Eric Doyle, age 31, of San Diego, California, and Dawn Riley, age 35, of San Francisco, California and Detroit, Michigan, were honored today as the 1999 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year at a ceremony in the Model Room of the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan. The annual award – administered since 1961 by US SAILING, national governing body for the sport, and sponsored since 1980 by Rolex Watch U.S.A. – recognizes outstanding on-the-water achievement in the calendar year just concluded.
Riley, one of seven finalists for the Rolex Yachtswoman award, was recognized for her match racing as well as organizational skills, while Doyle, one of nine finalists for the Rolex Yachtsman award, was recognized in large part for his performances in the Star class. Both first-time winners, Riley and Doyle were nominated by US SAILING’s membership and selected by a distinguished panel of sailing journalists.
Doyle skippered to win the Star class Midwinters, North Americans and World Championships. His Star World victory – hard-fought among 129 teams of such notables as Olympic gold medallists Jose Maria van der Ploeg (Spain), Mark Reynolds (San Diego) and Torben Grael (Brazil) – also qualified the U.S. for its Star berth at the 2000 Olympic Games. The panel also acknowledged Doyle’s second-place finish among 93 Star teams at the highly competitive Bacardi Cup, as well as his third-place finish out of 85 boats at the Star Italian National Championship. “I’m tremendously honored, grateful and a little astonished to have my name associated with other Rolex Yachtsmen such as Ed Adams, Dennis Conner and Ted Turner,” said Doyle. “The panel’s selection gives great credit to the Star class itself, which consists of incredibly accomplished sailors.”
In Melges 24s, Doyle crewed for fellow Rolex Yachtsman finalist Vince Brun (San Diego) to win the Yachting Cup and Balboa Cup Challenge and take third at Key West Race Week. Throughout the America’s Cup Challenger Series, he served as the mainsail trimmer aboard Stars & Stripes, Dennis Conner’s San Diego Yacht Club challenge for the America’s Cup. Born in Washington, D.C., Doyle grew up in Pass Christian, Miss., where he learned to sail at Pass Christian Yacht Club and attended St. Stanislaus High School. A graduate of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, Doyle and wife Sheila, a three-time Olympic kayaker, reside in San Diego. A sail maker at North Sails One Design, Doyle plans to compete in the April U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the Star class with crew Tom Olsen of E. Dennis, Massachusetts.
As CEO of America True, the San Francisco Yacht Club’s challenge for the America’s Cup 2000, Riley became the first woman in the world to manage an America’s Cup team. In December, at the conclusion of the third round-robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup, America True – with Riley crewing – stood third overall out of 11 teams and led all U.S. syndicates in points going into the 2000 semifinals.
Among Riley’s other accomplishments was an impressive victory at the Boat U.S. Santa Maria Cup, the 12-boat invitational that hosted top ranked match racers including past Rolex Yachtswomen Betsy Alison (Newport, Rhode Island) and Cory Sertl (Rochester, New York) as well as Paula Lewin (Bermuda) and Shirley Robertson (Great Britain). Additionally, Riley was the mainsail trimmer aboard the third-place boat in the New Zealand Match Racing Championships, racing against such formidable competitors as Francesco de Angelis (Italy), Chris Dickson (New Zealand) and Gavin Brady (New Zealand). “I’ve been a Rolex Yachtswoman nominee six times for my long-term projects,” said Riley, who was team captain of America3, the historic women’s 1995 America’s Cup team; a member of the winning 1992 America’s Cup team (also America3); skipper of Heineken, the all-woman team in the 1993-94 Whitbread ‘Round the World sailing marathon; and watch captain of Maiden, the first-e