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The Cruising Club of America (CCA) has named Max Campbell, of Falmouth, UK, as the recipient of the 2023 Young Voyager Award. The award recognizes “a young sailor who has made one or more exceptional voyages.” Campbell set sail eight years ago, at age 20, on a 22-foot wooden sailboat. Today, despite personal disasters and Covid lockdowns, we find him halfway around the world aboard his 37-foot Swan Elixir—an accomplished sailor, writer, and social media star. 

Max Campbell
Award WInner Max Campbell

The CCA Young Voyager Award is a prestigious recognition that celebrates the spirit of adventure and seamanship. The award is given to young sailors who have demonstrated exceptional skills and courage in their voyages. In making the announcement of this year’s winner, CCA Commodore Chris Otorowski said, “Max’s achievements are a perfect example of the spirit within the CCA where we find fulfillment in ‘exploring’ the oceans and our own inner-limits aboard small boats at sea.”

Flying Cloud Crossing the Atlantic

Campbell’s early adventuring took him across the Atlantic twice, singlehanded, and on the first trip he had a galley fire, which he barely survived. When asked recently about overcoming adversity, he said, “Recovering from that fire was by far the biggest adversity I’ve ever overcome. It was also the biggest lesson I’ve ever had, and it ultimately changed my outlook on life.

“Afterwards, the challenges kept coming; however, after overcoming such a huge situation, I felt equipped to deal with them. We were blown 200 miles off course by a gale in the Canary Islands. Elixir was boarded by four armed men off the coast of Venezuela. We passed through the center of a tropical storm near the coast of Central America. I was arrested for no obvious reason and thrown in jail in Mexico.

“Each one of these experiences was extremely difficult in the moment; however, overcoming the fire taught me the strength that comes with overcoming adversity. I can’t think of an experience I’ve had, more formative than spending a night in an overcrowded Mexican jail cell.”

After learning of his award, Campbell explained that his first boat was too small to take friends, but on his new boat, Elixir, he always has friends aboard, mainly with those who helped him with the refit, but also some from the ranks of his social media followers. 

Elixir in Panama
Elixir in Panama
Restoring Flying Cloud

“It is the people that make it special, that make it interesting,” he said. “The experience of offshore sailing will always be better shared. I’ve seen cruising and offshore sailing change the lives of a handful of people, and I find it incredibly rewarding.” 

When asked about his reasons for sailing across oceans, Campbell said, “Even on a 22-foot boat, without standing headroom or a toilet, I loved everything about the cruising lifestyle. The feeling of connectedness with the ocean, endless list of exciting destinations, the highs and lows of passage making and the characters that come along the way. It was clear from the start that the cruising life was for me. 

“Today, it’s the same principles that keep me voyaging. I enjoy the routine of long passages, the feeling of closeness with the natural world, as well as the absence of all the distractions of life on land. For me, it brings a sense of simplicity and euphoria, and that’s the feeling I’ve been chasing for the last 8 years.”

Recipient Name
Max Campbell