Taylor Canfield named 2014 Virgin Islands Sailor of the Year

Published on January 5th, 2015

Impressive performances at the Congressional Cup, Etchells Worlds and Central American and Caribbean Games are just a few of the reasons why Taylor Canfield has been awarded the coveted title of ‘2014 Virgin Islands Sailor of the Year’ for the second year in a row by the Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA).

“There are currently so many remarkable sailors from our small island who are putting up great results around the world,” said Canfield. “I am proud to represent the U.S. Virgin Islands just like all the others and wish my fellow Virgin Islands sailors luck as we begin what is hopefully another great year for the Virgin Islands.”

The VISA award caps off a year of remarkable accomplishments by Canfield, achieved in both fleet and match racing, as skipper and crew, and aboard a variety of different boats.

In April, Canfield posted a decisive victory at the 50th Congressional Cup in Long Beach, California, where he defeated the UK’s Ian Williams by two victories to one in a best of three finals. The one two finish for Canfield and Williams, respectively, mirrored their world match race rankings, a testament to the high-quality competition at this longest-running sailboat match race regatta in North America. Canfields well-oiled Catalina 37 crew consisted on Rod Dawson, Goodrick Hayden, Mike Rehe, Dan Morris and Brian Jenney.

“Since the Congressional Cup was the first match race of the 2014 season, it was a very important win for us to show everyone that US One was here to have another great year of sailing. I am very proud to be the second Virgin Islands’ name on the trophy after Peter Holmberg who won the event back in 2002,” says Canfield, who is the managing partner of the US One Sailing Team and, at age 25, the youngest skipper and one of only 10 sailors to earn both the Congressional Cup and Bermuda Gold Cup.

Two months later, Canfield served as tactician aboard the 2014 Etchells World Champion, Line Honors, in the New York Yacht Club-hosted one-design fleet-racing regatta in Newport, Rhode Island. He joined the all-star crew of owner Bill Hardesty, who had collected this title twice before, Marcus Eagan and Stephanie Roble to battle a 96-boat fleet in what has become one of the most competitive one design classes in the world.

“We trained hard leading up to the event and when it came time to perform we did. We kept all of our finishes below 20 or so and sailed a very consistent event not having to sail the last race of the regatta,” he explains.

In August, it was the leaderboard of the Chicago Match Cup that Canfield and his team of Rod Dawson, Mike Rehe and Hayden Goodrick topped, sailing to three wins in a best of five finals against his Congressional Cup rival, the UK’s Ian Williams, aboard Tom 28s.

“The Chicago Match Cup is one of my favorite events. After living in Chicago for several years, I have met many great people and sailors that are all supporters of US One. With a lot of pressure to defend this win, my team did an incredible job only having lost two races in the entire event,” says Canfield.

Less than a month later, Canfield and his Chicago Match Cup crew made history by championing the Dutch Match Cup, an inaugural event on the Alpari World Match Race tour, sailed in Lalystad, Holland. Once again he handed the UK’s Ian Williams a second place finish by besting the first to three finals with a 2-0 score.

“Never having sailed in the boats (Max Fun 25s) or in the venue, we were pleased to come away with the Cup title. This win kept us in the hunt to defend our WMRT World Championship,” he says.

Finally, in November, Canfield skippered the USVI’s J/24 entry at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico. The team, which included fellow Virgin Islands’ sailors Addison Caproni, Phillip Shannon, and Max Nickbarg, picked up a Gold Medal.

“It was a relatively easy transition into the J24 after all of us grew up together sailing the IC24 in the Virgin Islands,” says Canfield of his first Gold Medal at the Games.

Canfield credits Virgin Islands’ professional sailors Peter Holmberg, Anthony Kotoun and Ben Beer as well as his contemporaries, Cy Thompson and Thomas Barrows, for helping him to become the sailor and racer he is today. He also gives a strong nod to the St. Thomas Yacht Club for its active junior sailing program, as well as to the Virgin Islands natural attributes of perfect year-round sailing conditions, in his evolution into a globally recognized world-class sailor.

In 2015, Canfield will continue match racing in an effort to maintain his number one position. He will also join the ranks of other professional sailors in Melges 20s, J70s, and Etchells, as well as taking a turn towards two hulls.

“We just took delivery of a Marstrom 32, a 32-foot carbon fiber catamaran. It is a great platform to get into multihull sailing and a rapidly growing fleet around the world. We will be sailing the winter series in Miami. It is my goal to sail in an Americas Cup,” Canfield says.

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. In high school, Canfield along with Thompson and Barrows were the trio of 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, which takes place at the same time as the Bermuda Gold Cup. At age 16, he qualified for the U.S. Match Race Championship and that same year sailed the competitive Governor’s Cup in California. More recently, Canfield and his US One Team won the 2013 ISAF World Match Racing Tour Championship. He also starts 2015 as No. 1 in the Open Division of the ISAF Match Race Rankings, a ranking Canfield first achieved in August 2013.

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.

Report by Carol Bareuther.

Photo: (L to R) Max Nickbarg, Addison Caproni, Taylor Canfield, Phillip Shannon at 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games. Credit courtesy VISA.

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