2006 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year SMITH, from Marblehead, Massachusetts, was recognized for his victory at the Audi Etchells World Championship in Australia. RAILEY is becomes the youngest ever female winner of the award at 19, and is honoured for a string of victories in the Laser Radial over the year, highlighted by wins in Austria at the ISAF World Sailing Games and China at the Olympic Test Event. RAILEY adds the Yachtswoman of the Year Award to the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award she won in Helsinki, Finland last November.
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 achievement in the calendar year just concluded. The winners will be honoured and presented with specially engraved Rolex timepieces during a luncheon on 2 March 2007, at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.
© Ken Reid/Rolex
Nominated for the first time, 2006 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year SMITH was recognized for his victory at the Audi Etchells World Championship in Australia. The five-time North American Champion of the class had previously been a four-time runner up at the Worlds. Going into the final day of racing, SMITH once again held the all-too-familiar position of second overall - after having led the standings in the 69 boat fleet for the first six races of the series. Fulfilling his prediction that the regatta champion would be determined by whoever got the best start in the seventh and final race, SMITH powered across the starting line as the breeze climbed into the 20s and ultimately clinched his first World Championship as he led the fleet across the finish line.
'This award is a by-product of a year that came together well,' said SMITH. 'It's awesome. I'm astonished and surprised, absolutely excited. I always thought the only way I would win a Rolex was racing at an event. It never entered my mind that I would win one through this award.'
A month prior to the World Championship, SMITH had claimed his third consecutive Etchells North American Championship. On the final day of racing, SMITH posted finishes of 2,1 as rain, 20-25 knots of breeze with gusts to 35, and a 6 foot chop whipped up Buzzard's Bay in Massachusetts, causing 12 boats in the 46 strong fleet to experience equipment failures.
His domination of the Etchells class in 2006 also included victories at the Lands' End Annapolis NOOD Regatta, Florida State Championship and Acura Miami Race Week. At the helm of a Rhodes 19 he added to his resume wins of that class's National and East Coast Championships. He also crewed on the class winners at the Rolex Big Boat Series (Sydney 38 Copernicus), the Lands' End Chicago NOOD Regatta and the Verve Cup (both on the Farr 40 Inferno).
Born and raised in Marblehead, SMITH, who turns 50 on 22 January, learned to sail with his father, 1960 5.5 Metre Olympic gold medallist David SMITH (USA). Hood Sails was a mile from his childhood home, and from the time he was 12 years old, SMITH spent his free time there while attending local schools, eventually completing his senior project at the loft as well as building Interclub dinghy sails. He spent a year at Babson College before turning his attention to a full-time career as a sail maker. A member of Eastern Yacht Club and the Oriental Dinghy Club, SMITH and his wife Cindy are the parents of two teenage daughters, Darby and Lindsay, both of whom crewed for their father at the 2006 Acura Miami Race Week.
© Luther Carpenter
Since her first nomination in 2002, 2006 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year RAILEY has been short listed for this award five years in a row. This is a testament to not only the early rise to the top of the sport by this young sailor who will turn 20 years old in May but also her remarkable staying power over the subsequent years in the Laser Radial. (The Laser Radial will make its Olympic debut in 2008 as the chosen equipment for the Women's One Person Dinghy event.) She also rewrites the history books upon becoming the youngest woman ever to receive the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award - breaking the 12 year record held by Danielle BRENNAN (USA), who also was 19 when she received the award (in 1994).
RAILEY's most impressive performances in 2006 were victories on foreign waters, which also contributed to her being honoured last November as the 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year. That award recognized her sailing achievements between 1 September 2005 and 31 August 2006.
'This was a great year for me,' said RAILEY, 'And I'm extremely excited and happy to win this award. It is a huge honour to be chosen by the sailing community and to be included in such elite company.'
In April, at the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères, France, the battle for gold in the 80 boat fleet culminated in a final Medal Race showdown in which RAILEY was the ultimate victor over the defending champion - France's Sophie DE TURCKHEIM - who needed to beat RAILEY and put at least one competitor between them to retain her title.
Less than a month later, at the ISAF World Sailing Games in Neusiedl, Austria, RAILEY faced a repeat situation with the same competitor, who was again the defending champion. A match race for the title ensued as the final race began, with RAILEY holding a three point advantage. Although DE TURCKHEIM rounded the top mark 5 seconds ahead, RAILEY turned on the downwind speed that has made her the competitor to beat in the Laser Radial and eventually passed the French woman by the time they reached the gate. RAILEY crossed the finish line seventh in the 68 boat fleet to secure the championship win.
According to RAILEY, sub-par finishes in two major events led her to place more emphasis on her personal well being prior to the Qingdao International Regatta, the first test event in China at the venue of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition. She focused on going into the regatta relaxed, a strategy that paid off as she amassed a substantial lead that secured her the gold medal before the final race of the series - a victory that she feels was her most important of the year. Winning an Olympic gold medal for the USA in 2008 is RAILEY's ultimate goal, one that she appears to be well on her way to achieving.
Rounding out 2006, RAILEY triumphed at both the ISAF Grade C1 Laser Radial North American and ISAF Grade 1 Midwinters East Championships and placed second at two other hotly contested events - US SAILING's ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR and the US SAILING Pre-Trials.
A Florida native, RAILEY has a fraternal twin, Brooke, and an older brother, Zach RAILEY, who is also campaigning to represent the USA at the 2008 Olympic Games - sailing in the Finn class. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Clearwater High School in 2005 and attends the University of South Florida.
For additional information on the awards, including accomplishments of the nominees on the shortlist for 2006, please visit www.ussailing.org/awards/rolex.