Sailor Brad Collins, once of Cambridge High School, has been honoured at the annual Volvo Yachting Excellence Awards.
Judges for Yachting New Zealand’s awards event, held in Auckland last month, could not separate two successful crews who between them broke a 44-year drought and helped Dongfeng Race Team win the closest Volvo Ocean Race in history.
So, both were named Orbit World Travel Sailors of the Year at the awards evening in Auckland.
Brad Collins, David McDiarmid and Matthew Steven became the first New Zealand team to get their hands on the JJ Giltinan Trophy in 44 years when they triumphed by one point over another New Zealand crew, Maersk Line (Daryl Wislang and Stu Bannatyne) in Sydney in March. It was Wislang’s second victory in the round the world race and Bannatyne’s fourth, making him the most successful sailor in Volvo Ocean Race history. The event is considered the world championships of 18-foot skiff racing.
All five sailors were presented with the Sir Bernard Fergusson Trophy at the awards evening last month.
“It was huge surprise and honor to win the award,” said Collins. “We don’t sail to win awards like this; however, it’s awesome to receive recognition for our hard work over the last three years.”
He added that it was “amazing” to be recognized alongside Stu Bannatyne and Daryl Wislang, whom he described as “yachting legends”.
But Collins proved to be quite the legend himself, securing the iconic regatta win after suffering a serious ankle injury before the start of the first race. “It almost finished my regatta before it even began,” he said.
The victory was the team’s third attempt to win the JJ Giltinan Trophy, coming second by one point in their first attempt and finishing third the second time after they were controversially involved in a protest with one of the Australian boats. “So to finish the regatta on top this year was a huge relief and a massive accomplishment.
“It was a surreal feeling to sail through the finish line in the last race.”
Collins and his team plan to “have a crack” at defending their title next year in Sydney Harbour. “We are currently preparing with the rest of the NZ team for the JJ Gilitinan Regatta and it’s shaping up to be a big year,” he said. “The Aussies are not pleased that we took the trophy off them, and this has brought a few very talented Aussie crews out of the woodwork.”