Yachting Monthly has launched a new journalism award in memory of Brian and Lesley Black, which aims to recognise the best writing about issues affecting the marine environment, as explored by sailing boat.

Brian Black was as passionate about the marine environment as he was eloquent in his writing and filmmaking about the crises facing fragile Arctic ecosystems.

A television journalist for RTE in Ireland, UTV in Northern Ireland, and later through his own production company, he was also a lifelong sailor and contributor to Yachting Monthly.

His wife Lesley was a sailor and author in her own right, becoming Northern Ireland’s first female yacht club commodore, blazing a trail for women in sailing. Both passed away recently.

Brian Black sailing in Greenland

Brian Black sailing in Greenland

As a memorial to Brian and Lesley Black, the Black family, in conjunction with Yachting Monthly, have established an award to celebrate sailing adventures which shed a fresh light on marine environmental issues through inspiring journalism.

The award aims to find the very best writing that gives voice to the marine environment and brings a new perspective to readers.

Les Black

Les Black

Brian and Les’s daughter Sarah explains, “From a young age Mum and Dad taught us about the natural world, particularly the ocean.

“We learnt how to sail on it, but also how to love and care for it. As anyone who met them could attest, they were both natural story tellers and they used that skill to share important information about the emerging environmental crises as they saw them.

“I hope that this new award will encourage others to do the same and share their inspiring stories about the challenges facing our seas today.”  

Brian and Les Black with daughter Sarah Brown

Brian and Les Black with daughter Sarah Brown

Applications are invited from anyone who has recently used a sailing boat to explore an environmental issue about which they are passionate.

The voyage should ideally have been undertaken in UK, European or Arctic waters to reflect Brian and Lesley Black’s lifelong commitment to this area.

The judges are looking for great stories told well, illustrated with beautiful photography to inform, educate and inspire the reader about a particular area and environmental issue.

Greenland Summer

Greenland Summer

The winning entry will receive a cash prize of £2,000 and a donation of £1,00 to their environmental project or charity of choice (following sponsorship by the electronics firm, B&G); publication of their work in Yachting Monthly magazine and website; an original artwork inspired by the winning entry by son of Brian and Les, artist Kieron Black; a presentation hosted by Yachting Monthly and the judging panel; a physical award, and the right to use the award logo.

Entries should be in written format. Supporting video can be included but will not form part of the judging decision.

Entries should be between 2,000 and 3,000 words and articles above this length will not be considered. The entry must be the original work of the author and not have been previously published.

Images submitted need not have been taken solely by the author, but they should be specific to the project or voyage, and the author must have written permission to submit the images for publication.

Entries should be submitted by email to yachtingmonthly@futurenet.com, no later than 8 August 2021. 

Full entry details for the 2021 award can be found on the award page.

Yachting Monthly editor, Theo Stocker, said, “Brian and Lesley were stalwart contributors to Yachting Monthly, and their articles brought remote sailing destinations to life, inspiring many.

“They also highlighted how even pristine ecosystems were being threatened by environmental issues. We hope this award will encourage others to become advocates for in the marine environment in which we all delight.”

The judges include round the world race winner, multiple world champion Mike Golding OBE, six-time circumnavigator and Volvo Ocean Race skipper Dee Caffari MBE, conservation expert Dr Robert Brown OBE, marine environmental consultant and daughter of Brian and Lesley Black, Sarah Brown, Imray nautical publisher and PhD biologist Jane Russell and the Yachting Monthly editorial team.

The award is supported by The Green Blue, the RYA, Imray, the Royal Highland Yacht Club, the Irish Cruising Club, and the Ocean Cruising Club.

Dee Caffari as skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic in the Volvo Ocean Race

Dee Caffari said: “I consider myself fortunate to have the oceans as my playground and my office. I feel a responsibility to promote, and preserve their health, and to help educate the issues being faced and how they can best be addressed.

“I am thrilled to support this award paying tribute to someone whose values I share and also because it looks to highlight other voices to be heard in this vital battle to protect our planet.”


Mike Golding

Mike Golding

Mike Golding said: “I’m delighted to join the judging panel for the Yachting Monthly Brian Black memorial award. High quality environmental journalism has a crucial role to play in informing and inspiring us all to tread, and sail, a softer path.”

For full details and before entering, please visit the award page.