2015 US Sailing’s Yachtsman/woman Of The Year

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Annie Haeger is seen here as she accepts her ROLEX watch from US Sailing President Bruce J. Burton.
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Park Benjamin, Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound (YRALIS), celebrates his brother’s win.
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Past Recipients, from left: JJ Fetter, Susan Dierdoff Taylor, Dawn Riley (Oakcliff Sailing Center), Steve Benjamin, Annie Haeger, Terry Hutchinson, Hannah Swett and Cory Sertl.

Sailors all over the world describe the world of sailing as a sport for all ages. This year, the 2015 US Sailing’s Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards are the perfect example of just how true this is. Annie Haeger, East Troy, WI, who was named Yachtswoman of the Year in recognition of her impressive list of top results in the 470 Class competition throughout 2015, is in her mid-20s. The Yachtsman of the Year, Steve Benjamin, Norwalk, CT, a veteran sailor, has spent most of his life competing and winning in various sized boats, from IC dinghies to his Carkeek 40, Spookie. These two are proof positive that sailing is, indeed, a sport for the young and the young at heart.

For their efforts during the 2015 calendar year, Annie and Steve were presented a Rolex watch, which has come to represent the epitome in sailing trophies.

Haeger and crew Briana Provancha, San Diego, CA, made their mark on the international stage by winning gold at the Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They won the event by seven points through 10 races in a highly competitive fleet featuring the gold and silver medal-winning boats from the London 2012 Games. “In winning this award, I’m not representing myself, but Team Heager/Provancha as a whole. I am very blessed to have Briana in the front of my boat. I think she is the best crew in the U.S.”

To emphasize the “team” in Team Haeger/Provancha, Heager beckoned Briana to the stage, and with the Rolex Award right next to them, the two embraced in a big hug, confirming that not only are they one great team, but cherished friends. The emotional moment was not lost on the audience. It was a touching moment and, reminded everyone, yet again, of the magic surrounding our sport. How lucky we are to have these amazing ambassadors representing the U.S. in Rio.

There’s got to be something in the waters of Lake Beulah, WI. Haeger started sailing at the age of eight on the lake and participated in the Learn to Sail junior sailing program and ended up the 2015 Yachtswoman of the Year. Well, last year, the winner of this prestigious award was Stephanie Roble, who, you guessed it, also was in the same program.

Steve Benjamin is known on both sides of Long Island Sound, nationally and internationally. He grew up sailing out of Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in Oyster Bay. After earning College Sailor of the Year honors in 1978 as a member of the Yale University sailing team, Benjamin, known locally as Benj, went on to dominate the Etchells, placing 2nd out of 43 boats at the World Championship in Hong Kong. His teams won at the Piana Cup. Long Island Sound Championship and Coral Reef Cup, among others. In addition, Steve and his wife, Heidi, had a clean sweep of overall wins in every offshore race they entered in 2015 on their Carkeek 40, Spookie, including Fort Lauderdale to Key West, Marblehead to Halifax, Ida Lewis Distance Race and the Vineyard Race.

“This award goes to all the great sailors and crew I’ve had the opportunity to race with this year,” said Benjamin. “I had some incredible team members to help me every step of the way, and perhaps the biggest supporter of them all is my wife, Heidi.” He ended his remarks with, “I’ve been at this a long time, so this is truly an astonishing honor.”

Steward Wicht, Rolex president and CEO, said in a letter, “Rolex is proud to sponsor these prestigious awards that allow us to recognize the successes of the nation’s best sailing competitors for 2015. The impressive list of finalists for the 2015 awards achieved outstanding results, and we at Rolex congratulate all of these sailors for a tremendous year. We take great pleasure in congratulating Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Steve Benjamin and Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Annie Haeger for their championship performances on the worldwide stage of competitive sailing. Their intense focus on setting high standards for success are values that Rolex acknowledges and commends. Thank you for setting such an amazing example for all competitive sailors to follow.”

And in a letter from Bruce J. Burton, president of US Sailing: “It is an honor for US Sailing to present its 2015 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards to Steve Benjamin and Annie Haeger for their remarkable performances over the past year. Since 1961, US Sailing has annually presented the Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards to recognize these American sailor’s for their outstanding on-the-water achievements. The awards have become an important part of sailing history in the U.S. Congratulation to Steve and Annie.”

About the Rolex Award: Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex Watch U.S.A. since 1980, the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards recognize outstanding on-the-water achievements in the calendar year just concluded. These prestigious awards are treasured by the sailing community as the nation’s top sailing distinctions.

A slate of finalists nominated by the membership of US Sailing is presented to a panel of recognized sailing journalists, who discuss the merits of each nominee and vote by secret ballot to determine the ultimate winners.

 

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Andrea Watson is a Port Washington-based maritime photographer and journalist. She writes Port Washington News' column On The Bay and is currently the Executive Secretary of the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound (YRALIS).

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