ELLSWORTH — For devotees of high school sailing, it doesn’t seem all that long ago that Will Welles was a star skipper for the Mount Desert Island High School sailing team, racing fiercely against George Stevens Academy in Southwest Harbor or Castine.
In fact, it has been a long time and the 1993 MDIHS graduate has gone a long way. Last weekend, three men were nominated for US Sailing’s 2018 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, one of the most prestigious awards in American yachting. Welles was one of them.
At the same time, the organization released its shortlist of nominations for Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.
According to US Sailing, the award was established in 1961 by the national governing body for the sport in the United States and has been sponsored by Rolex Watch, U.S.A. since 1980.
The annual awards “recognize the individual male and female U.S. sailors who have demonstrated on-the-water excellence at international and national events to earn their place in the history of the sport.”
The three Yachtsman finalists each earned his way onto the list by winning a J/Boat World Championship in 2018. Welles won the J/24 Word Championship on Lake Garda in Italy last September.
Besides Welles, the nominees are: Zeke Horowitz of Annapolis, Md., winner of the J/22 World Championship on Chesapeake Bay, who also won the Flying Scot North American Championship in Texas and was second at the Viper 640 North American Championship in Kingston, Ontario; and Jud Smith, of Gloucester, Mass., the 2006 Yachtsman of the Year and winner of the J/70 World Championship in Marblehead, Mass.
Finalists for US Sailing’s 2018 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award include: Carmen and Emma Cowles of Larchmont, N.Y.; Daniela Moroz of Lafayette, Calif.; and Paige Railey of Clearwater, Fla.
For the second year in a row, the Cowles twins captured the Youth Sailing World Championships gold medal in the women’s I-420 doublehanded dinghy event, among other accomplishments.
Moroz won her third consecutive Women’s Formula Kiteboard competition at the Hempel Sailing World Championships in Denmark.
Railey, a two-time Olympian and 2006 Rolex World Sailor of the Year and Yachtswoman of the Year, had success racing Laser Radials in Europe.
Welles landed his second J/24 world championship title in four years last September. One of 89 teams from 14 countries, Welles and his team led throughout the week of racing.
Welles and his late father, Adm. Ted Welles, were instrumental in starting the sailing team at MDIHS and what is now the Community Sailing School in Southwest Harbor. The annual Welles Cup Regatta, raced by MDIHS and George Stevens Academy, honors Welles’s father.
After graduating from high school in 1993, Welles went on to sail for the University of New Hampshire team. He has lived in Newport, R.I., with his wife and daughter for the last 16 years. There he sails frequently and works for North Sails One Design.