Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rolex Yachting Awards: Adventures in New York City

I was fortunate enough this year to be invited to the US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year award luncheon in New York City. The Rolex award is given annually to a male and female sailor who are deemed to have the most outstanding individual achievements on the water within the calendar year (2009). The ceremony is held at the New York Yacht Club, which is a beautiful venue. The NYYC is probably the only sailing club in the United States whose main clubhouse, over 100 years old, is not on the water, but is instead situated in the middle of Manhattan (44th St). Much of the yacht racing and sailing history of the United States involves this club, starting with the yacht America, the vessel the America's Cup is named after, and many, many America's Cup campaigns.

Since the NYYC is so historic, and the Rolex awards an important event, I didn't want to miss it. However, the craziness of this winter still has a hold on the northeastern United States, and my mom and I drove up from Annapolis in flurries of snow. As we got closer and closer to the city, the snow came down hard.

The next morning, we had to dig the car out of the parking lot of our hotel in Jersey City. The plows had been working all night, but much of the city was still buried under a foot and a half of snow. On the way to the ceremony, we drove around cars and delivery trucks spinning their wheels in attempts to un-stick themselves from the snow.

When I walked into the club, I was escorted up the stairs into a room that made my jaw drop. Every inch of the walls were covered by half-hull models of boats. The first thing I did was walk a lap and stare at all the boats.

Sizeable display cases held to-scale models of all the America's cup challengers and defenders. The BMW Oracle trimaran and Alinghi catamaran should make interesting additions, as they will take up twice the space of the monohull models.

Ornate wood carvings and a massive mantlepiece completed the room. We also got to take a look at the extensive and stately library (the shelves and layout of which looked virtually unchanged since the 1900s) and trophy rooms, including the room where America's Cup trophy was historically kept.

This year's recipients of the Rolex award were Anna Tunnicliffe and Bora Gulari, who each received a beautiful watch. Gary Jobson, President of US Sailing, gave a speech and whimsical video presentation showing childhood photos of the two sailors. Dean Brenner, Chairman of the Olympic Sailing Committee, and Charlie Leighton, the Executive Director, presented the awards.

Rolex Watch president and CEO Alan Brill, Anna, Bora, and Gary Jobson smile for the cameras. (credit: Dan Nerney/ Rolex; from

It was fun seeing the high-profile NYYC members, sailors, and US Sailing officials enjoy the afternoon. Congratulations to Bora and Anna!

Afterwards, my mom and I had fun walking the city at night. The snow was still falling a little, creating an in-the-moment atmosphere. To top off the evening, we caught a performance of Wicked, a musical set in Oz depicting the life of the Wicked Witch of the West before she was melted by Dorothy. It was quite a New York experience.

Altogether, our trip was successful and an interesting vacation. It's good to be the occasional tourist.

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