented by Ian Atkins, president of boats.com and Paul Gelder, chairman of the YJA. Atkins said: “I was delighted to reveal the winners of the boats.com YJA Yachtsman and Young Sailor of the Year awards today. The event marks our second year as sponsors, and we’re pleased to be part of this historic event in its 60th year. I'd like to say a huge congratulations to both Ian and Eleanor on behalf of boats.com."