Raymarine Sailor of the Year – 2019 – Mike Hayton

Mike Hayton – SAILING Magazines Sailor of the Year for 2019.
pic by Liesl King

by Richard Crockett

Congratulations to Mike Hayton on becoming SAILING Magazine’s 19th Sailor of the Year.

Raymarine and MDM Marine Services have continued sponsoring this award throughout 2019, and with it there is a handsome sum of money to the winner. Please support our sponsor.

Now in its 19th year, the winners’ Roll of Honour reads something like a who’s who of sailors in South Africa.

One of the key aspects to this award is that it is sailor driven, with anyone permitted to make a nomination. The monthly ‘Sailor of the Month’ awards are a good indication of those sailors performing at their peak, giving the panel of anonymous judges some tough decisions to make on occasions.

I would like to thank the panel of anonymous judges for their monthly input, and for being in touch with those performing at the top of our sport. They don’t have an easy job, but do it willingly and with integrity. Thank you.

I do however need to make a public plea – and that is for ALL the sailors out there, their families, friends, supporters, crew, and skippers too, to submit nominations on a monthly basis. It is the people out there on the water who often have a really good idea as to who is at the top of the sport. Without nominations some noteworthy performances have not received the recognition they deserve.

It is important to understand that I am the only person who knows the origin of the nomination, and this info is NOT passed on to the judges. So parents, family and crew can be secure in the knowledge that whomever they nominate is confidential.

The nomination process is on our website and Blog HERE

In closing I would like to congratulate Mike Hayton on his award which is richly deserved as he is a man who personally puts so much into our sport in so many different ways. The following interview with Mike Hayton gives an insight into the man, and was conducted by William Crockett.

Interview. Mike Hayton – Raymarine Sailor of the Year

You have had a really good year results wise – on both the big and small ‘Nitro’ – starting with Mykonos and the Fling regatta and obviously ending with Lipton and other races. So what are your highlights with each on the big boat and small boat this year?
I think the highlights were obviously Mykonos which was a good result for us taking three of the four trophies on offer – both the overall champion race from Cape Town to Mykonos, and then my favourite race of the year which is the pursuit race in Saldanha Bay which we managed to win. So that was the highlight of the year on the big boat. On the small boat, Lipton was obviously the highlight for me there.

Sure, that makes sense. So now that the big boat has been sold, are you concentrating only on the Cape 31 or do you have any other plans to do some coastal or long distance races, or even some international events?
At the moment I have got my options open. I have got mixed feelings on selling the big boat as we had so much fun with her, although I think that the time was right to sell her and let it go. I think we’d achieved what we wanted to achieve with that boat, so now my options are open for the next project and the next challenge. Hopefully I will do some international regattas, with the J22 Worlds in Durban in July a definite. We bought two J22s to campaign in the worlds, so that is our immediate focus right now. Hopefully we’ll get some of the other top sailors to come and compete too.

So you and your team had a massive Lipton Cup despite the kelp and the heart-in-mouth final race when things were quite tight and it looked as if victory might be stolen away from you. Was this a defining moment in your sailing career?
I think it was. For me it definitely was a defining moment and I think the last race in particular was a defining moment because that showed the character of the team we had been building over the year, and the talent and the resolve of the guys on the team that when all seemed lost it was literally a case of “guys – heads down and lets go”. That’s when the years of practice and the years of sailing together and years of understanding each other all came together at a single point in one single race. It maybe was the most emotional race of my career, but also the defining race as well. The overall Lipton win for me was definitely a defining moment of my life – you know sailing with guys on the boat who have won it multiple times – I can’t speak for them but ‘sjoe’ – it was a defining moment for me.

As defenders of the cup you have some sway as to how the event is going to be shaped in 2020. Can you reveal any plans?
No, not really revealing any details other than we are progressing very well with planning. Being up in Langebaan comes with its own challenges, but I think Club Mykonos is coming to the party and I have had some good meetings with the yacht clubs up in that area and they seem to be well behind the event, so I think it is going to be a really great event.

Are there any long term changes you would like to see implanted in the Lipton Cup?
I think after the last couple of years, the biggest changes in the right direction have been made. I don’t think we want to mess with the formula too much as I personally don’t want to see it along the lines of the America’s Cup and all its shenanigans. We are happy that the Trustees have taken the right decision with the Cape 31, I would like to see more participation and I think we need to find ways where more clubs can become more involved in the short term. I think in the long term they will be more involved. So no, no major changes.

On both the big and the small boats, crew selection is vital to your success. How do you go about choosing your crew?
I think the key is to find the key guys in the key positions on the big boat. Dave Rae has been absolutely instrumental in the Nitro campaign as he is a key guy. Selecting the right guys around the strengths and weaknesses we have got on the boat is vitally important and this has resulted in quite a cool campaign. We are attracting some of the top sailors around Cape Town, and across South Africa, who want to join our programme. It is a cool thing that cool guys are keen to join us.

So Mike, you have been at the top of your sailing game for a few years now – almost always on the podium – what is your recipe for success?
I think the recipe for success has been attitude and obviously selecting the correct team members. I have got the right attitude towards racing. You know in yacht racing, or in whatever sport you are involved in, competition is competition, and if you are not putting it all in you are not going to get anything out. To me this is what it is about.

Cool, thanks, that is a great answer.

I suppose the next question you have already answered! Is there one single crew member who stands head and shoulders above the rest that you simply have to have on your boat? I would guess it is probably David Rae?
Ya, probably David Rae. I think he is one of the most underrated sailors in South Africa and he is certainly more talented than many people give him credit for. Obviously Dave Rae has been a key component to my success in many respects. I respect him and his ability, so I give him his head and let him run the boat.

Final question Mike. Are you happy with the way sailing is developing in this country and if not, what would you like to see more of?
It is a difficult question to answer. I think we are trying to move in the right direction, although the sport of sailing in general is struggling with competition from easier and more accessible sports. So we have to soldier on. Also, because we made the bold decision to build the Cape 31 shows that we South African sailors can compete at an international level, and this has brought back the top sailors our country has produced over many years. Many came back to compete with and against us in the Lipton Cup. So from that perspective we are moving in the right direction. But we are struggling with numbers on the base level, and I don’t have the answer to that although I really wish I did. I do wish that I had some of the answers and the money to fix sailing in South Africa.

Roll of Honour – Sailors of the Year

2020NO AWARD
DUE TO COVID-19
2019Mike Hayton
2018Tina Plattner
2017Alex Burger & Benji Daniel
2016Rob van Rooyen
2015Stefano Marcia
2014Blaine Dodds
2013Asenathi Jim
2012Roger Hudson
2011Stefano Marcia
2010Asenathi Jim
2009Taariq Jacobs
2008David Hudson
2007Dominique Provoyeur
2006Craig Millar
2005Shaun Ferry
2004Justin Onvlee
2003Dominique Provoyeur
2002Golden Mgedza
2001John Eloff