Jud Smith, Paige Railey Named Yachtsman, Yachtswoman of the Year

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Jud Smith and Paige Railey today were named, respectively, US SAILING's 2006 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. 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 honored and presented with specially engraved Rolex timepieces during a luncheon on March 2, 2007, at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.Jud Smith - Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Nominated for the first time, 2006 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Jud Smith (Marblehead, Mass.) 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 ultimatelyclinched 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 neverentered 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 withgusts to 35, and a six-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).Paige Railey - Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Since her first nomination in 2002, 2006 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) 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 thesubsequent years in the Laser Radial. (The Laser Radial will make its Olympic debut in 2008 as the chosen equipment for the women's single-handed event.) She also rewrites the history books upon becoming the youngest woman ever to receive the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award - breaking the12-year record held by Danielle Brennan, 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 honored last November as the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2006. That award recognized her sailing achievements between September 1, 2005, and August 31, 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 honor to be chosen by the sailing community and to be included in such elite company."In April, at Semaine Olympique Française in Hyeres, France, the battle for gold in the 80-boat fleet culminated in a final-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 thefinal race began, with Railey holding a three-point advantage. Although de Turckheim rounded the top mark five seconds ahead, Railey turned on the downwind speed that has made her the competitor to beat in the Laser Radialand 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 Good Luck Beijing-2006 Qingdao International Regatta, the first test event in China at the venue of the 2008 Olympic Regatta. 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 shefeels was her most important of the year. Winning an Olympic gold medal for the U.S.A. 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 Laser Radial North American and Midwinters East Championships and placed second at two other hotly contested events - US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR and the US SAILING Pre-Trials.For additional information on the awards, including accomplishments of the nominees on the shortlist for 2006, please visit www.ussailing.org/awards/rolex.