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Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards – Sailors honored

by Jake Fish on 26 Feb 2014
Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Jody Starck with (from left) US Sailing President Tom Hubbell; Justin Hogbin, Rolex Watch U.S.A.’s Vice-President, Communications; Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Brian Porter; and Peter Nicholson, Rolex Watch U.S.A’s Senior Advisor, Communications (Photo Credit Rolex/Tom O’Neal) - US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards Ceremony © Rolex/Tom O'Neal
At US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards Ceremony winners Brian Porter and Jody Starck were honored today.

With San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop, Brian Porter (Fontana, Wisc.) and Jody Starck (Amherst, N.Y.) took the stage at St. Francis Yacht Club to formally accept US Sailing’s 2013 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards. Announced in January after being chosen for their outstanding on-water sailing accomplishments in 2013, the honorees were joined at the bayfront clubhouse by family, friends, sailing dignitaries, fellow sailors, and members of the media for a special luncheon program. Emceed by Gary Jobson, the event included heartfelt acceptance speeches by the winners and the awarding of specially engraved stainless steel and platinum Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Masters, symbolic of achievement in excellence, by Rolex Watch U.S.A.’s Peter Nicholson, Senior Advisor, Communications.

Starck, age 48, who also won the award in 1989 and 2004, said winning a third time was different but 'still a thrill.' She won the Lightning World Championship as crew for her husband David Starck (a 2013 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year shortlisted nominee), and after that event, she switched to helming, most notably skippering to victory at the Lightning Atlantic Coast Championship and finishing third at the Lightning North American Championship.

'The question was asked of me, ‘what does the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year title mean this time?,’' said Starck. 'A lot of things came to mind, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. My daughter Jamie (age 6) suggested I tell everyone how much fun I have when I go sailing, and my other daughter Sabrina (7) suggested I tell everyone how much I love sailing with my friends, which is true but then I realized it’s pretty simple. Being here today proved to me that it’s still possible. It’s possible to have fun, do what I love and still do well at it. The most important part of that is it’s possible for everyone else to do the same thing; it doesn’t matter if you are a junior sailor heading out for your first race or a veteran who hasn’t been out in a long time. If you put your heart in it and put in the time and effort, it’s possible to achieve your goals.'

Starck gave credit to her husband David for encouraging her to 'venture back out to the starting line.' As well, she said, an incredible family support system that had been backing her and her husband, 'sprung into action' again.

'My dad taught me a long time ago to surround myself with smart, talented people, and that’s what I did,' said Starck. 'I thank my crew for their dedication and their determination and for sharing their free time with me. The year was full of great memories.'

Porter, age 55 and a first-time winner, said he was honored to join the 40 men and 33 women on the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards roster, especially when he had to measure up to the deep talent of 2013’s shortlisted nominees. 'One of the things that struck me when I was told I won this award was just how difficult it is to win. Like sailing in any regatta, you need some luck, and I had my fair share of it last year.'

Porter won the Sperry Top-Sider Melges 24 World Championship, scored an additional Melges 24 victory at Quantum Key West 2013 and finished third at both the Rolex Big Boat Series and the E Scow National Championship. He mentioned many great Midwestern sailors who shaped his life, including Olympic medalist Buddy Melges, who taught him how to set up his boat and 'present it to Mother Nature.'

'Although we are all competitive and want to win, I think we would all agree that the journey is what’s most important. The people we meet, the friends we make, and the great sportsmanship are what it’s all about. I’ve been very fortunate to have been blessed with many great moments, and nothing has touched my heart more than the outpouring of support and good wishes from friends and competitors.'

The two sailors topped a shortlist of nine men and six women who were nominated by members of US Sailing and then evaluated by a panel of sailing journalists to determine who was most worthy of America’s highest sailing distinction for the calendar year. Jobson, who has emceed the luncheon for the last 15 years, noted that the list of nominees grows in stature every year, reinforcing how well American sailors are doing both nationally and internationally.

Past winners in attendance were Paul Cayard (1998), JJ Fetter (1986, 1991, 1997 and 2000), John Heineken (2012), and Dave Ullman (1996). Fetter and Heineken had the honor of formally introducing Starck and Porter, respectively, to the audience.

Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex Watch, U.S.A. since 1980, US Sailing's Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards are considered the sport's ultimate recognition of an individual’s outstanding on-the-water achievements for the calendar year. The process of determining the recipients starts each September when US Sailing invites its membership to make online nominations. A shortlist of nominees is then reviewed by a panel of noted sailing journalists who discuss the merits of each nominee and vote to determine the winners.

A video podcast from the 2013 awards luncheon, produced by Gary Jobson, will be available by Thursday at the event website: Click here
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