David Cowper Awarded CCA’s 2012 Blue Water Medal

The Cruising Club of America presents the annual awards for outstanding seamanship and service.

CCA Blue Water Medal

British sailor and adventurer David Cowper, a veteran of six singlehanded circumnavigations and five solo transits of the Northwest Passage, has been named the recipient of the Cruising Club of America‘s coveted Blue Water Medal for 2012. The 70-year-old voyager, who recorded his first record-setting round-the-world journey in 1980, topped an accomplished list of cruising sailors and mariners who also were honored with the CCA’s annual slate of awards.

Long-distance cruisers Stephen and Karyn James received the club’s Far Horizon Award—presented to a CCA member “for a particularly meritorious cruise or series of cruises that exemplify the objectives of the club”—for their decade of exploring aboard their Chuck Paine-designed 54-footer, Threshold.

Merchant seaman Captain Thomas B. Crawford earned the Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship in recognition of his high-seas rescue of solo sailor Derk Wolmouth during last year’s Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race (see “All in It Together,” Editor’s Log, October 2012).


And finally, Connecticut sailor Brin Ford, a veteran of 18 Newport-Bermuda Races, was awarded the Richard S. Nye Trophy for his “contributions to the Club in the form of meritorious service.”

However, it was the peripatetic Cowper, who not only was the first person to sail about the world in both directions, but also the first to negotiate the Northwest Passage from east-to-west and west-to-east, who received the club’s most prestigious prize. In doing so, he joined a long list of legendary mariners, including Sir Francis Chichester, Eric Tabarly, Eric and Susan Hiscock, Robin Knox-Johnston, Bernard Moitessier, and last year’s winners, regular Cruising World contributors Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson. The CCA has been awarding the medal, “for a most meritorious example of seamanship…selected from among amateurs from all nations,” since 1923.

In Cowper’s case, the Medal signifies and recognizes a lifetime of nautical achievement. He first negotiated the Northwest Passage during a 2-year odyssey from 1986-1988. He completed his fifth transit last summer via M’Clure Strait, the extreme northerly route over Banks Island.


Along with those milestones, Cowper completed six full laps around the planet, including his 1984 trip aboard a converted Royal National Lifeboat, thus becoming the first ever to circumnavigate alone on a motor vessel. His latest craft, Polar Bound, is also a powerboat. Currently lying in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Cowper plans on rejoining the boat this spring. His plans? Why, knocking off his seventh round-the-world trip, of course. The Blue Water medalist clearly loves nothing more than…blue water.


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