Please select your home edition
Edition
Hella Dual Colour Floodlights - Top 728 x 90px - 002 gif

Celebrating offshore sailing success and the CCA's annual awards

by David Schmidt 25 Feb 2020 08:00 PST February 25, 2020
Jean-Luc Van Den Heede wins the 2018 Golden Globe Race © Christian Favereau

Given that the calendar still reads late February, with several months of cold rain and snow left before spring's arrival, it's fair to say that thoughts of offshore sailing might be more the stuff of dreams than reality for most North American sailors. Fortunately, for those of us who always harbor dreams of wide-open horizons, starry nights under sail, and opportunities to define oneself in the presence of nature's awe-inspiring power and grandeur, the Cruising Club of America's recent awards - including their prestigious Blue Water Medal, which is given to those as a reward for "meritorious seamanship and adventure upon the sea" - are a great opportunity to celebrate offshore sailing in the depths of winter.

Winning any one of the Cruising Club of America's (CCA) prestigious awards is a big deal for any sailor, but the Blue Water Medal, which was established in 1923, is one of the highest honors that any skipper can attain. The list of previous winners - including Eric Tabarly, Sir Francis Chichester, Bernard Moitessier, Rod Stephens, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston - reads like a Who's Who list of offshore sailing.

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (FRA; 74), the winner of the 2019 Blue Water Medal, should be no stranger to regular readers of this newsletter, given his incredible performance in the singlehanded 2018-2019 Golden Globe Race (GGR), which he won aboard Matmut, his Rustler 36 with an elapsed time of 211 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes and 19 seconds.

For readers who are just tuning in, the GGR is a retro race that seeks to recreate the challenges and at-sea trials of the 1968-1969 Golden Globe Race, which was the first non-stop and singlehanded around-the-world race. For 2018-2019 GGR sailors, this meant sailing aboard older boats using celestial navigation and forgoing modern satellite communications and weather-routing technologies for the purity of a contest that tests one's seamanship skills.

To help frame the gravity of Van Den Heede's achievement, the winner of the 1968-1969 Golden Globe Race was none other than Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

While Van Den Heede enjoyed a significant lead over his rivals for much of the 2018-2019 GGR, his passage was not without serious trial. This included a rig-damaging pitchpole some 2,000 nautical miles west of Cape Horn that forced the French skipper to gently sail his Rustler 36 while his competition - most notably Dutchman Mark Slats, also sailing aboard a Rustler 36 - was able to press their sailplans considerably harder.

But, as is often the case in serious offshore sailing, experience beat better equipment, and Van Den Heede sailed into Les Sables d'Olonne, France, roughly two days before Slats' arrival.

But to only think of Van Den Heede as the winner of the 2018-2019 GGR would be vastly underselling his offshore experience.

Impressively, the 2018-2019 GGR was Van Den Heede's sixth circumnavigation. These five additional "laps" also include his 2004 west-about solo circumnavigation, during which he set the still-standing west-about singlehanded record (122 days, 14 hours, 3 minutes, 49 seconds), which represented an improvement of some 29 days over fellow Frenchman Phillipe Monnet's record (151 days, 19 hours and 54 minutes), which he established in 2000.

In addition to the Blue Water Medal, the CCA also awarded the Rod Stephens Seamanship Trophy to Van Den Heede's fellow 2018-2019 GGR competitor Gregor McGuckin (IRL; 32), and their Young Voyager Award to Guirec Soudée (FRA; 28).

Neither of these awards came easy.

McGuckin was dismasted in hurricane-force winds in the Southern Ocean but jury-rigged his retro sloop to come to the aide of fellow GGR competitor Abhilash Tomy (IND), who was dismasted and injured in the same storm. While another vessel ultimately rescued Tomy, the CCA recognized the considerable lengths that McGuckin undertook to try and help his fellow sailor.

For his part, Soudée earned his prestigious award by logging a five-year journey from France that included crossing the fabled Northwest Passage (this included spending 130 days in ice with only his pet hen for company) and cruising past Antarctica's ice-strewn shores aboard his 39-foot cutter Yvinec. Soudée is the youngest person to have crossed the Northwest Passage singlehanded, and likely one of the only modern sailors to have attempted this journey sans radio or satellite phone.

Finally, the CCA also awarded their Far Horizons Award to Peter and Ginger Niemann (USA) for their multi-year circumnavigation that included the Northwest Passage; the Royal Cruising Club Trophy to Steven W. James (USA) for his cruise from Buenos Aires through Tierra del Fuego; the Charles H. Vilas Literary Prize to Molly and Porter Barnes (USA) for their article entitled "A Family's Three-Year 36,000-Nautical Mile Adventure" that was published in the CCA's Voyages publication, and the Richard S. Nye Trophy to Sheila McCurdy (USA) for her leadership at the CCA and her impressive ocean-racing record.

Sail-World congratulates all of these award winners, and we sincerely hope that their stories of seamanship, bravery and sailing grit help inspire future generations of bluewater ocean-racing sailors.

May the four winds blow you safely home,
David Schmidt

Related Articles

Michael Weber and Jeff Braddon on the Jackrabbit
An interview with Michael Weber and Jeff Braddon on the 2021 Jackrabbit J/22 regatta I checked in with Michael Weber and Jeff Braddon, who serve as advisor emeritus and chair (respectively) of the 2021 Jackrabbit J/22 regatta, via email, to learn more about this freshwater One Design regatta. Posted on 15 Sep
Laura Grondin and Megan Ratliff on the M24 NAs
David Schmidt checks in with the chair and president ahead of the 2021 Melges 24 U.S. Nationals I checked in with Laura Grondin, chair of the International Melges 24 Class Association, and Megan Ratliff, president of the U.S. Melges 24 Class Association, via email, to learn more about the 2021 Melges 24 National Championship regatta. Posted on 14 Sep
A shameful story and a warning to sailors
A shameful story and a warning to the sailing world Sometime in the recent past, a club hosted a small-but-well-attended regional regatta. A consciously unvaccinated individual attended, refused to wear a mask, and then tested positive for Covid-19. Posted on 14 Sep
Happy, happy. Joy, joy!
Without doubt, the best perk of this job is the reach and connection There are definitely some serious perks to this gig. Yet without doubt, the best is the reach and connection with sailors far and wide. The emails, calls, and chats on the quay still come in, and continue to inspire the entire team. Posted on 13 Sep
Paul Earl and Shan McAdoo on the Snipe NAs
An interview with Paul Earl and Shan McAdoo on the 2021 Snipe North Americans I checked in with Paul Earl and Shan McAdoo, co-chairs of the 2021 Snipe North Americans, via email, to learn more about this exciting One Design regatta. Posted on 8 Sep
Inspirational
It's such an important word in any sport It's such an important word in any sport, and seeing an inspirational performance in sailing fills us with enthusiasm. Posted on 7 Sep
Juana Rudzki on the annual Juana Good Time Regatta
David Schmidt checks in with the event chair to learn more... I checked in with Juana Rudzki, event chair of the 31st annual Juana Good Time Regatta, via email, to learn more about this fun-minded multihull regatta. Posted on 7 Sep
Gladwell's Line: Dalts told to walk the plank
Attempts to force the next Cup to be held in NZ are misguided at best. The current Defender and America's Cup trustee, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, are doing what they should be doing - which is to take the recommendation and decision from their America's Cup team and endorse it. Posted on 4 Sep
The big cats
Catamarans, and even more specifically, powercats is the name of our game here. 12-cylinder Jags, or lightning fast Cheetahs? Neither automotive, nor feline. Catamarans, and even more specifically, powercats is the name of our game here. Posted on 2 Sep
Mike Milner on Team Canada's sailing at Tokyo 2020
David Schmidt checks in with the team's high-performance director I checked in with Mike Milner, Sail Canada's high-performance director, via email, to debrief Team Canada's sailing performances at this summer's XXXII Olympiad and to discuss the team's course back to the Olympic sailing podium. Posted on 1 Sep
Cyclops 2020 - SmartlinkNano - FOOTER11th Hour Racing 2021 - OCT15 - FOOTERNorth Sails 2021 FOOTER