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By their nature, the honorees gathered on an evening in early March in the New York Yacht Club’s Model Room were a well-traveled bunch; their combined sea miles would easily number well into the six figures. But even in this get-up-and-go crowd, Trevor Robertson’s recent escapades drew more than a few chuckles of appreciation when he and Annie Hill were introduced during the Cruising Club of America’s annual awards dinner.
Trevor and Annie were in New York to receive the 2009 Blue Water Medal, but until that morning, it wasn’t clear if Annie would have to sail singlehanded through the ceremony. You see, last November, Trevor himself had set off singlehanded from New Zealand aboard their boat, Iron Bark, bound for Chile. He arrived in Puerto Montt 51 days later, and from there he explored up and down the channels until the end of February, when he tied up the boat and prepared for his trip to New York. And that’s when the earthquake hit.
With his travel plans in disarray, Trevor found a bus to take him over the Andes, and then a wild sequence of connections eventually led him to an airport big enough for him to catch a flight to New York. It was, he said, a lesson in the idiot things you don’t need to have happen, like discovering his credit card had expired sometime en route.
In the end, and with pluck, he arrived at 7 a.m. on the day of the awards, grinning and with yet more stories to tell, as if he and Annie don’t have enough already. Separately and together they’ve both circumnavigated eastabout and westabout on boats they’ve built themselves, and Iron Bark is believed to be the first sailboat to have wintered in both the Arctic and Antarctic.
When I say honorees, Trevor and Annie were just one of the courses served up during this pot-roast dinner. Rich Wilson, himself a Blue Water Medal winner, was on hand to pick up an award he’d earned for a story he’d written for the C.C.A. about his exploits in the 2008-2009 Vendee Globe solo around-the-world race, which he undertook at the age of 58.
“Everything comes to those who wait,” Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said a few minutes later when he accepted his undated Blue Water Medal-only seven others have been so honored in 85 years-in recognition of a lifetime of salty achievements. Robin was the first to sail singlehanded nonstop around the world when he won the 1968 Golden Globe race, returning home in 312 days. He completed a second solo rounding at the age of 68 in the 2006-2007 Velux 5 Oceans Race.
“I love my sailing,” Robin said. “What encourages me is to see these youngsters like Rich Wilson coming up. My sport is safe.”
But wait, there’s more: Longtime CW faves Lin and Larry Pardey were on hand to receive the 2009 Far Horizons Award for their lives spent sailing and writing about it in their 10 books and countless articles. Still, despite their widespread acclaim in sailing circles, Lin told the guests that sitting there in that room, she’d been nervous at first. But then, she said, someone asked her about her varnish, and she realized that she was, indeed, surrounded by sailors.
Sailor and writer John Rousmaniere received the 2009 Richard S. Nye Trophy for his books and articles that have brought distinction to the club. And last but not least, Sophi and Maurice Conti, who weren’t able to be present, were given the 2009 Rod Stephens award for their daring rescue of three people whose boat had struck a reef near Suva, in Fiji.
It was a spectacular night in fine surroundings, made more so by those on hand to raise a toast to good seamanship.