When Jeff LINTON (Tampa, Florida) received his first nomination for the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award in 2005, it was the result of crewing aboard winning boats at the Etchells World Championship and the J/24 Midwinters, combined with a string of four top-five finishes in the Lightning class. Fast forward two years to find the 45-year-old LINTON now semi-retired, having sold his partnership interest in Masthead Enterprises, and in the helmsman's position, dominating the Lightning class, for which he has been crowned the 2007 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year.
"This was a remarkable year," said LINTON. "Everything fell into place. We've become more consistent as a team, and because work was secondary there was more time to fix the boat and more time to practice. Winning the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award is one of those things you dream about. You get a few wins, and you think 'maybe I could get my name on that [trophy].' It's the pinnacle, and after 38 years of sailing, I've finally done it."
LINTON won the 2007 Lightning World Championship in Athens, Greece, in a fleet of 48 with 11 nations represented, but he noted that the hardest event to win in 2007 was the Lightning Winter Championship, which has no restrictions on the number of entries. At that 71-boat event, contested in St. Petersburg, Fla., he edged out numerous notable sailors to win by just one point. His success in the class also included: the South American Championship held in Bogota, Columbia, where first-place finishes in three races ultimately gave him a 14-point win over the 20-boat field; the title win at the Florida District Championship; a second-place finish at the Lightning Deep South Regatta in Savannah, Ga.; and second overall in the Lightning Southern Circuit out of 42 boats.
LINTON also earned additional praise from the selection committee for performance in two other competitive one-design classes: he won the Flying Scot North American Championship and the Classic Moth National Championship.
"The Flying Scot class is similar in many respects to the Lightning," LINTON explained. "Both have a large membership base in the USA and professional sailors are active in both classes. The Moth, which was well-known in the 1930s and 1940s and built in basements, is still a build-your-own boat. My current boat is four years old and undefeated. If someone beats her, I'll have to build a new one."
LINTON moved to Florida as an infant and grew up sailing with his father, a marine biologist, and his brother, John, on the family's Morgan 24. He first tasted success in one-design racing as a teenager on a windsurfer; and while he went to Eckerd College on a soccer scholarship, he ultimately ended up in the collegiate sailing program. His wife, Amy Smith LINTON, is his regular crew in the Lightning and Flying Scot, making her a world champion as well. "A lot of time spouses don't work together [in the boat]. I don't know the secret; we just try to have fun."
Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year
Sally BARKOW (Nashotah, Wisconsin) has reclaimed her position as the top woman racer in the USA upon being named the 2007 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. First recognized with the honour in 2005, BARKOW was nominated to the shortlist for the sixth consecutive year and now joins a select group of women who have received the accolade more than once.
"This is exciting and unexpected! I was shocked when I got the call," said BARKOW, who is training in Florida until the end of February with her Yngling team mates Debbie CAPOZZI (Bayport, N.Y.) and Carrie HOWE (Grosse Pointe, Mich.). "The other nominated sailors are extremely distinguished and accomplished, all very deserving of this great honour."
Like the football star who cannot win the Heisman Trophy without his team, BARKOW acknowledged she would not be receiving this award for the second time without the support of the talented team on which she relies. "I have not sailed a single-handed boat since 2002 and I believe that teamwork is our biggest asset on the water. Debbie has sailed with me in every event this past year, not to mention the preceding five years. Carrie has also been racing with me for the past five years, only missing a few events this year, and Annie LUSH [GBR] has raced every match race event and all three of our successful Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championships. Beyond these three, there have been numerous fantastic crew who all deserve a piece of this award. Our sport involves a great deal of teamwork, and it is the entire team that makes success happen. This award is for my entire team!"
Although BARKOW's primary focus has been helming her Yngling with a goal of representing the USA at the 2008 Olympic Games in China, her performance in other classes, whether fleet or match racing, were what set her apart in 2007. BARKOW started the year with her third consecutive win of the Rolex Miami OCR in the Yngling class. On task in the Yngling, she finished second at the North American Championship in Miami, won the Princess Sofia Trophy in Spain and collected silver at both Semaine Olympique Française in France and the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Portugal.
BARKOW's turn on the match racing circuit was highlighted by wins at the Boat U.S. Santa Maria Cup in Annapolis, Md., and the Vitória Brasil Women's Cup in Brazil. Flying straight from Brazil to Houston, Texas, BARKOW took the helm of a J/22 to close the year as she had started it - collecting another championship title for the third consecutive time. She won US SAILING's Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship (IWKC) without having to sail the final race of the series after topping a field that included past winner and fellow Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year (1995, 2001) Cory SERTL (Rochester, N.Y.), as well as Anna TUNNICLIFFE (Plantation, Fla.), who will represent the USA at the 2008 Olympic Games in the Laser Radial event. Only one other woman has won the Rolex IWKC multiple times: Betsy ALISON (Newport, R.I.) has won not only the regatta but also the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award a record-setting five times.
The 27-year-old BARKOW grew up in a sailing family and started receiving national recognition as two-time ICSA (Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association) All-American (2001 and 2002) while studying Psychology at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Va.). Since graduating from ODU, her single-minded focus has been her goal of competing at the Olympics in the Yngling class. The linchpin to that quest will be the Yngling World Championship in February which will be the final event in a series that will determine if Barkow's team represents the USA at the 2008 Olympic Games in China.
Nominees for US SAILING's 2007 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award:
Ed BAIRD (St. Petersburg, Fla.) - America's Cup Champion, ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year
Clay BISCHOFF (Coral Gables, Fla./New York, N.Y.) - ISAF Team Racing World Champion
Andrew CAMPBELL (San Diego, Calif.) - Pan Am Games Laser gold medallist
Rick DOERR (Clifton, N.J.) - IFDS Sonar Disabled Sailing World Champion
Greg FISHER (Annapolis, Md./Columbus, Ohio) - J/22 North American Champion
Tomas HORNOS (Swampscott, Mass.) - Snipe World Champion
Pete LEVESQUE (Portland, Maine/Annapolis, Md.) - ISAF Team Racing World Champion
Jeff LINTON (Tampa, Fla.) - Lightning World Champion
Colin MERRICK (Portsmouth, R.I.) - ISAF Team Racing World Champion
Dave ULLMAN (Santa Ana, Calif.) - Fullpower Melges 24 World Champion
Nominees for US SAILING's 2007 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award:
Sally BARKOW (Nashotah, Wis.) - Princess Sofia Yngling Champion
Amanda CALLAHAN (Canton, Mass.) - ISAF Team Racing World Champion
Emily DELLENBAUGH (Easton, Conn.) - Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champion
Liz HALL (Tiverton, R.I./Washington, D.C.) - ISAF Team Racing World Champion
Lisa KEITH (Marblehead, Mass.) - ISAF Team Racing World Champion
Amy LINTON (Tampa, Fla.) - Lightning World Champion
Karen MITCHELL (Deerfield Beach, Fla.) - IFDS SKUD18 Disabled Sailing World Champion
Paige RAILEY (Clearwater, Fla.) - Pan Am Games Laser Radial gold medallist
Anna TUNNICLIFFE (Plantation, Fla.) - Good Luck Beijing Qingdao International Regatta Laser Radial Champion
For additional information on the accomplishments of each nominee this year, please visit www.ussailing.org/awards/rolex.