A Canadian, a British and a Dutch/New Zealand sailor have received top honours in this years Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) Awards. Coincidentally, two women are distinguished by being the youngest and the oldest (who did it non-stop) females to circumnavigate the world solo. The third recipient is honoured as a volunteer weather router extraordinaire, who for more than 25 years assisted sailors to cross oceans in safety.
In triumph - Jeanne Socrates after her arrival into Victoria Harbour
In a week which has seen two high profile male sailors abort their attempts to circumnavigate solo because of malfunctions aboard their yachts, it highlights the resourcefulness and seamanship of both Jeanne Socrates, who won the Barton Cup for her non-stop circumnavigation (on her third attempt) at the age of 70, and that of Laura Dekker, whose determination and fine sea skills saw her beginning a circumnavigation at the age of 14, and having finished it at 16, kept sailing half way around the world again to find the country of her birth.
Each year the OCC recognises the achievements of ordinary individuals doing extraordinary things on the world’s oceans and brings those achievements to the attention of the sailing community at large. The OCC Awards Sub-Committee made the announcement at the annual OCC London Boat Show dinner.
This year, the recipient of the club’s premier award for members, The Barton Cup, is Jeanne Socrates, while two recipients share the OCC Award of Merit, an OCC award that recognises both members and non-members: Herb Hilgenberg and Laura Dekker. Herb assisted blue water sailors with ship-routing and weather advice for more than 25 years. Laura has shown the world that being the youngest circumnavigator was not derived from seeking fame and fortune but rather from a tremendous passion for sailing.
Commodore John Franklin added, 'I congratulate all award recipients and nominees, and I thank all adventurous cruising sailors for inspiring new generations to reach for extraordinary goals.'
The Barton Cup Jeanne Socrates
OCC Award of Merit (2) Herb Hilgenberg
OCC Award Anne Hammick
The Vasey Vase Jarlath Cunnane
The Rose Medal Paul Heiney
The Rambler Medal Richard Hudson
The Jester Medal (2) Ewen Southby-Tailyour
The Australian Trophy Ian & Jo Johnstone, with children
Gill and Keely
Geoff Pack Memorial Award Skip Novak
The David Wallis Trophy Chris Wilkie & Margaret Beasley
The Water Music Trophy Duncan & Ria Briggs
The Qualifier’s Mug Emma Buckels
The Port Officer Medal (4) Derrick Allen
OCC Seamanship Award Dan Alonso
Sail-World Cruising will be featuring the stories of each of the prize winners in the weeks to come. Here are profiles of the three top winners:
The Barton Cup:
The OCC’s premier award, it recognises the most challenging voyage made by a member or members, won by Jeanne Socrates s/v Nereida, for the solo, non-stop circumnavigation completed at age 70.
When 70-year-old British grandmother Jeanne Socrates sailed back into Victoria, British Columbia on 8 July 2013 she became the oldest woman to make a solo, non-stop, circumnavigation. It was not an achievement won easily, however – in fact there can be few hurdles, both personal and sailing, which Jeanne has not confronted and overcome since she and her husband George crossed the Atlantic with the 1999 ARC rally in their Najad 361, Nereida. George was diagnosed with cancer in September 2001 and died the following March. Jeanne, a relative newcomer to sailing, decided to step into the role of skipper.
Jeanne Socrates in port
Jeanne (pronounced the French way) thoroughly deserves this award for her exceptionally brave and tenacious effort to complete this circumnavigation. In the words of a nominator, 'Taken as a single voyage this solo, non-stop, circumnavigation by a lady who turned 70 while at sea must rank as one of the great sailing achievements of the 21st century. Taken as a progression over the ten years since Jeanne first sailed as skipper, it is unlikely ever to be equalled.'
In 2006 Jeanne completed the Singlehanded Transpac Race from San Francisco to Hawaii, and the following year embarked on a two-year ‘cruising’ circumnavigation via the Pacific islands, Indian Ocean, South Africa and Panama. She was just 60 miles from closing the loop when her autopilot failed just before dawn on 19 June, and Nereida sailed herself onto an isolated beach on the west coast of Mexico. Although not seriously damaged, there was no tug or large fishing boat in the vicinity and over the course of several days Nereida became a total loss.
Jeanne quickly placed an order for Nereida II, a Najad 380. She took delivery in late summer 2009 and headed south. Her plan was to attempt a non-stop circumnavigation via all five Great Capes, raising sponsorship for Marie Curie Cancer Care. However, things went wrong almost from the start, with poor weather as she headed into the South Atlantic and a succession of gear failures (rigging, watermaker, etc) including the engine seizing up. This forced her to call in at Cape Town, where she discovered that water had got into all four cylinders and her brand new engine would have to be replaced. As soon as she was able Jeanne pushed on east then north through the Pacific and back to Victoria, British Columbia.
In October 2010 Jeanne set off on her second attempt at a non-stop circumnavigation. All went well until 5 January when Nereida was twice knocked down south of Cape Horn, sustaining damage including a broken boom and broken staysail furler, which saw her limping into Ushuaia, Argentina for repairs. With the non-stop element no longer a possibility, Jeanne made further stopovers at the Falkland Islands and Cape Town, but still achieved a circumnavigation of the Southern Ocean via the Five Great Capes. She then returned to Victoria, BC for another attempt at ‘the big one’. (Jeanne gives a new meaning to the word ‘perseverance’.)
Nereida left Victoria for the second time on 22 October 2012, rounding the Horn in relatively benign conditions on 7 January 2013. From there Jeanne continued across the South Atlantic, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and headed back past Australia into the Pacific. She sailed back into Victoria late on 8 July 2013, more than 25,700 miles and 258 days (nearly half of them in the Southern Ocean) after leaving. The entire circumnavigation was made under sail, with no use of the engine.
Although the World Sailing Speed Record Council no longer ratifies claims based on ‘human condition’ such as age, they do award Performance Certificates from time to time, the recording conditions for which are as rigorous as those for a world record. These normally go to the skipper and yacht posting the initial speed for a route recognised as a world record course but which does not yet have a ‘benchmark’ time. As such, Jeanne and Nereida have received a Performance Certificate for the First Woman Singlehanded Around the World, Victoria BC to Victoria BC, Canada, with an official time of 258 days 14 hours 16 minutes and 36 seconds.
Further information: http://www.svnereida.com/
OCC Award of Merit:
To a member or non-member for performing some outstanding voyage or achievement (may award more than one per year!) Two have been awarded in 2014. Both go to non-members this year.
Herb Hilgenberg Southbound II , for more than 25 years of dedicated service to safety at sea
Herb Hilgenberg is a Canadian sailing enthusiast who, beginning in 1987, had provided a daily ship-routing/weather forecasting service for vessels at sea in Atlantic, Caribbean, Bahamian and adjacent waters. Herb’s dedication to sharing his many years of experience as a weather router has been extraordinary. He has patiently and loyally guided many sailors on multiple Atlantic passages, all for no charge. Knowing Herb was going to be on board every afternoon, not only with the big weather picture but with specific advice for each vessel, was a great comfort to all who benefitted: invaluable fine tuning and reassurance for their own on board weather forecasting efforts. Indirectly, those who joined Herb made many friends on other boats sailing nearby by connecting on SSB after his net.
Herb, for whom this was a second OCC Award of Merit, was recently awarded a Meritorious Pubic Service Award by the United States Coast Guard who cited his 'unique and reliable services'. They estimated that Herb saved 100-150 mariners each year from unknowingly sailing into dangerous storm conditions. He bridged distress and overdue calls between the Rescue Coordination Centres and vessels, relaying messages between them at least 25 times per year.
Given the adventurous nature of the OCC’s membership and the propensity to cross oceans in small boats, many Ocean Cruising Club members have benefitted greatly from Herb’s sage advice over the years and we salute Herb who retired in 2013. 'We cannot thank you enough for the more than 25 years of dedication to safety at sea via Southbound II Coastal,' said Commodore John Franklin. 'Although I personally will greatly miss your presence on board, the OCC wishes you every happiness in your next adventure.'
For more information visit http://www3.sympatico.ca/hehilgen/vax498.htm.
Laura Dekker s/v Guppy, for her courage and determination in sailing 1.5 times around the world, all for the love of sailing:
Laura represents the absolute spirit of the blue water sailor and exemplifies the ideals of the OCC – to foster ocean cruising in small boats and seamanship in all its forms. Unlike others who have courted fame, it seems she simply always wanted to sail and to enjoy her private life, not unlike a young Bernard Moitessier.
Laura Dekker on arrival in New Zealand
In the words of a nominator, 'Laura is a born sailor.' There is no denying her sailing, technical and navigational skills acquired at a very young age, nor her courage and determination in sailing 1.5 times around the world, defying all critics. As a 14-16 year-old, Laura circumnavigated singlehanded in 2012 without any mishap in Guppy, a 30-year-old moderately equipped 37-foot ketch, more than proving her seamanship.
Continuing on immediately afterward to complete another transpacific in 2013 to return to the country where she was born speaks to her love of the sea and the freedom of sailing. Laura truly reflects what the OCC is all about.
In the words of one judge, 'I have ended up with the most extreme respect for this young woman, who, to my mind, is a true sailor in that she simply loves being at sea. She has rejected most publicity, has made no money from her trip, and did not even have a hand in the movie, except for supplying her footage. She overcame every challenge with her boat, quietly and professionally and showing great old-fashioned seamanship skills.'
Laura finished her circumnavigation in 2012 (Saint Martin, Dutch Antilles). She continued on across the Pacific, returning to New Zealand where she was born (she has dual New Zealand and Netherlands citizenship) early in 2013.
For more information: http://www.lauradekker.nl/English/Home.html