Recognizing Excellence in U.S. Yachting

Published on February 28th, 2018

New York, NY (February 28, 2018) – The sport of sailing in the U.S. took center stage in New York today as the two most accomplished competitive American sailors of 2017 were celebrated as Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year.

Erika Reineke (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Peter Duncan (Rye, N.Y.) were joined by family and friends, crew and teammates, coaches and supporters, past winners, sailing dignitaries, and representatives from US Sailing and Rolex at the historic New York Yacht Club for an afternoon of reflection and storytelling.

In January, US Sailing and Rolex announced that Duncan, 58, and Reineke, 24, were selected for these prestigious awards, widely recognized in the U.S. as the sport’s ultimate recognition of an individual’s outstanding on-the-water achievements for the calendar year.

For the third consecutive year, a pair of first-time award winners were honored, and each were presented a specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master timepiece and a framed photo print of them from US Sailing.

The selection followed the announcement in December of the six men and eight women who were shortlisted for these awards and recognized as sailing’s top performers of the year by US Sailing.

A slate of nominees, determined by the membership of US Sailing, was presented to a panel of accomplished sailing media professionals, who together discussed the merits of each nominee and individually voted to determine the ultimate winners.


Reineke distinguished herself nationally and internationally while competing in both College Sailing and the Olympic Laser Radial class in 2017.

Her 2017 highlights include being honored as the 2017 Quantum Women’s College Sailor of the Year, winning A-Division at ICSA Women’s College Nationals, placing third in the A-Division at ICSA Coed College Nationals, winning silver at the Aarhus World Championship Test event in the Laser Radial, and winning gold at Enoshima Olympic Week 2017, the first major multi-class regatta held at the 2020 Olympic Games venue.

During her acceptance speech, Reineke showed gratitude to those who have impacted her young sailing career. She spoke of her early days at Boston College and the impressionable moments she had with her coach, Greg Wilkinson.

“He taught me how to take emotion out of the sport and instead think objectively,” explained Reineke. “This is one of the biggest lessons I have ever learned in my life. Looking back, every event I have succeeded in has been because of my ability to separate emotion from what my job is.

“Greg, thank you for making me see clearly when my vision was once blurred with pressure and outside influences. It has been one of the greatest gifts you have given me, and it has allowed me to become a better athlete and person.”

Reineke spoke fondly of her experiences with the US Sailing Team under the leadership of Malcolm Page, Chief of Olympic Sailing and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist.

“Graduating from Boston College in May of last year, I walked across the stage accepting my diploma with one thing in mind, Gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” said Reineke. “Coming from such a tight knit team at Boston College, I didn’t think that I would ever have anything like that again in my life. What you (Page) have done for our team is something I have always dreamed to be a part of. You have made us one and whenever I train or compete at an event now, I feel like I have something more to sail for.”

Two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and US Sailing Vice President, Cory Sertl, introduced Reineke at the awards ceremony by chronicling her maturation as an outstanding young sailor.

“My daughter, Katja, and Erika were just starting out together on Boston College’s Sailing Team several years ago,” said Sertl. “College sailing expanded Erika’s experience through top level coaching, sailing with a teammate, developing team racing skills, working with athletic trainers, and being part of a team.

“Erika continues to broaden her horizons and expand her skills to be a sailor with a complete skill set. I saw her competing at the New York Yacht Club Annual regatta in 2016 where she confided in me that it was her first time racing on a boat with a spinnaker. As sailors, we know how important it is to have a broad base of skills and experience to draw from to be successful.”

The year was also a time of transition for Reineke, who started her year focusing on intercollegiate competition for perennial contender Boston College. After graduation, she moved into training with the US Sailing Team in the Laser Radial full-time and continued chasing her Olympic dream.

“Erika’s current focus is on the Laser Radial, but she talks about the benefit of being part of the team,” said Sertl. “This was very evident during her career at Boston College. Erika emerged as a natural leader displaying a level of hard work, enthusiasm and focus that served as examples for all her teammates to strive for excellence.

“I’ve been a fan of Erika’s since first watching her shine during her college sailing career. She is determined, a hard worker with a smile nearly always on her face. What I really admire in Erika is that she embraces this attitude and she enjoys the journey of striving for excellence and realizes how fortunate she is each and every day she gets to go sailing.”

Sertl also offered a moment to reflect on the state of women’s sailing in the United States. “2018 marks 30 years of women in Olympic Sailing. In 1988, Lynne Jewell and Allison Jolly, who are both winners of this award, won the first gold medal in the 470 at the inaugural Women’s Olympic event. This was a time of dominance for American women in sailing who competed fiercely against each other, but also worked together as a team to push each other.

“Fast forward 30 years, we now have five different Olympic events that women may enter in 2020. The future is exciting and full of opportunities for our young sailors. This is an exciting year to have so many talented sailors nominated for the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. I am really excited to see the future of women in sailing reflected in the nominations for this award.”

Bruce Burton, President of US Sailing, congratulated and admired both award-winning sailors at the start of the ceremony. He had this to say to Erika for her remarkable 2017: “Erika, you have arrived. We watched for years as you competed and won on the youth sailing circuit. And then we watched you excel in the college ranks at Boston College over an impressive four-year span.

“2017 was a time of transition as you began training full-time with the US Sailing Team in the Laser Radial, and continued your pursuit of the Olympic dream. The future is bright for you. We will be enthusiastically watching you closely!”


Duncan, a life-long one-design sailor, was once again at the top of his game in 2017 at the highest levels of international competition and in a variety of sailboat classes. His year was highlighted with a win at the highly-competitive Audi J/70 World Championship in September off the waters of Porto Cervo in Sardinia, Italy.

Duncan and his talented crew, including Jud Smith, Victor Diaz de Leon and Willem van Waay, won the 161-boat World Championship by a 15-point margin over contender Brian Keene. Duncan’s Relative Obscurity was dominant through six races. They placed in the top three in each race, including three wins.

He won four other J/70 regattas in 2017, including the Italian National Championships (Alcatel Cup), New England Championships, Bacardi Cup and Sail Newport Regatta. His team placed second out of 58 at the J/70 North American Championship in Rye, NY and third at the European J/70 Championship.

Duncan participated in multiple classes throughout 2017, including the Etchells, Melges 20 and Melges 24. His Etchells team took home first place honors at the Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta featuring 45 competing boats last January in Coconut Grove, FL.

Duncan reflected on his early days on the water and how important sailing was to his family growing up. “I am the youngest of five (also known as a pleasant surprise) and grew up in the junior sailing program at American Yacht Club in Rye, New York,” said Duncan. “My parents took to sailing later in life, but did so with an incredible passion that they conveyed to all of their children.”

He also reflected on the balance in his life between family, career and sailing. “Like a lot of folks, career and family took much of my time, but we continued throughout to campaign boats and race in as many high-level events against the best we could. This is really what stokes the fire.

“Due to in part becoming an empty nester, the last few years we have pushed very hard and, in fact, from Thanksgiving of 2016 through mid-October of 2017, we were on the water close to 110 days, between events and practicing.”

Duncan acknowledged his outstanding crew and was quick to point out that you are only as good as the teammates you have. “I have been very lucky over the years, but last year was absolutely off the charts, having the likes of Thomas Allin, Patrick Wilson, Jeremy Wilmot, Moose McClintock, Tommy Blackwell and Andrew Palfrey sailing with me in a number of events.

“Then of course, there was the team for multiple events in preparation for and the J/70 Worlds, which was absolutely exceptional. Jud Smith, with whom I have had the pleasure of sailing for a number of years, was our bowman/strategist. Don’t let that white hair fool you; he has cat-like reflexes and insight second to none. Willem Van Waay is the best trimmer I have ever seen whose energy and enthusiasm is contagious and efforts on and off the water were Herculean. Victor Diaz de Leon was our tactician, who got us off of many difficult starting lines to places we wanted to be and whose focus on speed was critical to our success.”

Master of Ceremonies, Gary Jobson, introduced Duncan and commented on his tremendous career and 2017 season. “As a life-long amateur sailor, it is a wonder he has had any time to spend racing,” said Jobson. “But in 2017 he and his crews spent countless hours on the water. He has been improving his skills for many years.”

Burton had this to say about Duncan’s accomplishments: “Peter, you and your team experienced a banner 2017 sailing season. Your meticulous preparation, the many hours on the water, and extensive international travel truly paid off. You are a life-long sailor who has been competing around the globe for quite some time. Now, you are a World Champion and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year.”


Burton highlighted the common values between Rolex Watch U.S.A. and US Sailing, “We share a vision for the sport that encompasses the pursuit of excellence and the importance of quality and precision. We thank our partners at Rolex for their generous support and unwavering commitment to US Sailing, this prestigious award, and the sport of sailing in the United States.”

Male Finalist Nominees:
• Steve Benjamin (Coconut Grove, Florida.): The 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year claimed the Etchells World Championship and National Championship, while winning several TP52 events.
• Peter Duncan (Rye, New York): Duncan won the 161-boat J/70 World Championship and placed second at the J/70 North American Championship.
• Marcus Eagan (Mandeville, Louisiana): Eagan captured the Viper 640 North American Championship and also won the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup in the Swan 42.
• Drew Freides (Pacific Palisades, California): Freides won both the Melges 20 World Championship and National Championship.
• Dave Hughes (Miami, Florida): Hughes’s active year featured success in both Olympic and professional sailing disciplines. Hughes earned wins as crew at World Cup Series Miami in the 470 and as part of the winning Etchells World Championship team..
• Stu McNay (Providence, Rhode Island): McNay won the World Cup Series Miami 470 event as helm with Dave Hughes. He was also tactician for the J/70 World Championship runner-up.

Female Finalist Nominees:
• Carmen Cowles and Emma Cowles (Larchmont, New York): The sister tandem took home the Gold Medal from the Youth World Championships in the International 420 event. They were also the top women’s team at the U.S. Youth Sailing Championships in the International 420.
• Libby McKee (Kirkland, Washington): McKee won the Taser World Championship again as crew with Jonathan McKee.
• Daniela Moroz (Lafayette, California): Last year’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year won the IKA Formula Kite World Championship again and was dominant on the Hydrofoil Pro Tour.
• Erika Reineke (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): The ICSA Women’s National Champion and Quantum Women’s College Sailor of the Year also placed third at the ICSA College Co-Ed Nationals and won the Enoshima Olympic Sailing Week event in the Laser Radial.
• Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wisconsin): Roble helmed a 49erFX with Maggie Shea to a bronze medal at the Aarhus World Championships Test Event. She also served as bow and strategist for a contending team at the Melges 20 World Championship and National Championship.
• Charlotte Rose (Houston, Texas): Rose finished the year on top with a win at the Youth World Championships in the Laser Radial event. She also placed third at the 106-boat Laser Radial Youth World Championships.
• Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Illinois): Shea crewed with Stephanie Roble in the 49erFX and earned the bronze medal at the Aarhus World Championships Test Event. She also crewed for the third place team at the M32 North American Championship.

Top Row (L to R): Steve Benjamin; Charlotte Rose; Drew Freides; Dave Hughes; Carmen and Emma Cowles… Second Row: Peter Duncan; Erika Reineke; Maggie Shea; Libby McKee… Third Row: Daniela Moroz; Stephanie Roble; Stu McNay; Marcus Eagan

Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex Watch, U.S.A. since 1980, the annual presentation of 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.

Over its history the coveted award has been presented to 44 men and 35 women, including these distinguished sailors who have claimed the honor multiple times: Ed Adams, Betsy Alison, Sally Barkow, Dave Curtis, Dennis Conner, JJ Fetter, Terry Hutchinson, Allison Jolly, John Kostecki, Buddy Melges, Lowell North, Jan O’Malley, Jane Pegel, Ken Read, Cory Sertl, Lynne Shore, Jody Starck, Anna Tunnicliffe and Ted Turner.

The partnership between Rolex and US Sailing is natural considering the Swiss watchmaker’s more than 60-year commitment to fostering yachting excellence worldwide. Rolex is the committed partner of the most prestigious yacht clubs, including the New York Yacht Club as its first alliance in the late 1950s, as well as the sport’s leading institutions and events. In doing so, it shares the highest standards of excellence and superior performance with US Sailing, acting together as joint custodians of yachting’s finest spirit.

For more information about these awards:

Source: US Sailing

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