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Winner of the first Brian Black Memorial Award has been announced.

An article by Sophie Dingwall, Polluted Paradise, examining ocean plastic pollution and its devastating effects on Caribbean island communities, was selected as the winning entry for the marine environmental journalism award.

The judges, which included round the world race winner, Mike Golding OBE, six-time circumnavigator and Volvo Ocean Race skipper Dee Caffari MBE, and Brian and Les Black's daughter Sarah Brown, enjoyed her writing style and evocative photos which illustrated the crisis facing the people of the San Blas islands. While the competition initially focused on Europe and the Arctic, the judges felt Sophie's "engaging writing, stunning photos and clarity of focus on one environmental issue" made her entry the standout winner.

Sophie was presented with her award - a cash prize of £2,000 and a donation of £1,000 to an environmental project or charity of her choice, as well as a trophy and commemorative handmade pen - at the Southampton Boat Show on 10 September 2021.

On winning the award, Sophie said: 'Submitting something so heartfelt was daunting but it was important to me to convey the right message, I’m honestly chuffed to have my story recognised and been given the opportunity to share it.

She has named Surfers Against Sewage as her chosen charity.

The Brian Black Memorial Award was established to celebrate sailing adventures which shed a fresh light on marine environmental issues through inspiring journalism. It was launched as a memorial to former Yachting Monthly contributors Brian and Lesley Black. 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.

Brian and Lesley's daughter, Sarah Brown, who was part of the judging panel and is Chair of Sea-Changers, said: 'In setting up the award I wanted to do two things. Honour mum and dad’s memory and recognise and reward new talent. I am so happy that we have achieved both those things.

'Reading the articles reminded me of how much people care, and it has given me a renewed feeling of companionship with fellow environmentalists. Sophie’s piece stood out to the whole panel. Dad would have loved her clear communication and beautiful images and I know the intensity of her writing would have got to mum as much as it did to me,' she added.

Sophie's winning article - Polluted Paradise - will feature in the November 2021 issue of Yachting Monthly.


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