Kirsten Neuschäfer Receives CCA Blue Water Medal

The award is one of several the Cruising Club of America recently bestowed on ocean sailors.
Blue Water Medalist Kirsten Neushafer with CCA Commodore Jay Gowell
Kirsten Neuschäfer receives the 2023 Blue Water Medal from CCA Commodore Jay Gowell. Dan Nerney

The Cruising Club of America, during its annual awards ceremony in March at the New York Yacht Club, honored solo round-the-world sailor Kirsten Neuschäfer with its prestigious Blue Water Medal.

Neuschäfer, of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, won the 2022 Golden Globe Race. It’s a 235-day solo circumnavigation in which she was the first of three finishers among 17 original starters. The race restricts sailors to the use of sailboats and technology that was available when the race was first held, in 1968.

“It’s a singlehanded race, but many, many people help,” Neuschäfer said in her acceptance remarks, giving credit to others. “On a very philosophical level, I learned a lot, and it was truly a voyage of collaboration.”

She added: “It’s one of those experiences you keep on doing for a while, and the train hasn’t ended.”

The CCA presented its Young Voyager Award to Max Campbell, an English sailor who has cruised halfway around the world. He shares his adventures by inviting friends to come along or join via Instagram and YouTube, where his channels have close to 300,000 followers.

Campbell’s first boat was a 22-footer that he sailed across the Atlantic, surviving a serious galley fire. Later, he and his friends restored Elixir, a 37-foot Swan built in 1970. They have since sailed it as far as New Zealand.

“It’s inspiring and humbling to be in a room with so many accomplished sailors,” Campbell said during his acceptance remarks. He credited his mother, Jo Clarkson, and his stepfather, Dave Cockwell, for introducing him to sailing in the United Kingdom at age 4 and then giving him the passion of travel.

Max Fletcher received the Far Horizons Award, which recognizes a CCA member for a particularly meritorious cruise or series of cruises. Max cruised with his family as a child, cruised to the Caribbean with a buddy after college, and later sailed with his young family to New Zealand, returning with a friend via Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands. He and his wife, Lynnie, have made two round-trip trans-Atlantics to and from Europe. Recently, he helped others sailing to and from Antarctica and Greenland.

Paul Bieker won the Diana Russell Award for innovation in recognition of his performance boat designs and the development of foils on sailing and motor craft. His innovations with hydrofoils for sailboats have helped change the way that all high-performance sailing is thought about and practiced today, and have consistently been at the forefront in the sport, from America’s Cup racers to singlehanded Moth sailboats.

Ralph Naranjo received the Richard S. Nye Award for service to the CCA and the sailing community as an author and an educator who promotes better seamanship and safety practices. Ralph has sailed around the world, run a full-service boatyard, judged the Boat of the Year Awards for Cruising World, written books including The Art of Seamanship, and supervised the U.S. Naval Academy sailing program for a decade.

Ashley Perrin and Merfyn Owen received the Royal Cruising Club Trophy, for the most interesting cruise of singular merit and moderate duration. They cruised doublehanded around Newfoundland, and sailed north to visit the south coast of Greenland. The cruise took five years because of pandemic delays.

Anne Kolker received the Charles H. Vilas Literary Prize for the best article published in the club’s 2024 Voyages magazine. Titled “XX Sailors,” the story described her personal journey of becoming a competent sailor, captain, instructor and mentor aboard offshore sailing yachts.

Four members received Commodore’s Awards for distinguished service to the Club: Amelia and Bob Green, who retired after three years as editors of the club magazine Voyages; Sheila McCurdy, who has been writing a new CCA history for the past 10 years; and Paul Hamilton, who retired after 12 years as CCA fleet captain.

Learn more about Cruising Club of America awards: go to