Deaf amateur sailor who saved crewman wins award

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A deaf amateur sailor has beaten an Olympic medallist to be crowned yachtsman of the year for his mid-ocean rescue.

Gavin Reid has pipped professional sailor and fellow nominee Giles Scott, who won gold in Rio, to the Yachting Journalists’ Association (YJA) accolade.

The 28-year-old, who is from Edinburgh and lives in Cambridge, was born profoundly deaf and had no sailing experience prior to taking part in the 40,000-nautical mile challenge of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

In January last year, while completing a full circumnavigation aboard the Mission Performance yacht, an SOS signal was picked up off the New South Wales coast of Australia. A boat returning from the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race had a crewman stuck at the top of the mast and Mr Reid’s yacht was nearest to the stricken vessel.

Volunteering to swim between the two boats, Mr Reid found four crew members aboard the other vessel incapacitated and unable to help their crewman, who had become tangled in halyards at the top of the mast for nine hours. Mr Reid then climbed up to the man, managed to untangle the lines, and helped lower him down to safety.

Picking up his trophy at a ceremony in central London, Mr Reid said he did not expect to clinch the award and thanked those who voted for him.

“A year ago I did not know the difference between a halyard, a sheet or a jib ... I knew nothing about sailing,” he added.

“To be here with so many amazing names and people who have achieved so much is quite daunting.”

The vote was cast by more than 200 members of the YJA, with just two ballots between the top two nominees - the shortlist also included Round the Island Race record holder Brian Thompson.

Mr Reid said he did not expect to clinch the award and thanked those who voted for him.