Tracy Edwards and Nikki Henderson have both been named Yachtsman of the Year 2018, whilst 15-year-old Emily Mueller has received the Young Sailor of the Year award

For the first ever time in over 60 years the YJA Yachtsman of the Year and the Young Sailor Awards, voted by the Yachting Journalists’ Association members, was a tie, with Tracy Edwards and Nikki Henderson announced as joint winners.
Also for the first time all the recipients of the prestigious awards were female, with the Young Sailor of the Year trophy going to 15-year-old Emily Mueller. Emily was awarded for her entry and win in the Volvo Gill Optimist British National Championship.

Emily said upon receiving her award: “It is just such an honour. I never really expected to go this far in sailing; I just did it for fun at first, but now I love the competitive element. It was all such a surprise because I didn’t even know I was nominated. Thank you all so much!”

Nikki Henderson, made history when at 24 she was the youngest ever skipper to compete in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 2018. She finished in second place to Australian Wendy Tuck, thus securing an all-female one-two. She commented about the first all female YJA Yachtsman of the Year and the Young Sailor Awards wins: “It is a step in the right direction. I think it is important to recognise that the Clipper Race aspect isn’t just about the female skippers winning, but also the fact that almost half the crews are women. It is a really good example that the sport should not be all male; it should – and can be – a 50:50 mixed sport. I think that is what we really need to push for.”

Tracy Edwards, who is the recipient of the award for the second time, made history when she skippered the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989. The crew went on to win two of the Whitbread legs and came second in class overall aboard the yacht Maiden.

Edwards went on to receive an MBE and became the first woman in its 34 year history to be awarded the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy.

Tracy’s yacht Maiden has been since restored and last autumn sailed off for a three year project to promote girls’ education around the world and raise money to fund projects to empower young women.

A feature length documentary on Tracy Edwards, called Maiden, opens in cinemas nationwide this Friday (8 March) on International Women’s Day.

Edwards said of her win: “It’s very surreal. The first time I won the trophy I didn’t know what it was as I wasn’t really part of the racing or sailing world! It was amazing, and I thought at the time that it was very forward-thinking, very visionary, of the Yachting Journalists’ Association to award it, considering the flak they had given us getting to the start line. To win it again is extraordinary, because amazing women like Nikki and other fantastic female sailors are out there, but I think Maiden did play a part in that, so we’ve come full circle. I think that what Nikki, Wendy [Tuck] and Dee [Caffari], and other girls like Emily here, are doing – it is the future, and it is really important so that means a lot to me.”

The award ceremony took place in London on Wednesday 6 March and was hosted by MS Amlin Yacht, following a breakfast reception to celebrate four times YJA Yachtsman of the Year winner Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s 80th birthday.


Kay Cottee

13 Top female sailors

Here's our pick of some of the most inspiring yachtswomen. Who's your inspiration?