Golden Globe Race history maker Kirsten Neuschäfer has been named Cruising Club of America (CCA) 2023 Blue Water Medal winner, joining the ranks of past medallists Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Sir Francis Chichester and Bernard Moitessier. 

The prestigious Cruising Club of America (CCA) annual awards for adventurous sailing feats date back to 1923. 

Kirsten Neuschäfer, of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, was recognised for the tremendous effort, determination, and skill she exhibited during her 235-day solo circumnavigation in Minnehaha, her Cape George 36.

Out of 17 starters, she was first among only five finishers of the Golden Globe Race, which is a singlehanded race around the world that limits competitors to using sailboats and technology available when the first race was held, in 1968. As one example of her determination, while crossing the Southern Ocean, Neuschäfer spent several hours in the water below her boat, scraping sharp, speed-robbing barnacles off the bottom. 

The Blue Water Medal was originated by the founding members of the CCA and first awarded to Alain J. Gerbault 100 years ago. It has been given almost every year since to “reward examples of meritorious seamanship and adventure upon the sea, displayed by amateur sailors of all nationalities…”

She joins the distinguished list of past medalists including Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Sir Francis Chichester and Bernard Moitessier. 

CCA Young Voyager Award 2023

The Young Voyager Award went to Max Campbell, of Falmouth, UK, in recognition of his ‘spirit of adventure and seamanship.’

Sailor Max Campbell

Tenacious voyager: Max Campbell. Photo credit: Max Campbell

Campbell set sail eight years ago, aged 20, on a 22ft wooden sailboat. His early adventuring took him across the Atlantic twice, singlehanded, and on the first trip he had a galley fire, which he barely survived.

When asked recently about overcoming adversity, he said, “Recovering from that fire was by far the biggest adversity I’ve ever overcome. It was also the biggest lesson I’ve ever had, and it ultimately changed my outlook on life.

“Afterwards, the challenges kept coming; however, after overcoming such a huge situation, I felt equipped to deal with them. We were blown 200 miles off course by a gale in the Canary Islands. Elixir was boarded by four armed men off the coast of Venezuela. We passed through the center of a tropical storm near the coast of Central America. I was arrested for no obvious reason and thrown in jail in Mexico.

“Each one of these experiences was extremely difficult in the moment; however, overcoming the fire taught me the strength that comes with overcoming adversity. I can’t think of an experience I’ve had, more formative than spending a night in an overcrowded Mexican jail cell.”

These days Campbell, who is an accomplished sailor, writer, and social media star, has upsized to a 37ft Swan Elixir to enable friends – mainly those who helped him with the refit – to join him. 

He added: “Even on a 22ft boat, without standing headroom or a toilet, I loved everything about the cruising lifestyle. The feeling of connectedness with the ocean, endless list of exciting destinations, the highs and lows of passage making and the characters that come along the way. It was clear from the start that the cruising life was for me.”

CCA Commodore Chris Otorowski said: “Max’s achievements are a perfect example of the spirit within the CCA where we find fulfillment in ‘exploring’ the oceans and our own inner-limits aboard small boats at sea.”

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CCA Diana Russell Award 2023

Meanwhile yacht designer and boatbuilder Paul Bieker of Anacortes, Washington, was chosen for the Diana Russell Award in recognition of his ‘leading edge’ foil designs and developments.

Yacht designer Paul Bieker

Design leader: Paul Bieker. Photo credit: Stephen Matera

He has 30 boat designs to his credit starting with a series of immediately successful International 14 skiffs. His development of small hydrofoils for the 14s led to being recruited to work on foil design and structures in several America’s Cup campaigns.

Recognised as one of the world’s foremost foiling-boat designers, Paul has developed everything from surfboard foils to Sail GP’s 50-foot foiling cats, foiling powerboat and foiling ferryboat projects.

CCA Awards Chairman Steve James, said: “The CCA is proud to recognize our member, Paul Bieker. Paul’s foil designs and developments are the leading edge of our sport. With them he continues to advance sailing and the adventurous use of the sea in remarkable ways.”

Find the full list of 2023 recipients at