Ellen Massey Leonard is the recipient of the organization’s 2015 Charles H. Vilas Literary Prize.
“It's a great honor to receive the Vilas Literary Prize,” said Massey Leonard who was recognized for her article “Voyaging to the Top of America.” The article detailed the 2014-2015 Alaskan cruise she took with her husband Seth from Dutch Harbor to Barrow in their 41’ wooden cutter Celeste. “Since writing and photography can be quite solitary endeavors, it's especially meaningful to receive this recognition of my work. I'm flattered to follow in the footsteps of the many accomplished CCA writers before me, and of course I have to thank the editors of Voyages for their hard work in producing such a beautiful publication.”
The 30-year-old photojournalist was born in San Francisco, and grew up there and on Hornby Island, British Columbia. She began sailing at age six in British Columbia with her parents and started racing on San Francisco Bay at age 13. Following graduation from Yale University (2008), she and her then-boyfriend (now husband) made a circumnavigation of the globe in 2010, completing the 32,000 nautical mile voyage when she was 24. For the last six years, Massey Leonard has lived in the Swiss Alps where she works at an international boarding school while also contributing regularly to Cruising World and Classic Boat, as well as other sailing publications. In 2014 she received the Best Photo Award from the United Kingdom’s Sailing Today.
Doug and Dale Bruce, editors of Voyages for the last six years, noted that Massey Leonard’s writing and photography skills illuminate her extensive experience as a sailor. “Her article eloquently describes her challenging passages and her photography effectively represents the scenic beauty and amazing wildlife one can see in the northern Alaska waters she cruised,” said Doug Bruce who explained that all of the roughly 30 articles submitted for the 2016 edition of the magazine were considered for the Vilas Literary Prize. A seven-member panel, with a broad array of literary and photographic experience, reviewed the submissions before selecting Massey Leonard for this recognition.