Olympic sailing stars Ben Ainslie, Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson, and World Match Racing Champion Ian Williams have been shortlisted for Great Britain at the prestigious ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award.
Launched in 1994, the awards are recognised as the pinnacle award a sailor can receive in recognition of his or her outstanding achievements by the world of sailing.
Skandia Team GBR’s Finn sailor Ainslie and Yngling trio of Ayton, Webb and Wilson cap off the nomination period as the proud holders of all three major titles as Olympic, World and European Champions in their in their respective classes, while Ian Williams became the first Brit ever to become the ISAF World Match Racing Champion.
Ben Ainslie remains unbeaten in the Finn class since 2004, and during the award nomination period, the 31-year-old won Grade 1 events in Sydney and Melbourne, the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma and the European title as well as clinching an unprecedented fifth world title at the Finn Gold Cup.
By securing Olympic gold in Qingdao, Ainslie has also become the greatest ever British Olympic sailor with three golds from the past three Games to add to his silver from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson were strong contenders for the world sailor of the year title in 2007, but have continued their dominance in the Yngling class for a second year, in which they’ve won a second consecutive World Championship title, European Championship gold plus a string of podium finishes at Olympic Classes regattas.
The trio achieved their ultimate goal of Olympic gold – a second straight Olympic title for Ayton and Webb – at the Games in Qingdao to round off the nomination period.
The 31-year-old Ian Williams became the first British sailor to ever to win the ISAF World Match Racing Championship last November, thanks to his victory at the final event of the world tour, the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia.
Williams and his Team Pindar followed that up with a strong start to the 2008 World Match Racing Tour, where they were topping the tour standings at the end of the nomination period thanks to some consistent results including a win at the Danish Open. Five male and four female crews have been shortlisted for the ISAF Rolex World Sail of the Year award, but there are only two winners – one female and one male World Sailor of the Year.
Ayton, Webb and Wilson find themselves nominated alongside 470 Olympic Champions Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson (AUS), match racing World Champion Claire Leroy of France, four-time Olympic medal-winning windsurfer Alessandra Sensini (ITA), and Laser Radial Olympic Champion Anna Tunnicliffe (USA).
Other male nominees include record-breaking round-the-world sailor Francis Joyon (FRA), Olympic gold medal-winning windsurfer Tom Ashley (NZL), and Farr40 world and European Champion Vincenzo Onorato (ITA).
The ISAF Member National Authorities (MNAs) - the national governing bodies for sailing - around the world will now be invited to vote for the one female nominee and one male nominee whom they feel deserves the honour of receiving the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award 2008.
The winners will be unveiled at the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards Dinner and Presentation on Tuesday 11 November 2008 at the Quinta de Jarama, Madrid, Spain. The 2008 nominees are:
Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB & Pippa WILSON (GBR)
Claire LEROY (FRA)
Elise RECHICHI & Tessa PARKINSON (AUS)
Alessandra SENSINI (ITA)
Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA)
Ben AINSLIE (GBR)
Tom ASHLEY (NZL)
Francis JOYON (FRA)
Vincenzo ONORATO (ITA)
Ian WILLIAMS (GBR)