Australian Sailing Awards 2018

The Australian Sailing Awards Presentation evening has only just concluded tonight and we are pleased to announce the winners in each category:

  • Male Sailor of the Year:   Matt Wearn (WA)
  • Female Sailor of the Year:   Wendy Tuck (NSW)
  • Sailor of the Year with a Disability:   Chelseann Osborne (QLD)
  • Youth Sailor of the Year:  Zac Littlewood (WA)
  • Sport Promotion Award:  Nicole Douglass (NSW)
  • Sport Professional Award:  Jordan Reece (NSW)
  • Offshore Sailor of the Year:  Wendy Tuck (NSW)
  • Volunteer of the Year:   David Kemp (QLD)
  • Official of the Year:  Mike Rogers (SA)
  • Instructor of the Year:   Alan Polglaze (WA)
  • Coach of the Year:  Michael Blackburn (NSW)
  • Lifetime Achievement: John Longley (WA)
  • CYCA SOLAS Trusts Bravery:  Phil Somerville-Ryan & Crew (WA)
  • Club of  the Year:  Sandringham Yacht Club (VIC)
  • President's Award – Kevin & Ross Wilson

Congratulations to all winners and finalists for the 2018 Australian Sailing awards.  In particular, we acknowledge the RFBYC nominations who won in their respective categories: 

Male Sailor of the Year – Matt Wearn

Matt started sailing at the age of 7 years in the Optimist Class before moving into 420's.  However, he was not long in 420's when he started looking at the Laser Class.  In the first instance, Matt became attracted to the single-handed Class as he did not need to rely on someone else to sail the boat.  He was able to sail and make decisions without being dependent on a crew.   

Matt's first World Championships was the 2010 Laser Radial Youth World Championships where he finished 14th in the Silver fleet.  This was a tremendous learning experience and only spurred Matt on to keep achieving.

The following year the ISAF World Championships were held in Perth in 2011.  This was an incredible opportunity for Matt to sail on ‘home’ waters against the world’s best, as sailors prepared for the Olympics. 

In 2012 Matt finished 2nd at the Laser Radial Men’s World Championships and 10th at the 2013 Laser Standard Men’s Championships.  From this point onwards, Matt was a regular fixture in the top 10 at Championships. 

In 2012 Matt gained a place in the Australian Sailing Squad. This greatly assisted Matt with improving his results.  Being part of a squad showed Matt what was required on and off the water to be competitive. 

In addition to membership at RFBYC, Matt is also a member at Fremantle Sailing Club and Royal Perth Yacht Club.  All Clubs are very fortunate to have such a talented sailor as a member, Matt is an amazing role model for so many of our up and coming young sailors.

Matt has certainly achieved some inspiring results over the past 12 months with stand-outs being his 1st place at the Laser Senior Europeans with 160 competitors and a 2nd placing at the Laser World Championships with 165 competitors.   Matt is also currently the Laser National Champion.

Matt’s goal is for selection to represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.  He has always shown dedication and commitment to his sailing and with his passion and determination, he places himself in good stance to achieve his dream.

Youth Sailor of the Year – Zac Littlewood

Zac Littlewood has had an outstanding year of sailing, cementing his position as a major contender in the Laser Radial Class.

Zac started the year competing in the Australian Laser Association Open Nationals in Queensland where he placed 1st from a field of 90 boats from 6 countries.  He followed up on this by competing in the Australian Youth Championships where he finished 4th, resulting in the Laser Radial boy’s place in the Australian Youth Sailing Team.

An unfortunate off water injury saw Zac unable to sail until late March.  It was a slow return to the water with reduced time on the water and minimal time in the gym. 

With Zac’s health improving he travelled to Karatsu in Japan for the Junior Olympic Cup at the end of April.  This is the Japanese qualifying event for the Youth Worlds.  Zac won the event from a field of 40 boats.  A pleasing result considering he had only returned to the water after his injury.

Whilst juggling mid-semester exams, Zac travelled twice to Sydney for training camps with the Youth team and the Australian Sailing Women’s Laser Radial Squad.  It was during this period, Zac decided to travel to Kiel, Germany for the Laser Radial Open Men’s World Championships as part of Kiel Week.  Zac considered this event would be a good warm up and assist with his preparation for the Youth Worlds in July.

Travelling to Kiel on his own added another component to the usual regatta pressure. Due to his injury earlier in the year, Zac’s expectations were not high.  He was very much focussed on the learning experience from this event.

Zac started to lead the overall results on Day 2 and managed to hold onto his lead and win by 15 points.  His individual race result was 4,1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 6, 3 and 4.   A drop was allowed, resulting in a nett of 18 point in a field of 90 boats.  Zac became the youngest person to win an ILCA Laser Radial Open Men’s World Championships and one of the youngest Australians to win an Open Sailing Championships.

Zac returned home for a few days to refocus before flying to Sydney for a training camp and then onto America for the Youth Worlds.  

The Youth Worlds in Corpus Christi, Texas was a wonderful experience.  Zac felt by far this event was the strongest fleet he had ever competed in and fought hard for every point, maintaining really strict routines on and off the water.  Unfortunately, due to some mistakes on Day 3, Zac dropped out of the lead and slipped to 3rd overall, missing out on 2nd by 1 point on the final day.  Still, a tremendous result for Zac and Australia.

Zac’s racing this year has been quite significant to his growth as an athlete.  He’s experienced racing at the high end of each event he competed in.  Winning a World Championship has only spurred Zac on and is keen for another World title.

RFBYC is very proud of Zac’s achievements.  Zac is a mature young man and his dedication, commitment and passion to his sailing is evident by his successful results.  When not training or racing, Zac finds time to volunteer at the Club.  We imagine this would not an easy feat particularly as he also needs to find time to study for his Year 12 exams.

Instructor of the Year – Alan Polglaze

Alan Polglaze, or Poly as he is affectionately known as, is a remarkably talented and multifaceted instructor across many aspects of our sport.

Poly not only demonstrates but epitomises the qualities desired in a respected and effective instructor – he is knowledgeable, inclusive, passionate and dedicated.  In short, he is an outstanding instructor and role model to many in the sailing community. 

Poly’s amicable and humorous teaching style is congruent with his passion for youth development in our sport. Over the past few years he has been heavily involved as a lead instructor for the Christ Church Grammar School (CCGS) sports program based at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club. Poly instructs boys from Year 5 to 12 four days each week – it is a privilege to see the rapport he has developed with each boy and the respect that they have for him, certainly a mark of a great instructor.

As a lead instructor, Poly also takes an active role in the development and mentoring of younger instructors – he shares his wealth of knowledge and experience with all the junior instructors. Poly is a rare find – a qualified instructor in all four of the Australian Sailing instructor qualifications – dinghy, powerboat, keelboat and Tackers.

He is renowned for his passion, patience and attention to detail. His willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ is appreciated, he is always available to spend additional time with participants, fellow instructors, parents or teachers to assist them.

Poly’s enthusiasm and ability to connect with the different age groups across his instructing work is a credit to him – whether they be Little Tackers on their first sail or seasoned sailors in a powerboat handling course he takes it all in his stride.

As an instructor and advisor Poly has played an integral role in WA’s two largest discover sailing events of the 2017-18 season – the Perth International Boat Show (Sept 2017) and the City of Perth Festival of Sail run in conjunction with the Warren Jones International Youth Regatta (Jan 2018). Aside from his involvement in the planning stages, Poly was a team leader in the instructing team responsible for delivering 800 Keelboat Discover Sailing experiences across the two events.

Poly also enjoys introducing new people to the sport of sailing through Swan River Sailing corporate charters and team building experiences, further sharing his love of the sport with others. He is looking forward to heading to Christmas and Cocos Islands later this year to facilitate power boat handling skill development with a number of locals.

Poly’s wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm is unrivalled in our sailing community. He is dedicated and passionate about all aspects of our sport, particularly the development of the future generation of sailing. RFBYC is exceptionally proud to have Poly involved with our Club.

Lifetime Achievement Award – John Longley

John learnt to sail in Navy 27ft Whalers as a Navy cadet at Hale School.  Later he joined RFBYC and started sailing Cadet Dinghies and then Gwen 12’s.  John grew too big for dinghy sailing and moved on to ocean racing and sailed a number of seasons with Peter Packer on his yachts Corsair and Hotspur, culminating in his first Sydney Hobart in 1968/69.

John was then invited by Alan Bond to sail on Apollo during the English summer of 1971 doing his first Fastnet Race that year. Alan subsequently invited John to sail in the Onion Patch Series off Newport, culminating in the Newport to Bermuda Race and then the Trans Atlantic from Bermuda to Spain.

John became a full-time employee of Alan Bond’s first America’s Cup challenge.  As a part of that challenge Apollo II was built, Australia’s first aluminium racing yacht and was selected in Australia’s Admiral Cup team. He sailed as a forward hand on Southern Cross in the 1974 Admiral's Cup, beating the French but losing out to Courageous 4:0.  In 1975 he worked for a British Admiral’s Cup team.  They weren’t selected by the British but they ended up sailing the 1975 Admiral’s Cup representing Switzerland.  John went onto sail in the 1981 Admiral’s Cup on board Apollo V with Australia placed 2nd that year.  So in all, John competed in three Admiral’s Cups and in those days, the event was equivalent to a World Championship of ocean racing.

Returning to Perth, John started sailing in Lasers at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (RFBYC) before he was called up again for Bond’s second tilt at the Cup.  He sailed as a forward hand on Australia, but was beaten by Courageous, this time sailed by Ted Turner.

John returned to sailing Lasers at RFBYC but once again was asked to be a part of the 1980 America’s Cup Challenge.  Australia successfully beat the other three challengers but was beaten by Dennis Connor in Freedom 4:1. At the completion of the Cup he was appointed as the project manager for the 1983 Challenge.  John coordinated the construction of Australia II and the initial crew training.  Although his role was intended to be managerial, John Bertrand wanted John back on the boat, so he was part of the successful challenge from both the shore side battle with the New York YC and as a grinder during the races.

On returning to Australia, John was appointed as the General Manager of the Bond Defence Syndicate.  They built three 12 metres, South Australia, Australia III and Australia IV.  In addition to his managerial role he sailed on Australia IV as a grinder but unfortunately, they were beaten by Kookaburra III and were not able to defend what they had won.

After the Cup, the Bond 12’s were sold to a Japanese syndicate that saw them taking Australia III to Sardinia for the World 12m Championships where they came second once again to Kookaburra.  By this time the New Zealanders had challenged the Americans in a Deed of Gift Match for the next AC between a giant monohull and a catamaran.  Other Challengers could not compete so Alan Bond asked John to initiate a project to build a replica of Captain James Cook’s ship of discovery, HM Bark Endeavour, for the Australian National Maritime Museum.

While doing the Endeavour project John continued to manage the Bond America’s Cup interests.  After the Americans successfully defended the Cup in San Diego in 1988, a Protocol was agreed between the Defenders and the Challengers as to how the America’s Cup would proceed after the final legal arguments were settled.  John was appointed to manage this Protocol that included the selection of the class of yacht for the next Match.  He worked with a group of like-minded people, Iain Murray and Ken McAlpine from Australia, Tom Ehman from the US and Derek Clark from the UK, to develop a new class.  This culminated in a 5-day meeting in Southampton attended by virtually all the world’s leading designers that led to the creation of the International America’s Cup Class.  John chaired all the meetings in Southampton, which was an extraordinary five days.  Subsequently 100 of these yachts were built and the Cup had a golden period through to 2007 sailing the IACC class.

Meanwhile Bond Corporation fell on hard times and abandoned the Endeavour project with the ship only roughly half built.  With support from several people they formed a Foundation, raised the remaining $7m required and completed the construction of Endeavour.  John then managed the project as they sailed her around Australia, New Zealand and, subsequently, the globe.  In that time, they visited nearly 150 ports where the ship was put on exhibition to tell Cook’s story.

John left Endeavour in 1999 and became the CEO of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce.  While there he worked with a group, Peter Gilmour, Ron Packer, Skip Lissiman, Ian Campbell and others to successfully bid for the 2011 ISAF World Championships.  He was appointed the Event Director for what became the world’s biggest Olympic class sailing regatta with over 1200 sailors and 800 boats from over 70 nations.  During that time John was also involved with the Duyfken Foundation as a Board Member and subsequently Chair and oversaw the 2006 “Australia on the Map” circumnavigation and later on the 2016 “Hartog 400th Anniversary” voyage.

Since 2002 John has been an active Dragon sailor and he is currently Chairing the Organising Committee for the 2019 Dragon Worlds in Fremantle.


  • 1983  Member of the Order of Australia (AM)
  • 1984  La Medaille de Ville de Paris – Argent Classe
  • 1988 Member of the Bicentenary award for Australia II as the Greatest Australian Sporting Team for the first 200 years
  • 1994 Ron Tough Yachting Foundation Gold Medal winner
  • 1999 Australian Sports Medal
  • 2000 Australian Centenary Medal
  • 2007 Inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame
  • 2012 West Australian Citizen of the Year – Sport
  • 2012 Ron Tough Yachting Foundation Gold Medal winner
  • 2017 Inducted into the Australian Sailing Hall of Fame

CYCA SOLAS Trust Bravery Award – Phil Somerville-Ryan & Huckleberry Crew

Phil Somerville-Ryan and his crew (Robin Morritt, Gareth Owen-Conway, Cameron Biddle, Bruce Ellery) of 'Huckleberry', an SS34, are long-standing and respected competitors of the offshore racing community in WA.  They regularly compete in the Ocean Racing WA races as well as being a regular in their own club racing on the Swan River and inter-Club events such as the Swan River Retro Yacht Series for older yachts.

Huckleberry was one of 18 entrants in the 70th Bunbury & Return Ocean Race.

The race started from Fremantle Harbour at 1730 on Friday, 23 February 2018.  It was a spectacular start inside the Port to commemorate the 70th edition of the race.  Tragedy struck the yacht Finistere at around midnight on that evening.  The fleet was approximately 70 – 80 kms south of Fremantle.

The emergency authorities were alerted via activation of PLB's worn by the crew of Finistere and a search and rescue operation commenced. Through radio communications the team on Huckleberry alerted to the situation and with-out hesitation, joined in the rescue operation.  They understood that there were fellow sailors in the water, clinging to their upturned vessel and that their best chance of survival was a rescue from another boat.  Three yachts headed to the position reported to them by the search and rescue operation to assist.

Huckleberry commenced a search and made contact with the upturned hull of Finistere shortly thereafter.  Having established contact with the survivors in the water, the crew of Huckleberry proceeded to affect a rescue of three of the sailors from Finistere who were immediately taken below were first aid and care was administered.  The search and rescue operation conducted by Mandurah VMR subsequently recovered one further survivor plus sadly one deceased.  The remaining crew member was recovered deceased at midday the next day.

The prompt and decisive actions of the crew of Huckleberry undoubtedly had a direct bearing on the successful recovery the three sailors rescued.

The seamanship shown during the rescue in getting close to the hull of Finistere to affect the rescue whilst not jeopardising their own safety is to be commended.  Not only that, their positive identification of the upturned hull was reported directedly to the rescue services who were able to arrive quickly on scene by boat, extract the unconscious sailor and remaining trapped sailor from within the hull.

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