Lawrie Smith Wins YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award

2023 YJA Awards Winners Revealed at BoatLife, NEC Birmingham, February 2024

The winners of the UK’s most prestigious awards in British yachting, the YJA Yachtsman of the Year and the YJA Young Sailor of the Year, supported by Henri-Lloyd, have been revealed.

In the presence of family, friends, former winners and guests, Cliff Webb, Chairman of the Yachting Journalists’ Association was joined by Hattie Rogers, the 2022 YJA Yachtsman of the Year, on the main stage at BoatLife in Birmingham to announce the winners.

The YJA Yachtsman of the Year went to one of our own, Lawrie Smith. A household name in the world of yachting, but one that has never graced this prestigious trophy before. Lawrie Smith is an accomplished Olympian, America’s Cup skipper, participated in four editions of the Whitbread Race and is a UK National Champion in multiple classes. In 2023 however, he had an exceptional run of success, winning the 75th Edinburgh Cup and the Yanmar Dragon Gold Cup. He is presently competing overseas and so Andrew Moss, Chairman of the British Dragon Class Association received the famous trophy on his behalf, and said, “Lawrie’s skill in being able to sail a Dragon fast, together with the technical capability of the boat, he just has this magical ability to combine these together, which led to him winning both of these incredibly challenging events, so well done to him and for this fantastic recognition”.

L-R BDA Chairman Andy Moss, Hattie Rogers, 2022 Yachtsman of the Year Award winner

Other nominees in this category included Charlie Cumbley, Ellie Aldridge and Emma Wilson.

The YJA Young Sailor of the Year was awarded to two rising stars in British sailing, 2023 Topper National Champion Jess Powell and double World Champion Ben Greenhalgh.

“Huge congratulations to Lawrie, it’s wonderful that he’s been recognised by YJA members in this way after the remarkable career he’s had in the sport” commented Cliff Webb, “and to have joint winners of the YJA Young Sailor award is fabulous, which we hope will inspire them to go on to achieve more success in their careers’’.

Previous winners of the YJA Young Sailor of the Year include Dame Ellen McArthur, Hannah Mills OBE, and Sir Ben Ainslie, who has so far also been awarded the YJA Yachtsman of the Year trophy five times. Other notables from the YJA Yachtsman of the Year roll of honour include Sir Robin Knox Johnston, Sam Davies and Pip Hare, indeed Lawrie is the first male winner of the award since Alex Thompson in 2017.