- Male: James Spithill (AUS)
- Female: Martine Grael & Kahena Kunze (BRA)
Australian James Spithill was nominated for leading ORACLE TEAM USA to one of the greatest comebacks in all sporting history. Trailing Emirates Team New Zealand 8-1 in a first to nine quest for one of yachting’s greatest prizes, the America’s Cup, skipper Spithill inspired a comeback of epic proportion with a faultless “down but not out” approach. Levelling the series at 8 apiece his team was victorious in the winner takes all final race; Spithill’s second triumph in the 162-year old contest.
35 year-old Spithill is the third Australian to win the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award, following Mat Belcher (2013) and Tom Slingsby (2010).
Quote James Spithill, “With such a fantastic group of nominees it’s quite humbling to be included in the same group. I feel a little awkward winning this award. It seems it is an individual award and in my case it could not be further from the truth. What happened on San Francisco Bay was an incredible team effort. I was just a small piece. I would like to accept the award on behalf of a great group of people, ORACLE TEAM USA.”
Despite their young age (both are 23) this year’s nomination of Brazilians Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze was no surprise. They have been leading lights in the 49erFX class all season, regularly topping the podium in ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas and holding the #1 spot in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. The pair also exhibit a never say die characteristic, proven by their recent victory at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships. Playing catch up throughout the series in the pursuit of their first world title, Grael and Kunze kept going to the very end, finally overtaking the championship leaders on the penultimate upwind leg of the final race.
Grael and Kunze mark the fourth time Brazil has tasted success at the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards following Torben Grael (the father of Martine – 2009), and Robert Scheidt (2001 & 2004).
Martine Grael, “This prize is the recognition for a marvellous year. We are very happy and it’s really hard for me to find the words to express our feelings.”
Kahena Kunze, “We’re very happy. Just by being part of this ceremony, surrounded by all these people, it would have made our night. This prize means a lot, and we cannot take the smile off our faces.”
The 2014 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards were held at the Pueblo Español in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
A full report will be issued tomorrow, Wednesday 5 November 2014.
ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards
2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of the annual ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, which have been sponsored by Rolex since 2001. In addition to the magnificent ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Trophy, each winner is presented with a distinctive, engraved, Rolex timepiece.
The winners of the Award are decided by vote by the Member National Authorities (MNAs) of ISAF following a worldwide selection process that begins with an open invitation for nominations. Two awards, one for a female sailor/crew and one for a male sailor/crew, are presented to the individuals who are deemed to have most distinguished themselves during the qualifying period. The 2014 period was 1 September 2013 to 21 September 2014.
The roots of Rolex’s affinity for sports and human achievement can be traced back to the pioneering origins of the company. In 1926, Rolex invented the Rolex Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch in the world, thanks to a case equipped with an ingenious patented system consisting of a screw-down bezel, case back and winding crown. To prove his invention, founder Hans Wilsdorf equipped Mercedes Gleitze with an Oyster when she swam the English Channel a year later.
Rolex has long sought to associate with activities that, like itself, were motivated by passion, excellence, precision and team spirit. Naturally, Rolex gravitated toward the elite world of sailing, forming an alliance that dates back to the late 1950s. Since then, the relationship between Rolex and sailing has grown and prospered.
Today, Rolex is Title Sponsor of some 15 major international events in distinct categories. Off the water, Rolex participates in the development of yachting through its support of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the sport’s governing body, and the annual ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, recognizing male and female sailors who have distinguished themselves over the course of a year.
The nominees for the 2014 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards were:
- Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS)
- Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL)
- Bill Hardesty (USA)
- Giles Scott (GBR)
- James Spithill (AUS)
- Steph Bridge (GBR)
- Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA)
- Charline Picon (FRA)