Published: Thursday, 12 January 2017

The 28-year-old born deaf amateur sailor Gavin Reid has beaten Giles Scott – Rio 2016 Gold Medallist – and Brian Thompson – Round the Island Race Record Holder, to become the 2016 YJA Yachtsman of the Year. He was presented with the award by last year’s winner Ian Walker MBE.

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(Photos: - Gavin Reid received the award at

The award was made following a close vote taken by members of the Yachting Journalist’s Association, and places Gavin Reid in the same category as giants of the sport, Ian Walker – Volvo Ocean Race Winner, Sir Ben Ainslie – America’s Cup Winner, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston – a legendary solo sailor and Clipper Race founder, who have all won the JYA Yachtsman of the Year Award in the past four years.

Reid was recognised for his heroic act while competing in the Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race, when he came to the rescue of a sailor trapped at the top of the mast on another yacht, which was not in the race.

“To be named 2016 JYA Yachtsman of The Year over some of my absolute heroes of the sport, feels like an incredible honour,” says Reid. “If someone had told me 18 months ago when I was starting my training for the Clipper Race that I would be here today collecting this award, I couldn’t have believed it. I have learned and experienced a huge amount and hope I can inspire others to take up the challenge of ocean racing. It’s been a fantastic adventure.”

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Reid has four caps for the Scottish Deaf Rugby team and has always enjoyed challenges. Like 40 per cent of Clipper Race crew, he had no previous sailing experience before embarking on his training for the 40,000 nautical mile marathon, regarded as one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges.

“Gavin impressed tremendously during his time on the Clipper Race,” says Clipper Race Founder and Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. “For a young man who had never sailed before he started our training, Gavin showed great commitment and never let his inexperience hold him back. He quickly developed excellent sailing skills under the guidance of his Skipper, and early on was selected to be a Watch Leader.

“The Clipper Race is highly competitive but faced with any situation where a fellow sailor on another boat was in serious trouble the crew of Mission Performance, who are fully trained with a safety first mentality, upheld the tradition of the sea that you do not hesitate to go to the assistance of another sailor in distress, setting an excellent example of seamanship which is a crucial attribute for all good ocean racing sailors.

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(Henri Lloyd Seamanship award at the Clipper Race Finish)

“This is the pinnacle of British sailing awards and amongst the most prestigious accolades in the sailing world. I’m very proud of Gavin and the entire crew.”

On Jan 5, 2016, Reid was racing from Sydney to the Whitsundays with his team aboard the yacht Mission Performance in Race 6 of the 14-stage, 11-month long Clipper Race series, when an SOS was picked up off the New South Wales coast of Australia from a non-Clipper Race yacht, returning from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which had a crewman stuck at the top of the mast. 

The Mission Performance yacht was nearest to the stricken vessel and Reid, who uses hearing aids in both ears, volunteered to swim between the two yachts, as conditions prevented transferring alongside, where he found four other crew onboard, all incapacitated and unable to help their crewmate who had been tangled in halyards at the top of the mast for several hours.

Deaf Amateur Sailor Named Boatscom Yja Yachtsman Of The Year

Reid had become experienced in mast work during the Clipper Race and used the one remaining staysail halyard to hoist himself two thirds of the way up the swinging mast, then climbed the rest of the way hand-over-hand to reach the crewman, untangle the lines, and help to lower him down safely.

Reid’s bravery has already been recognised by the Henri Lloyd Seamanship award at the Clipper Race Finish in London last summer, the RORC (Royal Ocean Racing Club) Outstanding Seamanship Award, and he was also recognised at the 2016 Australian Sailing Awards.