The results are in, and the Cruising Club of America (CCA) has announced the recipients of its 2023 awards. Kirsten Neuschäfer of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, has received the club’s highest honor, the Blue Water Medal, awarded “in recognition of the tremendous effort, determination, and skill she exhibited during her 235-day solo circumnavigation in Minnehaha, her Cape George 36 sailboat.” Neuschäfer won the 2023 Golden Globe Race, a low-tech singlehanded homage to the original 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe. She is the first female sailor to win a solo around the world race.
Conceived by the CCA’s founding members and first awarded 100 years ago, the Blue Water Medal rewards “examples of meritorious seamanship and adventure upon the sea, displayed by amateur sailors of all nationalities.”
According to a statement from the CCA, “in her comprehensive preparation for the race and determined persistence throughout the eight-month marathon, Neuschäfer clearly demonstrated she belongs on the distinguished list of previous medalists including the two previous Golden Globe winners: Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Jean-Luc Van Den Heede. She also takes her place alongside other solo circumnavigators including Sir Francis Chichester and Bernard Moitessier.”
Max Campbell of Falmouth, UK, won the Young Voyager Award. Campbell, now 28, began his voyage eight years ago aboard a 22-foot wooden sailboat and is currently halfway around the world, having upgraded to a 37-foot Swan. He shares his accomplishments and love of sailing as a writer and social media personality.
The CCA Young Voyager Award recognizes “young sailors who have demonstrated exceptional skills and courage in their voyages.” CCA Commodore Chris Otorowski said, “Max’s achievements are a perfect example of the spirit within the CCA where we find fulfillment in ‘exploring’ the oceans and our own inner-limits aboard small boats at sea.”
Paul Bieker of Anacortes, Washington, earned the Diana Russell Award for “innovation in sailing design, methodology, education, training, safety, and the adventurous use of the sea, with a focus on recipients whose accomplishments deserve recognition by the CCA.” Bieker has 30 designs to his credit, including a series of International 14 skiffs. His development of small hydrofoils for the 14s led to foil design work for several America’s Cup campaigns, and his efforts helped win two America’s Cups (2010 and 2013).
CCA Awards Chairman Steve James said, “The CCA is proud to recognize our member, Paul Bieker. Paul’s foil designs and developments are the leading edge of our sport. With them he continues to advance sailing and the adventurous use of the sea in remarkable ways.”
Maxwell Fletcher of Orr’s Island, Maine, received the Far Horizons Award recognizing “the sailing achievements of a member who has embarked upon a cruise or series of cruises that demonstrate the broader objectives of the Club including the adventurous use of the sea.” Fletcher, a lifelong sailor, has made four Atlantic crossings and cruised throughout Europe with his wife, Lynnie. Among his notable passages is a 1985 52-day double-handed voyage aboard his Westsail 32 traveling eastward from New Zealand, around Cape Horn, to the Falkland Islands.
Ralph J. Naranjo of Annapolis, Maryland, received the Richard S. Nye Award “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the Cruising Club of America and the international sailing community.” The Nye Award, named for the late CCA commodore, is presented annually to an individual who has “brought distinction to the Club by meritorious service, outstanding seamanship, outstanding performance in long distance cruising or racing, or statesmanship in affairs of international yachting.”
Naranjo is known for his safety at sea and seamanship knowledge, instruction, and leadership displayed as a chair of US Sailing’s Safety and Seamanship Committee and while leading countless safety at sea seminars. Naranjo’s sailing career also included sailing around the world (and writing a book about it, Wind Shadow West), and managing a full-service boatyard (another book titled Boatyards & Marinas followed).
For more on the Cruising Club of America awards, click here.