A NOVICE deaf Scottish sailor who led a massive rescue during a round-the-world race has won the world’s biggest yachting award - against some of the biggest stars on the water.
Gavin Reid, 28, from Edinburgh, an amateur sailor who was born profoundly deaf, has beaten his ‘heroes’, Giles Scott, the Rio 2016 Gold Medalist, and Brian Thompson, Round the Island Race Record Holder, to be honoured as the boats.com 2016 YJA Yachtsman of the Year.
The award recognised Gavin’s heroic act of seamanship whilst competing as a crew member in the Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race, when he came to the mid-ocean rescue of a sailor found trapped at the top of the mast on another yacht, which was not competing in the Clipper Race.
He and his Mission Performance crew were competing in Race 6 of the 14-stage Clipper 2015-16 Race, from Hobart to the Whitsundays, Australia, when an SOS was picked up from a yacht which had a crewman stuck at the top of the mast.
Mission Performance was the nearest to the stricken vessel and Skipper Greg Miller and his crew immediately abandoned their Clipper Race campaign to assist.
Gavin, who was born deaf in both ears and had zero sailing experience prior to signing up for the 41,000 nautical-mile Clipper Race, had quickly developed into a watch leader on board.
He volunteered to swim from the Clipper 70 to the other yacht where he found four of the crew onboard incapacitated and unable to help their crewmate who had been tangled in halyards at the top of the mast for several hours.
Using the one remaining staysail halyard, Gavin - who played for Scotland’s international deaf rugby team - was able to hoist himself two thirds of the way up the swinging mast, then climbed the rest of the way hand-over-hand to reach the crewman, untangle the lines and help to lower him down safely.
Mission Peformance then returned to the Clipper Race and were provided redress points for the incident before completing the remaining nine races of the circumnavigation.
On arrival back to London in July last year Gavin was awarded the race’s Henri Lloyd Seamanship Award.
Gavin spent the majority of his teenage years in Scotland while his father travelled with the Armed Forces.
He said: “Travelling around the world was an absolutely brilliant experience.
“I am overwhelmed by the amount of praise I have received for taking part in the rescue, though to me it pales in comparison to the achievements in yachting that others have accomplished over the year.
“I’m proud of my actions off the coast of Australia but I mostly appreciate the support that was provided by my crew mates on board Mission Performance.
Gavin has always been a world traveller as his Scottish-born father, former Colonel Alistair Reid, served in the Army, taking the family to numerous countries, including America, Kuwait, Germany and Northern Ireland.
The modest, unassuming team player, attended Marchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, during his teens and went on to represent Scotland’s Deaf Rugby team against England and Wales.
Gavin said: “We spent my teenage years in Scotland, between 12 and 18, and I consider myself Scottish.
“Although I was born in England, my dad is Scottish and I always felt Scottish while at school in Edinburgh.”
He added: “I’ve been hearing impaired since I was born so it’s been a challenge all of my life.
“I’ve had to deal with it in all aspects of my life whether that’s in work or playing sport and I thought the Clipper Race was a way of giving myself an even bigger challenge.
“Travelling and exploring has always been in my heart and this gives me a truly unique chance to explore the world from a completely different perspective.
“I’ve always had a passion for getting involved in charities and NGO work. It started during my gap year when I went to work at a centre for mentally disabled children in Tanzania and I was teaching English as a foreign language.
“From there I got a bug for doing various projects in different countries. A few years later I went on to do a health and sanitation project in villages in India.”
He got new hearing aids for the race which are waterproof.
He added: “It was interesting getting used to them because they adjust to the background noise, recognising if I am in a pub or the boat engine is running, and it cuts them out for me, so they are very clever.
“I’ve played for Scotland’s deaf rugby team and have four caps. It is something that I’m really passionate about and I have an ambitious plan to get in touch with Australian Deaf Rugby to see about setting up a deaf rugby 7s tournament.”
Previous winners of the award include Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Dame Ellen MacArthur and four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie. The Young Sailor of the Year Award was first awarded in 1993.
Gavin has four caps for the Scottish Deaf Rugby team and has always enjoyed challenges.
Like 40 per cent of Clipper Race crew, he had no previous sailing experience before embarking on his training for the 40,000 nautical mile marathon, regarded as one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges.
The award was made following a close vote taken by members of the Yachting Journalist’s Association, and places Gavin Reid in the same category as giants of the sport, Ian Walker – Volvo Ocean Race Winner, Sir Ben Ainslie – America’s Cup Winner, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston – the legendary solo sailor and Clipper Race founder, who have all won the boats.com JYA Yachtsman of the Year Award in the past four years.
Clipper Race Founder and Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “Gavin impressed tremendously during his time on the Clipper Race.
“For a young man who had never sailed before he started our training, Gavin showed great commitment and never let his inexperience hold him back.
“He quickly developed excellent sailing skills under the guidance of his Skipper, and early on was selected to be a Watch Leader.
“The Clipper Race is highly competitive but faced with any situation where a fellow sailor on another boat was in serious trouble the crew of Mission Performance, who are fully trained with a safety first mentality, upheld the tradition of the sea that you do not hesitate to go to the assistance of another sailor in distress, setting an excellent example of seamanship which is a crucial attribute for all good ocean racing sailors.
“This is the pinnacle of British sailing awards and amongst the most prestigious accolades in the sailing world. I’m very proud of Gavin and the entire crew.”
Gavin, who quit his job as a Supply Chain Coordinator, to take part in the almost year-long Clipper Race now wants to pursue a career in sailing.