Skipper Sean McCarter to receive prestigious US award for Outstanding Seamanship

19 December 2014

The Cruising Club of America (CCA) has confirmed that its 2014 Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship will be awarded to Derry-Londonderry-Doire skipper Sean McCarter. The award is in recognition of the way he directed his crew during the man overboard rescue in the harsh northern Pacific Ocean last March.

The Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship is an internationally renowned trophy awarded annually for an act of seamanship which significantly contributes to the safety of a yacht, or one or more individuals at sea.

Sean McCarter grew up in the Derry-Londonderry area and learnt to sail on Lough Swilly in County Donegal, Ireland at just five years old. A former Royal National Lifeboat Institution volunteer, Sean says: “The CCA is a club that has over 85 years of promoting the adventurous use of the sea and puts a premium on safety and seamanship.

“I am honoured to have been selected to receive The Rod Stephens trophy for Outstanding Seamanship but must accept it on behalf of the entire crew of Derry-Londonderry-Doire on the Pacific leg. Finding and rescuing Andrew Taylor in the midst of a North Pacific gale was not down to one person but to the skill and determination of a well-trained team.”

Andrew Taylor, 46, from London, went overboard in the middle of a Pacific Ocean storm, approximately half way through the 5,600 mile race from Qingdao, China to San Francisco, USA. He was recovered after 90 minutes in the water. The search was particularly difficult due to low visibility, high winds and mountainous seas which caused Andrew to drift quickly out of sight from the yacht.

Andrew made a full recovery after initial shock, hypothermia and a badly bruised leg. He continued the remaining six races to complete the circumnavigation when the race returned to London in July 2014.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston says: “The recognition of Sean McCarter’s leadership and motivation by the Cruising Club of America’s prestigious Outstanding Seamanship Award during the recovery of Andrew Taylor during the passage across the North Pacific Ocean will be welcomed by many.

“Sean’s determination to recover Andrew motivated the crew and it is fair to say that had Sean not shown outstanding leadership Andrew might not be with us today.”

The city of Derry-Londonderry has been represented in the Clipper Race since 2011 and finished in fourth position at the end of the last edition earlier this year.

The City of Derry-Londonderry Mayor Cllr Brenda Stevenson extending her congratulations to Sean, said the people of Derry-Londonderry and the North West region were extremely proud of him: “We are absolutely delighted that Sean has been honoured in this way, it is a huge achievement for him. This is an extremely proud moment for all of us.

“The way in which Sean and his crew dealt with the emergency on board their yacht was truly inspiring and I am delighted that his talents as a skilled yachtsman and leader has been acknowledged in this way. He is a very worthy winner and an inspirational sportsman that we all admire. Well done Sean.”

Previously the Rod Stephens trophy has been awarded for diverse acts of seamanship such as the rescue of 51 Haitians by the captain and crew of Corwith Cramer, a Brigantine sail training ship. In 2007 it was awarded to Mike Golding for his rescue of Alex Thomson during the 2006 Velux Ocean race when Thomson's boat Hugo Boss was sinking.

The award will be presented during the Annual Awards Dinner of the Cruising Club of America at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan on 6 March, 2015.

Sean McCarter and his crew were also recently nominated for Yachts and Yachting Magazine Achievement of the Year Award. Winners will be announced in February.

There is still the opportunity to apply for crew places in the next edition of the race in 2015 which is already 80 per cent full.

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