Top U.S. sailors honored with Rolex awards

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After three years on the West Coast, the annual US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman & Yachtswoman of the Year Awards ceremony returned to the iconic Model Room at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan. Held annually since 1961, this year’s event honored the accomplishments of two sailing tacticians: Terry Hutchinson, of Annapolis, Maryland, and Stephanie Roble, of East Troy, Wisconsin.

The Feb. 26 ceremony saw both winners choke up with emotion, as did the colleagues who introduced the honorees — 1999 winner Dawn Riley and 2013 winner Brian Porter — in a packed house of family, friends, crewmates and the press. Roble, 25 and a first-time winner, stressed how important collaboration has been in getting to this point in her life and particularly this past year, when she was a member of the 2014 Etchells World Championship-winning team and won the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship (as skipper) while working her way to the top of the U.S. match-racing rankings. She is third in the world. “I feel so lucky to be a part of a lot of teams; teamwork is what I’m in love with right now,” said Roble, whose goal is to win the Women’s Match Racing World Championship in July with crewmembers Janel Zarkowsky and Maggie Shea. “You need your team to be successful; this award is for all of them.”

Stephanie Robie

Roble shared a funny family story about her first connection to sailing, dating from when she was born. “When my parents first brought me home from the hospital, my dad sailed his MC Scow on our tiny home lake in Lake Beulah with ‘It’s a Girl!’ written on the sail,” she said. “Little did he know this gesture was indicative of what was to come.”

Hutchinson, who is 46 and also won the Rolex award in 2008, flew straight from the finish line at the Caribbean 600, where his boat, Bella Mente, took overall and class victories. He pointed out several sailing mentors in the audience — among them his father and fellow tactician Gary Jobson — who helped him develop the instinct for doing the right thing at the right time.

Terry Hutchinson

As the current Rolex Farr 40 and TP52 world champion, Hutchinson said winning the Rolex award a second time is “different because of how it all happened.” He served as tactician for several America’s Cup syndicates but was replaced as tactician for Artemis Racing Team for the 2013 Cup. “It was a very hard decision on a personal level,” team CEO Paul Cayard explained. “We had to do what is best for the team, and we felt this was the best choice.”

The team did not advance to the finals, held in September 2013 on San Francisco Bay. “It was quite a hard thing emotionally not going all the way through with the last America’s Cup,” Hutchinson said at the ceremony, noting that he “bounced back” to have an exceptional 2014 racing season. 

“In some ways, it’s not how you get knocked down but how you get back up that’s going to be the measure,” he said. “It’s a testament to the owners and their faith and trust in the process that we apply to win races. What they have placed in my hands and what they have provided me as an opportunity to do on their behalf is not taken lightly.”

Roble and Hutchinson topped a short list of 10 men and seven women who were nominated by members of US Sailing and evaluated by a panel of sailing journalists. Jobson, who has emceed the luncheon for 15 years, noted that the list of nominees grows in stature every year, reinforcing how well American sailors are doing nationally and internationally.

May 2015 issue