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 and British Dragon sailor Lawrie Smith was confirmed as Yachtsman of the Year at the awards ceremony in Birmingham.

In the YJA Yachtsman of the Year category, YJA members voted for a household name in the world of yachting, but one that has never graced this prestigious trophy before. At 67 years old, 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 with his crew Richard Parslow, Ruaridh Scott and Goncalo Ribeiro.

Lawrie was unable to be present at the ceremony, 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’.

Other nominees included Charlie Cumbley in the Ok Dinghy class, Ellie Aldridge in Formula Kite, and IQ Foil windsurfing star Emma Wilson.  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.

Henri Lloyd were the supporting sponsor of the 2023 YJA awards, and Graham Allen, CEO, Henri-Lloyd said, “Henri-Lloyd congratulates all the winners and it’s great to see Laurie Smith, winner of the Henri-Lloyd Outstanding Seamanship Awards in the Whitbread 89-90 race and someone who will always have a special place in the brand’s heritage, still showing incredible talent. Henri-Lloyd has over 60 years of experience keeping sailors safe, warm and comfortable, so we understand the importance of maintaining outstanding performance over many years!”.

Dragon Edinburgh Cup 2023 Cowes
Tuesday 15 August


Images copyright Rick Tomlinson.