Human Interest
Augie Diaz Named US SAILING's 2003 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year
Jan 11, 2004, 10:57

Augie Diaz
Augie Diaz of Miami, FL has been named the 2003 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. A panel of sailing journalists selected Diaz for the distinction from a shortlist of seven nominees (see below). Established in 1961 by US SAILING and sponsored by Rolex Watch U.S.A. since 1980, the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award recognizes outstanding on-the-water achievement in the calendar year just concluded.

Diaz, age 49, was recognized for his achievements as a skipper in three different one-design classes – Laser, Snipe and Star. Many of the panelists noted that Diaz has been nominated many times before; however this was his best year ever, competing in what are perhaps three of the most competitive fleets in the world. A string of regional regatta successes culminated in his win of the Snipe World Championship title and one panelist noted "his versatility in one-designs, not just one class, continues to be impressive." Diaz is the first U.S. sailor to win the Snipe World Championship since 1981. His list of achievements also includes victories at the Snipe Midwinters and the Don Q Regatta, as well as top-five finishes at the 2002 and 2003 Bacardi Cup, Star Western Hemispheres, Snipe Nationals and Rolex Laser Masters North American Championships, where he also finished second in his age division. He was named Seahorse Magazine's Sailor of the Month in May, 2003.

Diaz and Yakvenko
"I am very honored," said a humble Diaz upon learning the news. "The magnitude of the award hasn’t really hit me. I have so many people to thank, from my folks to my crew. I’ve been fortunate to sail with Jon Rogers, Christian Finsgärd, Mark Strube and Hal Haenel. I get so much pleasure from sailing; this is just so special."

From a very young age, Augie was inspired by his father’s love of sailing and the sacrifices that his parents made for their children. The Diaz family sacrificed a successful family business to leave Cuba in 1963 and settle in Clearwater, Fla., with very little money. One of the few things that the family brought to their new home was the elder Diaz’s beloved wooden Snipe, which would be instrumental in Augie’s life.

Through a stroke of luck, nine-year-old Augie was given sailing lessons instead of swimming lessons. He quickly developed a love of Optimist sailing, but outgrew the boat a few years later and started competing with his brother at Snipe junior regattas using their father’s boat. Soon the Diaz boys were competing against legendary sailors of the day – Earl Elms, Dave Ullman and Jeff Lenhart – and making an impression on everyone with whom they came in contact.

Diaz went on to Tulane University (New Orleans, La.) where he earned ICSA All-American honors three times (1975, ’74, ’73). After graduation and three unsuccessful bids for an Olympic berth in the Flying Dutchman (he lost by one point in the 1976 US Olympic trials) and Star classes (4th, with Marshall Duane, at the 1985 Star Worlds), he joined the family business and took a 15-year hiatus from sailing to dedicate time to his family.

In 1997 he returned to sailing with one goal in mind. "I decided that I was going to work and sail," Diaz said. "I figured that the feeling would pass in two to three years, but now it’s literally to the point where all I do is work and sail. Luckily my kids and my girlfriend put up with it. And at this stage the feeling isn’t going away!"

Now co-owner of his family’s medical equipment supply company, Diaz is the father of 26-year-old Daniela, 24-year-old Lucas and 22-year-old Adrian.

Other nominees for the 2003 Rolex yachtsman of the year were:
Pan Am Games Gold Medallist Tim Healy (Newport, R.I.)
ISAF Match Racing World Champion Andy Horton (Shelburne, Vt.)
J/80 World and Lightning World Champion Jay Lutz (Houston, Texas)
Laser Master and Snipe North American Champion Andrew Pimental (Newport, R.I.)
Around Alone Race winner in class two, Brad Van Liew (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.)
Etchells 22 World Champion Ken Read (Newport, R.I.), who previously won this award in 1985 and 1994

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