The Rev Bob Shepton claimed the top prize at the YJA Apollo Yachtsman of the Year awards, while disabled teenager Natasha Lambert scooped Young Sailor of the Year and a special award was presented to Mike Golding

A retired youth leader and former church curate with a passion for sailing icy Arctic waters has been voted British yachtsman of the year by Britain’s top sailing journalists.

The Rev Bob Shepton, a former Royal Marine, later a parish curate and subsequently a full time youth leader in London’s East End, was awarded the Yachting Journalists’ Association (YJA) Apollo Yachtsman of the Year title at a ceremony in London yesterday.

Severely disabled teenager Natasha Lambert who has athertoid cerebral palsy, yet made a remarkable cross-Channel voyage alone last July, was named the YJA Apollo Young Sailor of the Year.

Both received their accolades at an awards luncheon held at Trinity House from Bob Fisher, chairman of the YJA which organises the awards.

Solo round the world sailor Mike Golding received a YJA special award from the Yachting Journalists’ Association, in recognition of his prowess in international yacht racing and his contribution to the sport.

Ben Jelf, a 13-year-old powerboat enthusiast, who has been exhibiting extraordinary skills in powered speed runs and became the youngest ever powerboat champion aged just 11 years old, also received a YJA Special Award.

Arctic adventurer

The Rev Bob Shepton, now living in Argyl, Scotland, completed the unique feat of sailing his 33ft sloop through hostile Arctic conditions of the North West Passage in both directions in successive years.

His latest voyage last July, when aged 78, west to east, was in particularly bleak conditions and was managed by only three boats this year. His was one of two by members of the Royal Cruising Club.

The adventure youth leader who was chaplain to two London schools, cruises extensively in the Arctic on his Westerly, Dodo’s Delight, and last year faced extremely harsh conditions with 30-40 per cent more ice, and strong head winds.

This led to no Spring at all in Alaska and rivers frozen later than at any time in 96 years. Yet, as well as completing the passage successively, he also found time to carry out underwater filming for a Scottish marine biology consultancy to analyse the Arctic seabed flora.

Rev Bob Shepton won the award in a close-run vote ahead of Jeanne Socrates a 70-year-old retired maths teacher from Ealing, West London.

Last July, Jeanne became the oldest woman to sail solo non-stop around the world, on her third attempt, while Mike Golding from Southampton, achieved completion last year of his sixth competitive circumnavigation.

Challenging Channel crossing

Natasha Lambert, the 16-year old YJA Apollo Young Sailor of the Year from Cowes, controls her specially adapted boat, the Mini Transat class yacht, Miss Isle Too, with a ‘sip and puff’ system designed by her father.

The crossing from Boulogne to Dover took four and a half hours and raised funds for various charities for sailing for disabled people. Through sailing she says she is able to take an active part in the community and achieve her dreams.

Natasha faced competition from Kieran Martin, the 18-year old windsurfer from Cheadle, who won the RS:X Boys ISAF Youth Worlds championship in Cyprus, last July and the RYA RS:X Boys Youth National championship, and Milo Gill Taylor, aged 13, from Ringwood, Hampshire. He won the 2013 GBR Optimist Trials, the 2013 UK Optimist Nationals and the 2013 Bermuda Optimist Gold Cup after becoming the youngest ever sailor to qualify for the Optimist Worlds team in 2011.

This year for the first time the awards are made with backing from business entrepreneur Nick Davis, who lives on Cowes. A keen sailor himself, Nick is anxious to recognise the nation’s top sailors and encourage aspiring and successful youngsters in the world of sailing through his marine interests and his company Apollo Boats, also based in Cowes.

Guests at the luncheon included former winners of the awards as well as marine and sailing personalities and Britain’s top yachting journalists.

All pictures credited to Barry Pickthall/PPL:

Rev. Bob Shepton, winner of the YJA Apollo Yachtsman of the Year, presented by Bob Fisher, Chaiman of the Yachting Journalists’ Association.

Natasha Lambert, the 16-year old cerebral palsy sufferer and cross-Channel sailor, winner of the YJA Apollo Young Sailor of the Year Award with her parents and Bob Fisher, Chairman of the Yachting Journalists’ Association (top right) and Nick Davis, Chief Executive of Apollo Boats, during the Awards luncheon.

Sailing adventurer Rev Bob Shepton with the famous trophy.

YJA Special Award winner Mike Golding with YJA Chairman Bob Fisher.

Special award winner Ben Jelf (13) with YJA Chairman Bob Fisher.