At Sailing Shrine, Annapolis Yachtsman To Be Exalted


February 13, 1991|By Nancy Noyes

His friends and fellow sailors often refer to Jim Brady as "Diamond Jim," although he bears no resemblance to the blustering, ostentatious gambler.

The title acknowledges the glittering string of victories he has amassed, especially over the past year, in which nearly every event he sailed became another jewel in his sailing crown.

Today, shortly after noon at the august and elegant New York Yacht Club, the 27-year-old Annapolis resident will be named the 1990 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year.

Brady will receive an engraved Rolex watch and see his name engraved on a diamond-like Steuben crystal trophy permanently displayed at the NYYC as he joins American sailing's most elite class, whose achievements have shone above the competition.

Awarded each year since 1961, the Rolex is presented to the individual American yachtsman and yachtswoman who have exhibited the essenceof sailing excellence through outstanding on-the-water sailing achievements in the previous calendar year. The winners are selected each year by a panel of noted sailing journalists from a list of nominees submitted by USYRU members.

Brady is the second local sailor to behonored with the Rolex title; Annapolitan Susan Dierdorff Taylor wasnamed Yachtswoman of the Year in 1987. As was the case with Taylor'saward, the selection of Brady is popular here but is hardly a surprise to those who have followed his sailing career.

In 1990 Brady earned J/24 and J/22 World Championships; J/24 European, East Coast andMidwinter Championships and Kiel Week J/24 and overall victories. Healso captured numerous Soling titles, national and international, aspart of Kevin Mahaney's Olympic quest. Mahaney, Brady and Doug Kern are ranked the No. 1 U.S. team and are the U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee's Athletes of the Year.

Joining Brady in the ceremony's spotlight is this year's Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, Courtenay Becker,25, of Rye, N.Y., a strong Olympic hopeful and past USYRU Women's Singlehanded Champion. Becker's 1990 successes here and abroad have earned her positions on the U.S. Sailing Team in both Lechner sailboards and Europe dinghies. She is ranked No. 1 in Europe by the USOYC.

"I've always wanted to win the Rolex, from the day I knew what it wasand what it meant," Brady said. "I don't feel I've really stepped upthe ladder and become a much better sailor in the last year. What I did was get myself really organized and get a lot of really good people together to sail with me.

"I look at a sailing campaign like a business, where organization, focus and direction make the difference."

Brady began sailing at 15 in his native Florida, and quickly became a skilled and successful competitor. As a Junior sailor, he competed regularly on the Laser circuit and often crewed on top J/24s.

In 1983 he won his first national one-design regatta, the U.S. LaserNational Championship. He was named a Collegiate All-American from the College of Charleston, where he was designated Most Valuable Sailor in 1985, for his outstanding record in the single-handed, double-handed and sloop divisions of the Intercollegiate Yacht Racing Association Championships.

Brady moved to Annapolis about 2 years ago. Hehas been a sailmaker for the past six years and joined a top one-design department, bridging North Sails Chesapeake and North Sails Marblehead a little over a year ago. Other sailing credits include co-skippering winners in the SORC, winning his class at the 1989 Audi-Yachting Race Week at Key West, and serving as tactician on the Annapolis-based Ultimate 30 Maryland Flyer.

While Becker's achievements are primarily in single-handed classes, Brady's focus these days is on team-effort boats. He has been typically quick to share credit for his Rolex win as well as the other victories with the sailors who have helped him in his various campaigns.

"I have a lot of very important supporters, including my family, the people that have helped out with volunteer work on our Olympic campaign and, of course, all the people who were on board with me," he said. "My record was the result of alot of good sailing on the part of my teammates and crew. I just wish I could share the (Rolex) honor, as I have my victories, with the great sailors who have made it possible."

"Diamond Jim" Brady is anall-around class act who could just as easily be called "Gentleman Jim." His Rolex title is popular in the U.S. sailing community, where he is well-liked and admired. His evenhanded poise, strong sense of sportsmanship and charm are refreshing attributes. Brady quietly admits to a competitive streak but seldom reveals it away from the race course, earning him respect even among his fiercest rivals.

A longer-term goal at which Brady has hinted is an America's Cup campaign, perhaps five years down the road. But with the U.S. Olympic Trials set for next summer, his immediate plans are focused on winning a gold medal in Barcelona in the '92 Games.

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