Australian James Spithill was nominated for leading Oracle Team USA to one of the greatest comebacks in all sporting history, yachting’s greatest prize, the America’s Cup.
Thirty-five year-old Spithill is the third Australian to win the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award for men, following Mat Belcher (2013) and Tom Slingsby (2010).
“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,” Spithill said.
This year’s female winners are Brazilians Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, both 23 years old. They have been leading in the 49erFX class all season, regularly topping the podium in ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas and holding the number one spot in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.
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).
Brazilian sailors Martine Grael, left, and crewmate Kahena Kunze with their Rolex awards.
“This prize is the recognition for a marvelous year. We are very happy and it’s really hard for me to find the words to express our feelings,” said Grael.
Kunze said, “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 Espanol in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and mark the 20th 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 watch.
The winners of the award are decided on a 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 Sept. 1, 2013, to Sept. 21, 2014.