A seasoned veteran steeped in determination and a breakthrough performer on the verge of stardom are the subjects of US Sailing’s 2017 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year.
J/70 World Champion Peter Duncan (Rye, New York) and Enoshima Olympic Week Laser Radial Gold Medalist Erika Reineke (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) today were selected as Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year for their remarkable sailing performances in 2017.
The selection follows the announcement in December of the six men and eight women who were shortlisted for these prestigious awards and recognized as sailing’s top performers of the year by US Sailing.
A slate of nominees, determined by the membership of US Sailing, was presented to a panel of accomplished sailing media professionals, who together discussed the merits of each nominee and individually voted to determine the ultimate winners.
Placing second in the award voting for Yachtsman of the Year was Etchells World Champion Steve Benjamin (Coconut Grove, Florida), who won the award in 2015. World Cup Series Miami Champion Dave Hughes (Miami, Florida) finished third in the voting.
Finishing second in the voting for Yachtswoman of the Year was IKA Formula Kite World Champion Daniela Moroz (Lafayette, California), who won this award in 2016. Placing third was Youth World Champion Laser Radial sailor Charlotte Rose (Houston, Texas).
Reineke and Duncan will be honored on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, during a luncheon at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan, where they will be celebrated by family and friends, teammates and crew, past winners, sailing dignitaries, and representatives from US Sailing and Rolex. They will also be presented with specially-engraved Rolex timepieces.
The partnership between Rolex and US Sailing is natural considering the Swiss watchmaker’s more than 60-year commitment to fostering yachting excellence worldwide. Rolex is the committed partner of the most prestigious yacht clubs, including the New York Yacht Club as its first alliance in the late 1950s, as well as the sport’s leading institutions and events. In doing so, it shares the highest standards of excellence and superior performance with US Sailing, acting together as joint custodians of yachting’s finest spirit.
Peter Duncan (Rye, New York), 58, a life-long one-design sailor and proud member of the American Yacht Club, was once again at the top of his game in 2017 at the highest-levels of international competition and in a variety of sailboat classes. He received this honorable distinction for first time in his illustrious career.
“I was just honored to be nominated for the award,” said Duncan. “When I found out I won, I was just stunned. “It is just so humbling to be associated with so many great sailors who have won this award. It’s an honor of a lifetime.”
“With all the racing and training we did in 2017, I was actually on the water for 110 days last year, which is absolutely extraordinary. That’s what you have to do to accomplish what we did last year.”
His year was highlighted with a win at the ultra-competitive Audi J/70 World Championship in September off the waters of Porto Cervo in Sardinia, Italy. Duncan and his talented crew including Jud Smith, Victor Diaz de Leon and Willem van Waay, won the 161-boat World Championship by a 15-point margin over contender Brian Keene. Duncan’s Relative Obscurity was dominant through six races. They placed in the top three in each race, including three wins.
“You can’t find a better crew to sail with as far as I’m concerned,” added Duncan. “We got there early to practice and we spent a great deal of time preparing ourselves for this event. It was a serious venture.”
One member of the selection panel noted that “to win first place so convincingly in a highly-talented and large fleet at the J/70 World Championship in Italy is a testament to Peter’s abilities and preparation.”
He won four other J/70 regattas in 2017, including the Italian National Championships (Alcatel Cup), New England Championships, Bacardi Cup and Sail Newport Regatta. His team placed second out of 58 at the J/70 North American Championship in Rye, New York and third at the European J/70 Championship.
“We won the Italian Nationals on the last race of the last day,” explained Duncan. “We got there early and were hopeful to learn a lot about the competition. We knew that the Italian fleet was going to be very strong and it was a very deep fleet. It was really close racing. And again, we got what we put into it. We worked hard and got the result in the end.”
Duncan participated in multiple classes throughout 2017, including the Etchells, Melges 20 and Melges 24. His Etchells team took home first place honors at the Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta featuring 45 competing boats last January in Coconut Grove, Florida.
Duncan has been sailing for about as long as he can remember. He started sailing with his parents on the weekends at American Yacht Club in their 210 sailboat.
“I love the competition and I enjoy racing in large fleets. That to me is wildly exciting. But it’s also about all the camaraderie and the people that you meet and the places you go. Luckily, the fleets we compete in are generally the same, so whatever issues you might have had out on the water are usually left on the water and it’s really a great group of people to spend time with.”
Reineke (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), 24, will be honored for the first time as US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of Year. The Florida native and veteran US Sailing Team athlete distinguished herself nationally and internationally while competing in both College Sailing and the Olympic Laser Radial class in 2017.
“I was a little shocked when I got the phone call, but I’m really proud,” said Reineke. “Just to even make it on to the shortlist this year, with so many other amazing sailors, was a big achievement for me. It hasn’t sunk in yet that I actually won the award, so I’m super happy and really thankful for everybody who has supported me over the years.”
Reineke’s 2017 highlights include being honored as the 2017 Quantum Women’s College Sailor of the Year, winning A-Division at ICSA Women’s College Nationals, placed third in the A-Division at ICSA Coed College Nationals, winning silver at the Aarhus World Championship Test event in the Laser Radial, and winning gold at Enoshima Olympic Week 2017, the first major multi-class regatta held at the 2020 Olympic Games venue.
2017 was a time of transition for Reineke, who started her year focusing on intercollegiate competition for perennial contender Boston College. After graduation, she moved into training with the US Sailing Team in the Laser Radial full-time, and continued chasing her Olympic dream.
“Looking back on my last year of college sailing, I was a fifth-year senior,” said Reineke. “I took a year off [for the Rio 2016 Olympic Trials] and came back to a team that I didn’t know as well, but they welcomed me back with open arms. Going into Nationals, it just felt like we were a family, and I think that’s what made our performance so strong.”
Reineke has worked hard to balance school and competitive sailing for much of her career, but only in the latter half of 2017 was she able to turn her entire focus towards international Laser Radial sailing under the guidance of US Sailing Team coach Steve Mitchell (Toronto, Canada).
“It's definitely hard to balance the two worlds of school and sailing, but I think it was worth it,” said Reineke, who won her first major international championship at age 17 at the Laser Radial Class Youth Worlds. “I have learned a lot of different styles of sailing. I think I have a better perspective on sailing in general, and it was totally worth it. After college, there is more time to focus on little things that maybe I didn't before. Steve has been working with me on turning those little things into strengths.”
“Erika had an incredible year on the water for the national team, and the way she has progressed in the Laser Radial while conducting a historically great career at Boston College has been remarkable,” said Malcolm Page (Newport, R.I.), Chief of U.S. Olympic Sailing. “She has not only become one of our top performers, and one of our brightest medal prospects, but a leader in our effort to create a tighter-knit and more collaborative Olympic program.”
Reineke did not come from a sailing-centric family, but quickly took to the sport as a child growing up in Fort Lauderdale. “My parents didn’t know much about sailing, but through the years they saw little prams and Optimists out on the bay, and wanted me and my sister to try it. We went from absolutely hating it at first, to quickly making friends and then really loving the sport.”
The all-star line-up of standout sailors who made the shortlist hail from various disciplines from around the country. Many of these sailors were selected based on their consistent exceptional performances throughout the 2017 season and some were chosen for their signature win(s) at major international events.