The Cruising Club of America (CCA) has selected David S. Cowper (Newcastle, England) to receive its Blue Water Medal for his completion of six solo circumnavigations of the world and five solo transits of the Northwest Passage. The Blue Water Medal was first awarded in 1923 and is given “for a most meritorious example of seamanship, the recipient to be selected from among the amateurs of all nations.” The award will be presented by Commodore Daniel P. Dyer, III at the annual Awards Dinner on March 1, 2013 at New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.
Born in war-torn Britain in 1942, Cowper is an Englishman who was educated at Stowe School in Buckingham and is a member of the Royal Cruising Club. Sailing has been a passion of his since an early age, and his profession as a Chartered Surveyor and a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has allowed him to take time off to sail alone around the World.
In 1980, Cowper completed the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe by way of Cape Horn (Chile), Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), and Cape Leeuwin (Australia) in his Sparkman & Stephens 41-foot sloop Ocean Bound in 225 days, beating the record holder at the time, Sir Francis Chichester, by one day. Two years later, he repeated the feat, sailing against the prevailing westerly winds and rounding all five capes in 237 days, beating record holder Chay Blyth’s time by 71 days and becoming the first person to ever circumnavigate the world in both directions.
In 1984, Cowper moved from sailboats to motorboats and converted the 42-foot ex-Royal National Lifeboat, Mabel E. Holland, into his new vessel, and took it westward around the globe, becoming the first person to circumnavigate solo on a motor vessel.
In 1986, Cowper made his first attempt to complete the Northwest Passage, an ice covered sea route through the Arctic Ocean along the northern coast of North America. He departed the U.K. and made his way across the North Atlantic Ocean and up the West Coast of Greenland. After entering Lancaster Sound in the Canadian Arctic, Cowper went on to Fort Ross on Somerset Island. Here, heavy pack ice forced him to leave his boat and he returned to England. In the short summer of 1987, Cowper returned to the Mabel E. Holland and managed to get the waterlogged boat ashore and repair it. He returned again in 1988 and was able to reach Alaska, where he left the boat in Inuvik.
Cowper sailed through the Bering Strait in 1989, becoming the first person to have completed the Northwest Passage single handed as part of a circumnavigation of the world. He continued on the voyage via the Midway Islands in Hawaii and Papua New Guinea before reaching Darwin in Australia, where he stored his boat for the hurricane season. In April 1990, Cowper resumed the voyage via the Cape of Good Hope and arrived back home in Newcastle that year on September 24. He then wrote the book, Northwest Passage Solo about his four-and-a-half-year solo circumnavigation.
In 2001, Cowper had the 48-foot aluminum lifeboat Polar Bound built, and in 2002, he motored it west around Cape Horn and up the West Coast of the U.S., with the goal of completing the Northeast Passage over the top of Russia. Unfortunately, Russian authorities refused him permission, so Cowper was forced to turn east and completed the Northwest Passage again in two summers. He became the first person to have completed an east-to-west then west-to-east singlehanded transit.
In August 2009, Cowper began his sixth circumnavigation, which included an east-to-west transit of the Northwest Passage and a voyage that would take him down the west coast of South America and to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, then on to South America, South Australia, Hawaii and Alaska before going west-to-east through the Northwest Passage. Cowper completed the voyage, arriving back to England on October 5, 2011.
In July 2012, Cowper took Polar Bound through the McClure Strait in Canada at the western end of the Northwest Passage. This fifth transit was another first for Cowper, as he did his first solo passage through the notorious ice-bound route.
Currently, Polar Bound is wintering in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Cowper will return to his boat in the Spring to resume his seventh solo circumnavigation.
About the Cruising Club of America
The Cruising Club of America is dedicated to offshore cruising, voyaging and the “adventurous use of the sea” through efforts to improve seamanship, the design of seaworthy yachts, safe yachting procedures and environmental awareness. Now in its 90th year, the club has 11 stations throughout the U.S., Canada and Bermuda, with approximately 1200 members who are qualified by their experience in offshore passage making. In even-numbered years, the CCA organizes the Newport to Bermuda Race in conjunction with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Through the club’s Bonnell Cove Foundation, grants are made to 501 C3 organizations for safety at sea and environment of the sea projects. For more information on the CCA, go to http://www.cruisingclub.org.