By Talbot Wilson
The international match racing community paid Bermuda’s legendary Jordy Walker a well-earned tribute at the prizegiving for the Argo Group Gold Cup. The Match Racing Association (MRA), formerly known as the World Match Racing Association (WMRA), presented the first anual Jordy Walker Trophy to Phil Robertson of New Zealand.
The Jordy Walker Trophy recognizes 24 year-old Phil Robertson as the most improved young match race sailor who competes in World Match Racing Tour events or other events that automaticlly qualify a skipper for a Tour event.
Past Commodore of the Royal Bernuda YC Brian Billings enumerted Robertson’s achievements from his starting days in the New Zealand youth sailing program through his match racing in New Zealand, then on to the USA West coast and on to Europe and the Pacific rim. In 2009 he was 11th in the Argo Group Gold Cup. In 2010 he was 10th and this year he finished 4th. He is a Tour Card holder on the World Match Racing Tour, ranked 10th on the Tour and 7th in the ISAF Open ranklings.
Phil accepted on behalf of his team saying it is a team sport. “It is an honor to receive the first Jordy Walker Trophy. We thank the Walker family for all they have done for Match Race sailing.”
The trophy will be on permanent display in the King Edward VII Gold Cup Trophy display case in the entrance foyer of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
Jordy Walker, a man who gave his heart and soul to sailing and the sport of sailboat racing, used his time, money and talent to promote the sport he loved, to introduce the modern format of match racing to Bermuda. And, in fact, he brought match racing to the World in 1988 through the establishment of the WMRA and its match racing championship events he helped establish around the globe.
Jordy built and rebuilt the International One Design boats that have sailed match races for the King Edward VII Gold Cup much of the 20th century and now into the 21st. Before racing for the cup was reorgaized to its current format, Jordy won it in 1977. He was active in fitted dinghy design and racing and as a member of the Fitted Dinghy Association, he introduced match racing to that class by establishing the Queen’s Birthday Regatta. He was a past director of the Bermuda Maritime Museum and the Bermuda National Trust.
“Jordy would be proud that the trophy given by the MRA in his name is going to young sailors on the rise,” said his wife Mary. “Jordy helped format the Bermuda Gold Cup match race with the 24-team eevntt to help encourage young sailors to come to the island to sail against the world’s best.’
“He was focused on the promotion of youth sailing here in Bermuda, revamping the Bermuda Yachting Association to bring professional coaching to young sailors. Jordy strongly supported the goal of making sailing a national sport. After all Bermuda is an island and sailing is part of our life and heritage.”
IOD World Class Presiodent, Bermudian Bob Duffy gave Walker high praise, “Jordy’s committed involvement led to the King Edward VII Gold Cup reinventing itself to provide the cut and thrust of professional match racing right in the heart of Hamilton Harbour – spectators in the front row, ESPN television coverage, prize money and sponsorship.”
“The result, a new breed of sailor – the professional match racer. Names like Baird, Holmberg, Gilmour, Coutts and Spithill, the cream-of-the-cream in the world of sailing, all cut their teeth on the Gold Cup.”
Tim Patton, who knew Jordy well for forty years said, “Let's sumarise just a few of Jordy’s accomplishments… Olympic yachtsman, boat builder; not just two fitted dinghies but a couple of Luders, and a whole fleet of One Designs. Commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, member of the St. Georges Foundation, member of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation and helped develop the concept of the Spirit of Bermuda, he was President of the International One Design World Class and President and Secretary of the World Match Racing Association.”
“Clearly, Patton continued, “Jordy had a passion and a vision for sailing and sailboat racing; but surely, if there is one aspect of his dedication to this sport which sticks out, it was his interest in and his exhausting energy for Match Racing. The Gold Cup event, now the most revered on the Match Race Tour, was the brainchild and product of this remarkable man and the team which he built around himself. Indeed, the World Match Race Circuit would be a much different thing and perhaps would not even exist if it weren't for Jordy Walker.”
“Jordy paved the way through his somewhat uncanny mixture of charm, tenacity, and when needed, a little bit of gall.” Patton added, “Bermuda and particularly our youth will reap the benefits of these unflagging character traits for many years to come.
MRA member Ted Weisburg said, “"For me, it was Jordy's unwavering vision for the MRA and its mission. So much of what we all more or less take for granted today in the world of world class match racing events are all a by product of his vision. Jordy was such a big part of the program from the very beginning. He has always been there for the sport and the WMRA/MRA and its member events through thick and thin. He was the compass of match racing. And most important a wonderful person and it was truly a privilege to be his friend."
Sail on, Jordy— May your spirit symbolized by the Jordy Walker Trophy be a guiding light for many generations of sailors in Bermuda and around the world.