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.
Since the Soling class in whichhe, Mahaney and Kern compete has a new Olympic format including an important match-racing series, he and his teammates are seeking match-racing experience in addition to continuing with their stepped-up Soling one-design campaign and other activities.
"For 1991, I'm goingto keep up the campaign in J/22s and J/24s, as well as work on our Olympic Soling campaign," he said. "Obviously my next big goal is the (1992 Olympic) gold. I think we have a fantastic chance to win the U.S. Trials, and we're putting in more time than anyone else on match-racing. I think it'll show at the Games."
In match-racing last year, Brady went from an unseeded, inexperienced competitor to an overnight rank of 38th in the World Match Racing Conference with a single event, the Corum Match Race, and has been adding to that portfolio eversince. He topped an awesome fleet of top international match-race champions at the Bitter End Yacht Club event in the Virgin Islands and recently won the Ficker Cup in Southern California. He earned an invitation to compete in the prestigious Congressional Cup later this year, which is considered by many to be a significant stepping-stone to the America's Cup.
In addition to match-racing events -- such as the Knickerbocker Cup on Long Island Sound, the Congressional and a hoped-for invitation to the Columbus Cup in Baltimore -- Brady's intense 1991 schedule includes helming David Clarke's new Farr One-Tonner. The series includes the One-Ton Cup in Belgium and the Royal Lymington Series, as well as the legendary Admiral's Cup.
The elite ranks of Rolex winners include Olympic medalists, America's Cup winners andnational and international champions of great distinction: Buddy Melges, Bus Mosbacher, Lowell North, Ted Turner, Ted Hood, Dennis Conner, Dave Curtis, Randy Smyth, Bill Buchan, Ken Read, Ed Adams, John Kostecki and Larry Klein. On the distaff side are Allison Jolly, Bonnie Shore, Lynne Jewell, Betsy Gelenitis, Kathy Chapin, Heidi Backus, J.J. Isler, Taylor and Jody Swanson.
The Annapolis sailing community is proud to count Jim Brady as one of its own, even though his intense globe-hopping schedule through the Olympic Trials and hopefully theGames themselves next year means that he will spend very little timehere.
"My mom says I'm burning the candle at both ends," Brady said. "She's always telling me, 'You'd better blow out one of those flames before it burns you up.' And after '92, it will be good to be able to settle down some, maybe take a couple of months off and just relax."
With a wistful grin he added, "I remember the good old days when we went to regattas, drank beer at night and chased women. That'sjust not the case now.
"But I'm grateful to have this chance, even though it pretty much means putting the rest of my life on hold fora while."