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Linton, Barkow named top U.S. sailors

One's a savvy veteran Lightning sailor, the other rules the Yngling class - both are winners

One’s a savvy veteran Lightning sailor, the other rules the Yngling class – both are winners

Lightning World Champion Jeff Linton (Tampa, Fla.) and Princess Sofia Trophy Yngling Champion Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.) on Jan. 16 were named, respectively, US Sailing’s 2007 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year.

A shortlist of 10 male and nine female sailors — determined from nominations by the membership of US Sailing — were evaluated by a panel of sailing journalists who selected these two sailors for the noteworthy distinction.

Established in 1961, the awards recognize the outstanding on-the-water competitive achievement of an individual man and woman in the calendar year just concluded. The winners will be honored and presented with engraved Rolex timepieces during a luncheon on Feb. 29 at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.

“This was a remarkable year,” said Linton, who dominated the Lightning class. “Everything fell into place. You get a few wins, and you think ‘maybe I could get my name on that [trophy].’ It’s the pinnacle, and after 38 years of sailing, I’ve finally done it.”

Linton won the 2007 Lightning World Championship in Athens, Greece, in a fleet of 48 with 11 nations represented, but he noted that the hardest event to win in 2007 was the Lightning Winter Championship, which has no restrictions on the number of entries. At that 71-boat event, held in St. Petersburg, Fla., he edged out numerous notable sailors to win by just one point. His success in the class also included: the South American Championship held in Bogota, Columbia, where first-place finishes in three races ultimately gave him a 14-point win over the 20-boat field; the title win at the Florida District Championship; a second-place finish at the Lightning Deep South Regatta in Savannah, Ga.; and second overall in the Lightning Southern Circuit out of 42 boats.

Linton also earned additional praise from the selection committee for performance in two other competitive one-design classes: he won the Flying Scot North American Championship and the Classic Moth National Championship.

Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Sally Barkow has reclaimed her position as the top woman racer in the U.S. just two years after she won the same prize in 2005. Barkow was nominated to the shortlist for the sixth consecutive year and now joins a select group of women who have received the accolade more than once.

“This is exciting and unexpected. I was shocked when I got the call,” said Barkow, who is training in Florida until the end of February with her Yngling teammates Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.) and Carrie Howe (Grosse Pointe, Mich.).

Barkow acknowledged she would not be receiving this award for the second time without the support of the talented team on which she relies. “I have not sailed a single-handed boat since 2002 and I believe that teamwork is our biggest asset on the water. Debbie has sailed with me in every event this past year, not to mention the preceding five years. Carrie has also been racing with me for the past five years, only missing a few events this year, and Annie Lush (GBR) has raced every match race event and all three of our successful Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championships. Beyond these three, there have been numerous fantastic crew who all deserve a piece of this award.”

Although Barkow’s primary focus has been helming her Yngling with a goal of representing the U.S. at the 2008 Olympic Games in China, her performance in other classes, whether fleet or match racing, were what set her apart in 2007. Barkow started the year with her third consecutive win of the Rolex Miami OCR in the Yngling class. On task in the Yngling, she finished second at the North American Championship in Miami, won the Princess Sofia Trophy in Spain and collected silver at both Semaine Olympique Française in France and the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Portugal.

Barkow’s turn on the match racing circuit was highlighted by wins at the Boat U.S. Santa Maria Cup in Annapolis, Md., and the Vitória Brasil Women’s Cup in Brazil. Flying straight from Brazil to Houston, Texas, Barkow took the helm of a J/22 to close the year as she had started it — collecting another championship title for the third consecutive time.