At the Top: Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year

Johnny Heineken, the 2012 Kiteboarding Course Racing World Champion, and Jen French, the 2012 Paralympic Silver Medalist in the SKUD-18 class, were named US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year.

Sailing World

2012 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year

Johnny Heineken and Jen French receive US Sailing's top honors.Johnny Heineken/US Sailing

Two sailors joined the elite group of US Sailing's Rolex Yachtsmen and Yachtswomen of the Year on Jan. 14. At age 24, 2012 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Johnny Heineken has dominated the kiteboarding discipline, winning the Kiteboarding Course Racing World Championship in Cagliari, Italy, the Kiteboarding North American Course Racing Championship on his home waters of San Francisco, and the Pacific Pilsner Canadian Kiteboard Course Racing Nationals in Squamish, Canada.

In the press release, Heineken noted, "It's exciting that kiting has been accepted into the world of yachting. It's pretty amazing how far the class has come in the last five years and exciting for me to be involved in the development of that."

Heineken has a degree in mechanical engineering and works at Alameda-based Makani Power, an alternative energy company developing airborne wind turbine technology. He is a member of St. Francis Yacht Club, and his older sister, Erika, was a runner-up for this year's Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award.

Jen French, age 41, receives US Sailing's Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award for her outstanding performance at the Paralympic Games and on the international disabled sailing scene. She placed second at the Paralympics in the SKUD-18 class with her crew JP Creignou, second at the IFDS World Championship in Florida, third at both the French Olympic Sailing Week (Hyeres) and US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR in Florida, and fourth at Skandia Sail for Gold in England.

“I’m extremely humbled and overwhelmed by the honor of being placed in the company of so many fantastic sailors who have had such an influence on me,” said French in the press release. “This is also a huge step for disabled sailing and for the recognition of all those who have worked so hard over the years to make disabled sailing possible."

French hails from St. Petersburg, Fla. She's the co-founder and executive director of Neurotech Network, a non-profit organization that focuses on education and advocacy of neurotechnology for people with impairments. She released a book in October titled On My Feet Again: My Journey Out of the Wheelchair Using Neurotechnology. She wrote the epilogue on the plane ride home from the Paralympics.