Our Photo of the Year: America’s Cup helmsmen and Olympic Gold medlists Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy (GBR), congratulate the young BlackMatch crew after their Semifinals win in the King Edward VII Gold Cup.
On this the last day of December 2008 it is a good opportunity to review the year and make a few awards, from an international perspective rather than just New Zealand's.
Sailor of the Year: It is hard to look beyond Ben Ainslie. Yes others like New Zealand's Tom Ashley also won a world championship and Olympic Gold medal. What stands Ainslie apart is the fact that he achieved this feat off the back of an America's Cup campaign finishing just over 12 months before the Olympics and the fact that in the years he has been sailing a Finn he has never finished anywhere other than first in the World Championship. Ainslie also crossed over into other events like matchracing, taking second place in the New Zealand nationals against a high quality field. Nick Scandone (USA) however stands above them all for his efforts in just getting to the Paralympics, 'officially surviving' in his words let alone winning a Gold Medal in the SKUD, which had to be further customized to facilitate Scandone's declining physical capabilities.
Yacht of the Year: BMW Oracle Racing's BOR90, regardless of whether this becomes the Spruce Goose of sailing, you have to admit that it is a most impressive sailing machine, and once the collar is truly slipped on this greyhound, we will see some sailing performance numbers that have never been seen before. Runner up was Speedboat, the supermaxi designed by Juan K, built by Cooksons and with the rig by Southen Spars and North Sails. She is another that is long on potential.
Young sailors of the Year: Carl Evans and Peter Burling (NZL) for being the youngest crew to ever compete at an Olympics, at the age of just 17 years, winning a race in their first Olympic regatta, and putting their Olympic campaign together in just 18 months.
Event of the Year: The obvious choice would have been the 2008 Olympic Regatta, however we mark it down for the on-shore organisation - particularly the media side - coverage happened in spite of the organisers rather than because of them. Hot contenders include the Volvo Ocean Race (in spite of the lack of entries), Vendee Globe which ticks all the boxes - entries, drama and good organisation. iShares Cup which again ticked all the boxes. Takapuna Worlds (NZL), particularly the Tornado World Championship, and staging eight world championships over a period of three months is a great first effort for any event organiser. Overall winner is the 2008 Olympics, because of the sailors, not the organisation, and this selection should have been a no-brainer. The 2008 Paralympics are a highly commended for the sheer grit of the sailors, coaches and supporters, again no credit to the Chinese for their media coverage of this event.
Quote of the Year: Nick Scandone: 'We sit in first place overall with 6 races to go. This experience has been somewhat overwhelming. At the dock before the first race I had about a 10 minute moment of tears realizing that after all this time the racing was about to begin and I had officially survived to compete at the games. It’s hard to describe what I was feeling but it was definitely a sense of accomplishment. More to come, thanks for everyone’s support.'
Loss of the Year: Internationally, Olin Stephens, who will be sadly missed for the huge contribution he made to the sport, and mark he left on it. New Zealand sailing will miss greatly the contributions of Des Townson in the area of yacht design and just being Des. Don St Clair Brown in offshore racing, Olympic sailing and generally making the right things happen over a long period of time. Brownie wins the sailing Wake of the Year!
Smart move of the Year: Bruno Trouble and Louis Vuitton for announcing the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series - attracting 23 expressions of interest with a week, and flushing out many of the quiet players of thre America's Cup scene. This action led directly to the record entry for the 33rd America's Cup. Highly commended is the ISAF for having the courage to chose a sportsboat for the 2012 Olympic Womens Match Racing Event. Highly commended - Sailing Anarchy Yacht Club for trying to enter the 33rd America's Cup -certainly it would have been a hell of a ride if it had come off. Next time!
Disappointment of the Year: America's Cup Legal - this event is in a class of its own.
Bungle of the Year: The ISAF for its continuing inability to find a place for the multihull as an Olympic event. However we live in hope.
Journalist of the Year: Lynn Fitzpatrick (USA) for her coverage of the Paralympics in spite of the Chinese organsiers, who at one stage required a written apology from her under threat of loss of her accreditation. Her crime - not covering the event in accordance with the 'rules'.
Crash of the Year: l'Hydroptere just after clocking at 61kts - a new personal record.
From a purely New Zealand perspective the highlight of the year would have been the Yachting New Zealand Sailor of the Year Awards - not so much because it was a great evening, or rather celebration of New Zealand sailing, but because of the long line-up of recipients winners of world championships, medal winners in major internationals championships and major contributors to the sport.
Looking at the totality of the evening, you realise that Yachting in New Zealand is in very good shape, and poised to get even better.
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