Steve Benjamin and Annie Haeger today were named US Sailing’s 2015 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. These two sailors, at different stages of their sailing careers, amassed a year to remember and will be recognized as the best of 2015.
A total of 12 men and six women had been shortlisted for the 2015 honors based on nominations submitted by members of US Sailing, with these two sailors then selected for the noteworthy distinction by a diverse panel of sailing journalists.
Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex Watch, U.S.A. since 1980, the annual presentation of US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards are considered the sport’s ultimate recognition of an individual’s outstanding on-the-water achievements for the calendar year. The winners will be honored on Thursday, March 3, 2016, during a luncheon at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan, when they will be presented with specially-engraved Rolex timepieces.
Rolex Yachtsman of the Year – Steve Benjamin (Norwalk, Conn.) has been named the 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year in recognition of a year that featured 10 wins, including the Etchells North American Championship in Rye, NY. Benjamin skippered his team to victory in the 35-boat fleet, aboard Terrapin. Benjamin, along with crew George Peet, Luke Lawrence and Julian Sudofsky, won the championship by 15 points through eight races.
Benjamin’s dominance in the Etchells went beyond the North American Championship. He placed second 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 reflecting back on his successes, Benjamin commented on how everything came together for him and his teams in 2015. “It came down to all the quality time we were able to spend on the water together. We raced and practiced so much this year, it really helped us continue to improve from one event to the next, and be better teams.”
“This award goes to all the great sailors and crew I’ve had the opportunity to race with this year,” added 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.”
Steve and Heidi Benjamin’s Carkeek 40, SPOOKIE, had a clean sweep of overall wins in every offshore race they entered in 2015, including Fort Lauderdale to Key West, Marblehead to Halifax, Ida Lewis Distance Race, and the Vineyard Race.
“I’ve been at this a long time, so this is truly an astonishing honor.”
Benjamin, son of a boatyard owner, started sailing at the age of nine when his parents introduced him to the sport through a junior sailing program at Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in Oyster Bay, NY. Benjamin went on to experience an outstanding college sailing career. He earned College Sailor of the Year honors in 1978 as a member of the Yale University sailing team.
Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year – Annie Haeger (East Troy, Wisc.) has been named the 2015 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year in recognition of her impressive list of top results in 470 Class competition throughout 2015.
Haeger and crew Briana Provancha (San Diego, Calif.) 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.
“Winning gold at the Olympic Test Event was a major confidence booster, and it reinforced that if we can earn US Olympic Team selection we have a chance to medal at the Games.”
Haeger and Provancha experienced success in other high-caliber women’s 470 events, including the European Championship (3rd place) and the South American Championship (4th place).
“Winning this award was never something I was ever expecting or aiming for, since Briana and I have been totally focused on the Olympics,” said Haeger. “To be on a list with so many amazing sailors, and to win this on behalf of my incredible teammate and the US Sailing Team Sperry, is unbelievable. I am just so honored.”
“In winning this award, I’m not representing myself, but Team Haeger/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 United States.” Haeger also noted that her fellow national team athletes have played a prominent role in her development. “Our US Sailing Team Sperry veterans like Stu McNay, Dave Hughes, and Paige Railey have pushed us to improve. They have been so helpful, and we want to represent them well.”
Haeger started sailing at age eight on Lake Beulah in Wisconsin. Coincidentally, she was in the same “Learn to Sail” junior sailing program as the 2014 Yachtswoman of the Year, Stephanie Roble.
In parallel with the Yachtsman of the Year, Steve Benjamin, Haeger was also a tremendously successful college sailor. She was named College Sailor of Year in 2011 and a three-time ICSA Women’s Singlehanded National Champion as a member of the Boston College sailing team.