by Craig Heydon
Three Australian gold-medal winning crews narrowly missed a chance to nab sailing’s most coveted award as Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie successfully added another major title to his legendary career after bagging his fourth ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award. Aisle’s golden campaign in the Finn class category at the 2012 London Games made him the first sailor to capture a sailing medal in five different Olympics.
Australia’s gold medallists with the female finalists at the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award - Photo Rolex Kurt Arrigo
Australia’s three London 2012 Olympic Games gold medal winning crews have missed out on sailing’s top award, with Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie winning the male ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award.
Ainslie, who became the most successful sailor in history when he won gold in the Finn class at London 2012, claimed his fourth ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award in Dublin, Ireland on Tuesday night.
The British sailor claimed the award ahead of Australia’s 470 men’s crew Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, 49er pair Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen and Laser Tom Slingsby, with French round-the-world sailor Loick Peyron also a finalist.
As well as winning Olympic gold in Weymouth, Ainslie claimed his sixth Finn Gold Cup in 2012.
While the Australian contingent may not have taken home the award to have three of the five finalists was recognition of a great year for Australian sailing.
Over the past year the three Australian crews all won Olympic gold, along with their respective 2011 and 2012 class World Championships and numerous ISAF Sailing World Cup rounds.
'It was always going to be tough to pick a winner from the field,' said Mathew Belcher. 'Ben was one of the favourites going into the night and has achieved a lot in the sport.
'He’s done it all and now has four ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards to go with four Olympic gold medals,' he said.
The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards provided a great opportunity to bring Australia’s five Olympic gold medallists together, with the event the first time that they’d all been in the same place at the same time since stepping off the plane in Sydney after London 2012.
'It was great to see all of the other guys again,' said Belcher. 'We went to a pub for dinner last night and it was the first time that we’d all been together since the Games. It was great to catch up on what everyone’s been up to since London and the different experiences we’ve had since then.
'While we may not have won the award tonight to be a finalist was nice recognition for what has been a very successful year for all three crews,' he said.
The female ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award went to Laser Radial Olympic champion Lijia Xu, ahead of British 2.4mR gold medallist Helena Lucas, Spanish Women’s Match Racing winners Tamara Echegoyen, Angela Pumariega and Sofia Toro, and British Youth World Champion windsurfer Saskia Sills.
For more information on the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award visit www.sailing.org/worldsailor.
More on the Australian Sailing Team can be found at www.australiansailingteam.com.au and follow the team on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AusSailingTeam.