by Daniel Smith
The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards 2013 will be a family affair with the Heineken siblings, Johnny and Erika ready for the evening ahead.
Erika Heineken in action
As Kiteboarding supremoes the pair received a nomination for their performances on the race track from 1 September 2012 to 31 August 2013, and what performances they were.
Johnny was untouchable and Erika was formidable and they both donned the podium at the 2012 IKA Kiteboard Racing World Championship in Cagliari, Italy in October 2012.
Speaking together in Muscat, Sultanate of the Oman Erika said, 'It’s such an honour to be here with all these wonderful sailors and meet so many people that have done so much for the sport and it means a lot for kiteboarding to be recognized on the world stage.'
The pair are alongside a vast variety of sailing talent, from unbeaten runs, ground breaking speeds and multiple World Champions and Johnny, the younger of two echoed Erika’s sentiment, 'It’s a huge honour to be thought of in this group of sailors. It’s especially cool for kiteboarding to be recognised in the sailing community at this level. It’s exciting and happy to be here.
'I love reading through and seeing the other guys résumé and it makes me feel good that ISAF is recognizing all the different parts of the sport from guys who are pushing the speed barrier to guys sailing round the world.
'It’s super exciting that it’s not just orientated around the Olympic classes, not taking anything away from them but it’s great to see that the sport is so huge and we recognize all the parts of it.'
The pair regularly travel around the world as they mix being the best kiteboard racers in the world with their day jobs but it only makes their bond stronger, 'Johnny and I have a great relationship,' said Erika. 'He basically taught me how to kite race, kiteboard and sail generally. Travelling internationally with him and doing something we love so much together, there’s nothing like it.'
As well as sharing airline seats the duo pick up honours together and the 2012 IKA Kiteboard Racing Worlds was a special moment for the siblings, 'It was an out of body experience I would say,' Erika recalled. 'I didn’t expect it, and I don’t think Johnny expected it and our whole family was there and it was a magical moment to share with everyone.'
Johnny kept on an eye on his sisters progression throughout the week and also experienced similar stresses and strains a highly charged kiteboard arena brings, 'The last one was pretty intense with a bunch of competitors and a really big fleet. It was tense because they had a format that narrowed it down to a winner take all final and made it really stressful as a competitor going in with a solid lead and having to win on the last day as well.
'I pulled it off and it was cool to do it with Erika winning the women’s as well.'
Coming to the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards is just the start of a three week trip for the Heineken’s. After a few days enjoying the delights of the Sultanate of Oman they head to their next event, the 2013 IKA Course Racing Worlds in Hainan, China.
Johnny is already a double World Champion having taken the 2011 title and will bid for a third but Erika is aiming for her second in what will be a close regatta, 'The women’s fleet is growing a lot. The competition is really good right now. The last Worlds I had no idea what to expect I hadn’t seen any of the fellow competitors before and the first start line was really interesting, getting there, lining up and seeing how it would it go.
'This year I have a better feeling of how all the women will be and they’ve improved a lot so it’s going to be a tough race.'
Johnny continues to push ahead and dominate the sport whilst also experimenting new ways to develop kiteboard racing. As the face of kite foilboarding Heineken is enjoying the new experience, 'I’m having a lot of fun with that, I’ve been riding a course board for four years and love doing that but I don’t go out and learn as much every time I go out sailing as I used to. Having a new toy and board to play around with, learning how to manoeuvre and get around the course is really fun.'
The 2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year will be announced on Tuesday 12 November at a glittering award ceremony in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
The winners are selected by the ISAF Member National Authorities (MNAs), the national governing bodies for sailing around the world, who vote for the one male and one female nominee who they believe most deserves the Award.