Amateur sailor Gavin Reid, who was born profoundly deaf, has beaten “his heroes” to be honoured as the 2016 YJA Yachtsman of the Year.

He was awarded the accolade today ahead of fellow nominees Giles Scott, the Rio 2016 gold medallist, and Brian Thompson, Round the Island Race record holder.

The award recognises 28-year-old Gavin’s heroic act of seamanship whilst competing as a crew member in the Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race, when he came to the mid-ocean rescue of a sailor found trapped at the top of the mast on another yacht, which was not competing in the Clipper Race.

Gavin was presented with the award at Trinity House by last year’s winner, Ian Walker MBE.

YJA Yachtsman of the Year award finalists

YJA Yachtsman of the Year award finalists. Photo credits from top left, clockwise: onEdition; Sailing Energy/World Sailing; Paul Wyeth

Gavin has four caps for the Scottish Deaf Rugby team and has always enjoyed challenges. Like 40 per cent of Clipper Race crew, he had no previous sailing experience before embarking on his training for the 40,000 nautical mile marathon.

Gavin said: ‘To be named 2016 YJA Yachtsman of The Year over some of my absolute heroes of the sport, feels like an incredible honour.
‘If someone had told me 18 months ago when I was starting my training for the Clipper Race that I would be here today collecting this award, I couldn’t have believed it. I have learned and experienced a huge amount and hope I can inspire others to take up the challenge of ocean racing. It’s been a fantastic adventure.’

The award was made following a close vote taken by members of the Yachting Journalists’ Association, and places Gavin Reid in the same category as giants of the sport, Ian Walker – Volvo Ocean Race Winner, Sir Ben Ainslie – America’s Cup Winner, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston – the legendary solo sailor and Clipper Race founder, who have all won the YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award in the past four years.

On January 5, 2016, Gavin was racing from Sydney to the Whitsundays with his team aboard the yacht Mission Performance in Race 6 of the 14-stage, eleven month long Clipper Race series, when an SOS was picked up off the New South Wales coast of Australia from a non-Clipper Race yacht, returning from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which had a crewman stuck at the top of the mast.

Gavin pictured in the yellow drysuit climbing the mast to rescue the crew member at the top of the mast

Gavin pictured in the yellow drysuit climbing the mast to rescue the crew member at the top of the mast

The Mission Performance yacht was nearest to the stricken vessel and Gavin, who uses hearing aids in both ears, volunteered to swim between the two yachts, as conditions prevented transferring alongside, where he found four other crew onboard, all incapacitated and unable to help their crewmate who had been tangled in halyards at the top of the mast for several hours.

Gavin had become experienced in mast work during the Clipper Race and used the one remaining staysail halyard to hoist himself two thirds of the way up the swinging mast, then climbed the rest of the way hand-over-hand to reach the crewman, untangle the lines, and help to lower him down safely.

Gavin’s bravery has already been recognised by the Henri Lloyd Seamanship award at the Clipper Race Finish in London last summer, the RORC (Royal Ocean Racing Club) Outstanding Seamanship Award, and he was also recognised at the 2016 Australian Sailing Awards.

Mission Performance Clipper Race yacht

Mission Performance Clipper Race yacht

Clipper Race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: ‘Gavin impressed tremendously during his time on the Clipper Race. For a young man who had never sailed before he started our training, Gavin showed great commitment and never let his inexperience hold him back. He quickly developed excellent sailing skills under the guidance of his Skipper, and early on was selected to be a Watch Leader.

‘The Clipper Race is highly competitive but faced with any situation where a fellow sailor on another boat was in serious trouble the crew of Mission Performance, who are fully trained with a safety first mentality, upheld the tradition of the sea that you do not hesitate to go to the assistance of another sailor in distress, setting an excellent example of seamanship which is a crucial attribute for all good ocean racing sailors.

‘This is the pinnacle of British sailing awards and amongst the most prestigious accolades in the sailing world. I’m very proud of Gavin and the entire crew.’

Gavin, who quit his job as a supply chain co-ordinator, to take part in the almost year-long Clipper Race now wants to pursue a career in sailing.