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Taylor Canfield named 'Virgin Islands Sailor of the Year 2013'

by Carol Bareuther on 30 Dec 2013
L to R: Taylor Canfield, Virgin Islands Sailor of the Year for 2013, Phillip Shannon, President of the Virgin Islands Sailing Association, with the iconic St. Thomas Yacht Club in the background. Dean Barnes
Taylor Canfield has been awarded the coveted title of ‘Virgin Islands Sailor of the Year’ for 2013 by the Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA).

'Due to the recent success of several Virgin Islands’ sailors, the Virgin Islands Sailing Association felt it was important to recognize these accomplishments,' explains VISA president, Phillip Shannon. 'Taylor's unprecedented World Championship in match racing was the perfect time to initiate this award. Taylor is the first to be awarded ‘Virgin Islands Sailor of the Year’.

Canfield is honored to be selected, he says. 'It is incredible how many great sailors have come from such a small island. I am sure it was a tough decision as there are plenty other sailors who deserve this award. This being said, I would not have been so successful in 2013 without my team. I would like to accept the award for the entire US One Sailing Team, consisting primarily of Rod Dawson, Hayden Goodrick, Mike Rehe, Dan Morris, and Brian Janney.'

The VISA award caps a remarkable year full of impressive achievements by Canfield. First came his runner up finish at the Korea Match Cup in June, one of the biggest events on the Alpari World Match Race Tour (AWMART), where Canfield lost only to France’s Matthieu Richard. Two months later, Canfield and his USOne team won three matches in a row after losing two in a first to 3-point final to defeat Australia’s Keith Swinton at the Chicago Match Cup. Next, Canfield made great strides towards the World Champion title by beating Great Britain’s Ian Williams in the semi-finals at the Argo Gold Cup in Bermuda in October and as a result shooting to the top of the tour’s leaderboard with a 10-point advantage going into the AWMART series finale, the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia. Ultimately, New Zealand’s Phil Robertson handed reigning world champion, Williams, three straight loses and cleared the way for third-place finisher, Canfield, to earn World Champion. This meant the 24-year-old Virgin Islands sailor ended 2013 as the youngest to win three AWMART events (Bermuda 2012, Malaysia 2012 and Chicago 2013) and the youngest to win the World Match Racing Championship as well as the first North American in 14 years to win a match racing world title and first Virgin Islander in 12 years ago to reign as the world’s top ranked match racer.

These amazing accomplishments follow years of sailing experience and podium finishes. Canfield started skippering Optimist dinghies at age six off the beach at the St. Thomas Yacht Club under the tutelage of his father, Bill Canfield. 'Growing up in the islands was such an incredible experience that most sailors could only dream about. Eighty- to 90 degrees, 12 to 25 knots of wind and sunshine almost every day of the year...what else could you ask for,' he says. 'While the venue was picture perfect, it was the support of my family and two friends (Cy Thompson and Thomas Barrows) that pushed me hard and trained with me from Optis through college sailing.'

In high school, Canfield was one of three Club 420 skippers who led the Antilles School Sailing Team to national championships in team and fleet racing. Canfield was also twice named Club 420 National Champion. His four years sailing for Boston College were remarkable for a nearly unprecedented number of on-the-water victories. These included being named a three-time All-American, two-time fleet racing champion and one-time team racing champion, sloop champion and match racing champion.

Canfield first fell in love with the sport of match racing at age 13 when he traveled to Bermuda to sail Optimists in the Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup. He was accompanied by Virgin Islands’ Olympic Medalist, Peter Holmberg, who was match racing at the same time in the Argo Gold Cup. It wasn’t until age 16 that Canfield was old enough to participate in match race events. He qualified for the U.S. Match Race Championship his first year, then that same year he sailed the competitive Governor’s Cup in California.

Currently, Canfield is the sailing director at the Chicago Match Race Center. After a short break over the winter to professionally sail one-design J70s, Melges 20s and Etchells, he and his USOne team will start back match racing in April at the Congressional Cup followed by the AWMRT season opener in May at the Korea Match Cup. Canfield’s ultimate sailing goals are to sail in the Americas Cup in the near future.

His advice to young Virgin Islands’ sailors is the formula Canfield used himself to achieve his successes: 'Just because we grew up on a small island in the Caribbean, doesn't keep any of us from becoming something we want more than anyone else in the world. Don't give up in any race, take every opportunity to sail against and learn from the best, and put the time in (practice and racing). But before all of the above, make sure you are enjoying what you are doing. I'm proud to sail under the Virgin Islands’ flag and represent my St. Thomas Yacht Club family!'

The Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA) is the organization that administers all sailing activities in the US Virgin Islands. We are a Member National Authority of ISAF which is the International Federation that governs sailing worldwide, the Pan American Sailing Federation and Central American and Caribbean Sailing Organization. In addition, VISA was a founding member of the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee, which administers all Olympic sports in the Virgin Islands.

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