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Worthy recipients for recognition

Published on December 5th, 2021

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
It is ironic how notable Rolex awards for sailing achievement are being minimized by their commercialism. To heighten awareness, the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award utilizes fan voting for selection, turning the achievement award into a popularity contest. This trend will soon make the award well known for its irrelevance. Nice job, Rolex!

However, with that unabashedly said, the fans did get it right.

For full disclosure, the fan voting was combined with a 9 person expert panel of which I was a member. But as I was going over the fine details of each candidate, campaigning was underway by countries and class organizations to promote their nominee, not for their accomplishments but for their affiliation.

But somehow, the cream rose to the top regardless, and I am happy to have been wrong. Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) were golden at the 2020 Olympics, massively winning the only event that matters to earn the women’s award while Tom Slingsby (AUS) won everything he sailed, showing exceptional versatility to earn the men’s award.

The presentation for the awards occurred in a virtual ceremony streamed live online in which the winner of the World Sailing 11th Hour Racing Sustainability Award was also revealed. With its intent to celebrate projects that can deliver high impact and replicable sustainability within the maritime industry, I find myself struggling for excitement (to watch, click here).

This feeling of guilt is partly born from the shade thrown by our great athletes, but also for the need to motivate people to do the right thing. Don’t get me wrong, the four projects shortlisted had worthy merit, but it is a sign of the times that being good citizens of the planet does not come naturally. We must be awarded for it.

If I had been given a vote, I would have selected the 2021 winners Sail Africa Youth Development Foundation for their righteous impact, though I also loved the international Optimist Dinghy Association’s program called ROPE – Recycled Optimist Parts and Equipment.

ROPE is the epitome of good citizenship in which sailors bring extra equipment to Optimist Championships for it to be distributed to local sailing schools well as to clubs and countries that are in dire need of this gear, giving it a second life and good use.

Perhaps by having a stage for these projects, it will spark other ideas. That’s a good thing since to sail in a different direction, you must turn one degree at a time. You got to keep at it, and I will try to get more excited about what should come naturally.

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