Each Boat of the Year competition is decided by a panel of independent judges who come from outside the ranks of our full-time staff and are given complete autonomy to choose, without compromise or interference, the boats they believe represent the best examples of design and construction in the marine industry in a particular year. All receive salaries for their work, and none has any ties to the manufacturers he or she is asked to judge.
Steve Callahan’s eclectic boating experiences include crossing oceans, mostly shorthanded, in a wide array of monohulls and multihulls ranging from 21 to 67 feet. He’s also raced, cruised, and captained deliveries, primarily offshore, as well as lived aboard, designed boats, taught design, and built boats. He’s owned four cruising boats, two of which he built. Recently, he and his wife, Kathy Massimini, have been living aboard and cruising their Cross 40 trimaran, Tryphena, in Australia.
Bill Lee is the well-known Wizard of Santa Cruz, California, whose yacht-design fame is most closely allied with Merlin, the 68-foot ultralight sled that began whooping up on Transpac records in 1977. Given his Cal Poly degree in mechanical engineering, his boatbuilding background with Santa Cruz Yachts, and his history with the Boat of the Year contest, which extends to the inaugural running, we’re pleased to welcome Bill back as a judge after a three-year hiatus.
Ralph Naranjo is a voyager and former boatyard manager who now holds the Vanderstar Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he oversees the school’s sailing program and its fleet of inshore and offshore sailboats. Ralph, who also serves as Cruising World’s technical editor, got plenty of firsthand cruising experience while roaming 55,000 miles all over the world with his wife and two children aboard their Ericson 41, Wind Shadow. Bill Seifert, author of Offshore Sailing: 200 Essential Passagemaking Tips, has sailed some 100,000 miles in 30 years of experience as a boatbuilder, delivery skipper, racer, and yacht manager. Before starting his own business in 1991, he was a project engineer at Tartan Marine Company, a materials manager at Tillotson Pearson Inc., and a project manager at Alden Yachts. He is a pre-race inspector for the biennial Marion-Bermuda race. Bill judged in this year’s nominating round.
Nonnie Thompson is the author of Cruising World’s May 2003 cover story, “The Seasons of Sailing.” A lifelong sailor who grew up sailing Blue Jays on Long Island Sound, Nonnie described in her story the history of her youngest daughter’s childhood, “whose outline might read like the chapter headings of a guide to American sailboats, progressing from the Hobie Cat and J/24 to the Bristol 39, the Shannon 38, and now the J/35.” Their sailing took them to Maine most summers for a couple of weeks until, in 1995, they spent a sabbatical year sailing from Massachusetts through Panama to the Pacific Northwest. With their children now off to college and beyond, Nonnie and her husband, David, recently bought an Able Apogee 50 aboard which to travel farther afield. T.M.