Rolex winners honored at San Francisco event

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With San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop, Brian Porter and Jody Starck formally accepted US Sailing’s 2013 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards Tuesday at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.

Porter, of Fontana, Wis., and Starck, of Amherst, N.Y., were joined at the bayfront clubhouse by family, friends, sailing dignitaries, fellow sailors and members of the press for a special luncheon program.

Emceed by Gary Jobson, the event included the awarding of specially engraved stainless-steel and platinum Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Masters.

Starck, 48, who also won the award in 1989 and 2004, said winning a third time was different, but “still a thrill.” She won the Lightning world championship as crew for her husband, David, (a 2013 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year short-listed nominee), and after that event she switched to helming. She skippered to victory at the Lightning Atlantic Coast championship and finished third at the Lightning North American championship.

“The question was asked of me, ‘What does the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year title mean this time?’ ” Starck said. “A lot of things came to mind, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. My daughter Jamie (age 6) suggested I tell everyone how much fun I have when I go sailing, and my other daughter, Sabrina (7), suggested I tell everyone how much I love sailing with my friends, which is true, but then I realized it’s pretty simple.

“Being here today proved to me that it’s still possible. It’s possible to have fun, do what I love and still do well at it. The most important part of that is it’s possible for everyone else to do the same thing; it doesn’t matter if you are a junior sailor heading out for your first race or a veteran who hasn’t been out in a long time. If you put your heart in it and put in the time and effort, it’s possible to achieve your goals.”

Porter, 55 and a first-time winner, said he was honored to join the 40 men and 33 women on the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards roster.

“One of the things that struck me when I was told I won this award was just how difficult it is to win,” he said. “Like sailing in any regatta, you need some luck, and I had my fair share of it last year.”

Porter won the Sperry Top-Sider Melges 24 world championship, scored an additional Melges 24 victory at Quantum Key West 2013 and finished third at both the Rolex Big Boat Series and the E Scow National Championship. He named many Midwestern sailors who shaped his life, including Olympic medalist Buddy Melges, who taught him how to set up his boat and “present it to Mother Nature.”

“Although we are all competitive and want to win, I think we would all agree that the journey is what’s most important,” Porter said. “The people we meet, the friends we make and the great sportsmanship are what it’s all about. I’ve been very fortunate to have been blessed with many great moments, and nothing has touched my heart more than the outpouring of support and good wishes from friends and competitors.”

The two sailors topped a short list of nine men and six women who were nominated by members of US Sailing and evaluated by a panel of sailing journalists.