Deaf sailor who rescued rival up for top award

A NOVICE deaf Scottish sailor who led a massive rescue during a round-the-world race is in the bidding to win a major yachting award - against some of the biggest stars on the water.

Deaf sailor Gavin Reid. Picture: PA
Deaf sailor Gavin Reid. Picture: PA

Gavin Reid, 28, is up against Olympic Champion Giles Scott and Round the Island record breaker Brian Thompson - and is the only amateur sailor to make the shortlist of the main Yachtsman of the Year prize.

He and his Mission Performance crew were competing in Race 6 of the 14-stage Clipper 2015-16 Race, from Hobart to the Whitsundays, Australia, when an SOS was picked up from a yacht which had a crewman stuck at the top of the mast.

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Mission Performance was the nearest to the stricken vessel and Skipper Greg Miller and his crew immediately abandoned their Clipper Race campaign to assist.

Gavin, who was born deaf in both ears and had zero sailing experience prior to signing up for the 41,000 nautical-mile Clipper Race, had quickly developed into a watch leader on board.

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He volunteered to swim from the Clipper 70 to the other yacht where he found four of the crew onboard incapacitated and unable to help their crewmate who had been tangled in halyards at the top of the mast for several hours.

Using the one remaining staysail halyard, Gavin - who played for Scotland’s international deaf rugby team - was able 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.

Mission Peformance then returned to the Clipper Race and were provided redress points for the incident before completing the remaining nine races of the circumnavigation.

On arrival back to London in July this year Gavin was awarded the race’s Henri Lloyd Seamanship Award.

Gavin, who spent the majority of his teenage years in Scotland while his father travelled with the Armed Forces, has now been nominated for the YJA’s Yachtsman of the Year Award and also Young Yachtsman of the Year.

He told Scotland on Sunday: “To be nominated is awesome. Travelling around the world was an absolutely brilliant experience.

“It is a real honour to have made the final three alongside such titans of the sport as Brian Thompson and Giles Scott, and also to be nominated for the Young Sailor of the Year Award.

“I am overwhelmed by the amount of praise I have received for taking part in the rescue, though to me it pales in comparison to the achievements in yachting that others have accomplished over the year.

“I’m proud of my actions off the coast of Australia but I mostly appreciate the support that was provided by my crew mates on board Mission Performance. I look forward to meeting the other finalists and celebrating excellency in the sport.”

Gavin has always been a world traveller as his Scottish-born father, former Colonel Alistair Reid, served in the Army, taking the family to numerous countries, including America, Kuwait, Germany and Northern Ireland.

The modest, unassuming team player he attended Marchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, during his teens and went on to represent Scotland’s Deaf Rugby team against England and Wales.

Gavin said: “We spent my teenage years in Scotland, between 12 and 18, and I consider myself Scottish. Although I was born in England, my dad is Scottish and I always felt Scottish while at school in Edinburgh.”

He added: “I’ve been hearing impaired since I was born so it’s been a challenge all of my life.

“I’ve had to deal with it in all aspects of my life whether that’s in work or playing sport and I thought the Clipper Race was a way of giving myself an even bigger challenge.

“Travelling and exploring has always been in my heart and this gives me a truly unique chance to explore the world from a completely different perspective.

“I’ve always had a passion for getting involved in charities and NGO work. It started during my gap year when I went to work at a centre for mentally disabled children in Tanzania and I was teaching English as a foreign language.

“From there I got a bug for doing various projects in different countries. A few years later I went on to do a health and sanitation project in villages in India.

He got new hearing aids for the race which are waterproof.

He added: “It was interesting getting used to them because they adjust to the background noise, recognising if I am in a pub or the boat engine is running, and it cuts them out for me, so they are very clever.

“I’ve played for Scotland’s deaf rugby team and have four caps. It is something that I’m really passionate about and I have an ambitious plan to get in touch with Australian Deaf Rugby to see about setting up a deaf rugby 7s tournament.”

Clipper Race Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, four time winner of the YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award, says: “Gavin Reid’s nomination for the YJA Yachtsman of the Year and Young Sailor of the Year Awards are highly deserved.

“Not only did he make a very courageous and selfless decision to help a fellow yachtsman in need in challenging circumstances, he also continually impressed me throughout the entire circumnavigation.

“One of 40 per cent of our Clipper Race crew who had no previous sailing experience, Gavin was a natural and fast became a very integral member of his Mission Performance team.

“I hope his experiences and this recognition inspire him to continue to pursue future sailing opportunities.”

Established in 1955, the Yachtsman of the Year Award is one of the top yachting honours. Previous winners of the award include Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Dame Ellen MacArthur and four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie.

The Young Sailor of the Year Award was first awarded in 1993.

Fellow Yachtsman of the Year Award nominee Giles Scott from Portsmouth capped a remarkable three-year unbeaten record in the Finn singlehander class by winning gold at the Rio Olympics.

In doing so, he also retained his Finn Gold Cup world champion title for the third successive year, and also played a significant role as bowman and tactician aboard Britain’s Land Rover BAR America’s Cup challenge, which leads the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series going into the last event at Fukuoka, Japan on November 18.

Ian Atkins, President of boats.com, says: “The open nominations process for these two awards highlighted the number of exceptional achievements that we have witnessed in 2016.

“Creating a shortlist of just three nominees for each category is never easy. We already look forward to announcing the YJA’s winner in January 2017.”

The winners of these premier British achievement awards will be announced at a gala lunch in January at Trinity House, London, following a vote among members of the Yachting Journalists’ Association.