The first three recipients of a coveted Bowsprit award were celebrated on the eve of the Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) at a special gala dinner organised by The Superyacht Life Foundation and the Monaco Yacht Show.

The ‘Honours’ event was set up to recognise the extraordinary people making a difference in the superyachting industry, taking the focus away from the yachts and placing the spotlight firmly on the good that happens behind the scenes in the day-to-day superyachting life.

This year’s honourees, drawn from over 360 nominations received from the industry and carefully selected by an expert panel of judges, epitomise the heart and soul of the superyachting sector. 

They included Wendy Schmidt, an American philanthropist, superyacht owner and competitive sailor who is passionate about understanding and restoring the ocean and its connection to all life on Earth. Through the Schmidt Family Foundation, Schmidt Ocean Institute and other non-profit organisations, Wendy has helped advance ocean science and research, notably by providing a state-of-the-art research vessel Falkor to scientists worldwide at no cost in exchange for making their research and discoveries publicly available.

Wendy also co-founded 11th Hour Racing to raise awareness of ocean health and solutions for sustainability in the sailing and maritime industry.

An accomplished helmswoman, she recently became the first woman and the first American to win the Barcolana 54, the world’s largest sailing yacht race. Wendy is helping shape the next generation of yachts, drive innovation in materials and lifecycle assessment tools, and educate the general public to understand the critical importance of the ocean.

Another worthy winner was Jenny Matthews who decided at the age of 18 that she was going to sideline university and become a superyacht captain. Facing the challenges of an industry where not many women were working on deck, she persisted nonetheless and worked her way up to gain an Officer of the Watch certificate.

This led her to reach out on social media and form She of the Sea, a community for women working in the deck and engineering departments that would serve not only as a networking and knowledge-sharing platform, but also as a launchpad to inspire the next generation of female deck and engineer candidates.

The initiative was followed by the launch of Legasea, which shifted the conversation from gender to focus on mentoring the next generation of yacht crew of all genders, providing support, knowledge and a community throughout their careers including, when the time comes, to move shoreside.

The third honouree was Zoran Selakovic. Born and raised in what is now Croatia, he fell in love with the sea from an early age which led him to complete his skippering qualifications and cruise extensively. It was his first-hand experience of watching friends in the Caribbean lose everything they had in Hurricanes Irma and Maria that encouraged him to find out how he could help. It was after meeting the founder of YachtAid Global, Mark Drewelow that Zoran stepped in to help coordinate aid through YachtAid Global, which received offers from more than 100 superyachts to assist in relief efforts within two weeks.

Since then, as YachtAid Global’s director, Zoran has been involved in projects as diverse as disaster relief, building the first public library in the Galapagos, helping provide clean drinking water in Mexico, and coordinating Operation Swimway, which aims to add the migratory routes of pelagics to ocean conservation areas; all with the help of over 300 yachts, including thousands of yacht crew and owners.

The gala evening – sponsored by Agusta, Begüm Yachting, BWA Yachting, Feadship, Preciosa, Richard Mille, and RINA – was held at Hauser & Wirth’s stunning gallery in Monaco on Place du Casino. An exclusive audience of superyacht owners and select VIP guests enjoyed a champagne and canapé reception while previewing the latest exhibition by artist Mark Bradford before enjoying an experiential dinner that included ballet and opera performances and a sea-inspired, locally-sourced menu highlighting the culinary flair of Monaco.

Following dinner, guests were treated to a short documentary film of each of the honourees, before the laureates were called to the main stage to receive their coveted award. The evening’s host, environmental and ocean conservation advocate Mariasole Bianco, invited them to discuss their backgrounds in more detail, including their passion for the superyacht industry and efforts to make a difference to humanity through their philanthropic, charitable, environmental and community-based initiatives.

“The evening was a wonderful expression of the good that exists in the superyachting good life, highlighting that there is so much more to this industry, its owners and crew than meets the eye,” said Dilan Saraç, executive director of Superyacht Life Foundation.

“Our three inaugural honourees are all well deserving of the award, and they have set a high bar for future nominations, which we have no doubt the industry will meet because of the breadth of talent and heart that lies within all facets of the superyachting industry and lifestyle.”

Gaëlle Tallarida, managing director at MYS, added: “The highlight of this spectacular night was definitely hearing the inspiring stories of Wendy, Jenny and Zoran, and realising just how deeply caring the superyacht world can be, and how we can all be a part of instigating change in how we work as an industry, how what we do can bring a positive impact all over the world, and how we can play a central role in understanding and restoring the health of the oceans which are vital to life on Earth.”

Nominations for the 2024 edition of the Honours will open on December 1 2023.