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Tony Kirby named 2017 Ocean Racer of the Year

Tony Kirby named 2017 Ocean Racer of the Year

Tony Kirby named 2017 Ocean Racer of the Year

“This is my tenth season in my second boat, it doesn’t come easy, that’s for sure,” Kirby commented, after lifting the Ocean Racer of the Year Trophy and receiving the Blue Water Pointscore Championship Trophy. 

With well over thirty years of experience in offshore sailing under his belt, he is regarded by his peers as a skipper of outstanding seamanship, committed to offshore racing in Australia.  Over the past year Tony has competed in several inter interstate regattas with his entire crew.  That’s as well as participation in the CYCA Winter Series and support of the Youth Sailing Academy’s Noakes 7 Series.

Key results in 2017 included 3rd in the NSW IRC State Championships and 3rd overall in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The lifting of the Blue Water Trophy see the emotional Kirby join his father Raymond on the CYCA’s prestigious Blue Water Championship winner’s board.

“He won it in 1974-75 season in Patrice III and that was a big motivation for me in succeeding, I’ve always tried to equal him or beat him.  As you can probably imagine, I’m very happy and he’s the same, if not happier,” Kirby added.

The Ocean Racer of the Year Awards were established by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in 1985 to recognise the outstanding achievements of yachtsmen and yachtswomen Australia-wide.

The evening of 23 March saw David Kellett as MC with Rear Commodores Noel Cornish and Arthur Lane presenting trophies, apologies had been received earlier from the Commodore and Vice Commodore.

Along with the Blue Water Championship, being recognised in one of the Ocean Racer of the Year categories is one the most prestigious and sought-after prizes in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s sailing program.

The 2017 Ocean Racer of the Year Awards, recognised outstanding Ocean Racing achievements from 1 January to 31 December 2017.

The first award was the Sally Gordon Memorial Trophy for Ocean Crew Person of the Year which goes to a non-professional crewperson who has provided enormous assistance to an owner so that they can keep on top of the challenges of an ocean racing campaign.

In 2010, this award was re-dedicated in memory of Sally Gordon by the Club’s Associates Committee, in remembrance of our friend who was lost in the Flinders Islet yacht race tragedy in 2009.  Sally was named Ocean Crew person of the year in 2000.

This year’s recipient was Jeremy Rae who completed his 25th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in 2017 on board the Overall winner, Ichi Ban.

The next prize was for the Ocean Racing Rookie of the Year, awarded to a competitor that, while no foreigner to crewing or participating in ocean racing, has for the first time campaigned their own boat within the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s prestigious Blue Water Sailing Program.

This year’s Rookie was Zoe Taylor who had competed in one Hobart and returned with her own yacht in 2017.  A successful Cabbage Tree Island Race set the tone for the aptly named Grace O’Malley, with Zoe taking first overall in IRC, ORCi and PHS for the Cabbage Tree Island Race.  Her season results included a credible third in IRC, ORCi and PHS Division 2.   

The Ocean Navigator of the Year in 2017 was Michael Bellingham, his third win of the prize which was introduced in 2008 to recognise the integral role that navigators play in the successful campaign of a yacht.

With well over 20 years’ experience navigating on board some of Australia’s renowned blue water champions, Bellingham is no stranger to the often dark, gloomy and uncomfortable workstation below the helming platform.  He previously won in 2011 and again in 2013 for his performance on Stephen Ainsworth’s Blue Water Champion, Loki, undertaking the Navigator’s role and assisting yet another Blue Water Championship effort.

The Ocean Racing Veteran of the Year was Shane Kearns who embodied a prize which recognises a stalwart of the sport, who has either been campaigning for a number of years, or who has returned to offshore racing after a brief hiatus from the sport of sailing.

Kearns is a proud and fine ambassador for ocean racing. His insuppressible enthusiasm for success in the sport of ocean racing has attracted welcome attention from the wider population of smaller and older boat owners around Australia and overseas.

A sailor who relishes the underdog tag, Kearns often signs off communications with the sailing office as “from the winners”, a statement that he has backed up on more than one occasion.

A second overall win in the 2017 Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race highlighted a strong season, whilst an untimely collision on the start line of the Cabbage Tree Island Race resulted in a frantic effort to bring Komatzu Azzurro back to perfection in time for the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.