Kiteboarder and Paralympic medalist win awards

Rolex Winners

U.S. Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year winners were honored at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco in February.

Johnny Heineken of Larkspur, Calif., and Jennifer French of St. Petersburg, Fla., were chosen as U.S. Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year.

Heineken, 2012 Kiteboarding Course Racing World Champion, and French, the 2012 Paralympic Silver Medalist in the SKUD-18 class, each received specially engraved stainless steel and platinum Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Masters watches. Rolex Watch USA president and CEO Stewart Wicht presented the awards in a ceremony hosted by Gary Jobson.

French, who was left quadriplegic following a snowboarding accident in 2008 said, “It’s a huge move forward for disabled sailing, the only sport where sailors can leave their wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs behind and go out and compete against able-bodied people; that’s why it attracts me.” She called her Paralympic silver medal performance “a fantastic journey” and said she couldn’t have done it without crew JP Creignou and many others who supported them.

In his comments Hein-eken said, “Kiteboarding is an evolution of sailing, not a new sport and the fact that everyone is seeing it that way is pretty special. I’m amazed to have my name added to a list of sailors I’ve grown up idolizing.”

“We’re seeing the sport take off, on the racing side especially; people are noticing they can go sailing in lighter and lighter conditions and still have fun. Kiteboard course racing is popping up all over in little clusters of local fleets.”

Heineken also gave St. Francis Yacht Club credit for pioneering the running of kiteboarding races locally.

This was the second consecutive year that the awards were presented at the St. Francis Yacht Club. Established in 1961 by U.S. Sailing and sponsored by Rolex Watch USA since 1980, U.S. Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards are considered the sport’s ultimate recognition of an individual’s outstanding on-the-water achievements for the calendar year.

By Ocean Navigator