Rolex ISAF World Sailor of the Year: Awards to Australian and Kiwis

Jo Aleh, Polly Powrie and Matt Belcher - 2013 Rolex ISAF World Sailor of the Year, Oman

The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, the highest award a sailor can receive in recognition of his/her outstanding achievements by the world of sailing, were awarded today to Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie (NZL) and Mathew Belcher (AUS) at a gliierting dinner at Turtle Beach, Sultancy of Oman.

Matt Belcher and coach Victor Kovalenko (AUS) - 2013 Rolex ISAF World Sailor of the Year, Oman
Having being nominated twice before in 2010 and 2012, it proved to be third time lucky for Mathew Belcher, the Australian Olympic and World champion in the 470 dinghy class, whose current winning streak stretches to an amazing 17 consecutive regattas.

'It’s a complete honour,' said Belcher during the awards ceremony held in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. 'It's great recognition for this year and the efforts we’ve put in and the results we’ve achieved. I am very fortunate to have great support, from my coach Victor Kovalenko, crew and support staff.'

Belcher has been dominant in the Men’s 470 and his unbeaten run started in November 2011 with Malcolm Page and with Page went through to London 2012 where the crew won the Gold medal in the Mens Two-handed event. They split after the Olympics and Belcher teamed up with Will Ryan and just months later they won the 2013 World Championship in the class in La Rochelle, France. Belcher’s winning run stands at 17 straight events, 'To be able to do it with two different crews has been really rewarding and it really shows the depth we have in the Australian 470 system and also our preparations and planning to constantly to perform.

'I don’t like to think too much about it [the streak]. It’s surprised myself and a lot of people around us.

'We did eight events in 2012 counting up to the Olympics with those pressures and trying to prepare for the games and then having a new crew and doing nine events we’ve had an intense programme from the Games.'

Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan on Day 4 of the 2013 470 World Championships


470 sailors were also rewarded in the female category of the Awards. The New Zealand pairing of Jo Aleh and Olivia ‘Polly’ Powrie are the current women’s Olympic and World champions in the Class.

Polly Powrie and Jo Aleh - 2013 Rolex ISAF World Sailor of the Year, Oman
'I’m a little bit shocked,' said Aleh. 'There were some amazing nominees this year and we are delighted to be part of this. We feel honoured to be part of the group.' 'We haven’t done this alone and we had some wonderful people behind us who have been truly supportive,' added Powrie.

Podium finishes at World Championships are not uncommon for the Kiwi pair but the 2013 World Championship win was their first world title. 'It’s been a pretty big year for us,' said Aleh before the Rolex Awards 'We went into it to try and do it a bit differently and we did some different events. It’s been a very busy year and we’ve fitted in a lot. We’re pretty happy that we finally won that World Championship, that was really good and been learning all year and having fun.

Powrie added, 'We were super happy to win and there was a lot of relief we’d finally managed to do it. We’d done a few 470 Worlds before that and to finally tick it off, for us that was our goal this year and we’re happy we achieved it.

'Next year will probably be a bit different as this year was a bit busy so we’ll have to tone things down and concentrate more on 470 sailing and obviously we’ve got Olympic selection next year and that’s a massive hurdle to get through. From there it’s a similar program with World Championships and World Cups through to Rio.'

Aleh and Powrie join a select group of New Zealand sailors comprising Sir Peter Blake, Sir Russell Coutts and Mike Sanderson who have previously won the Rolex ISAF World Sailor of the year award. The Womens 470 crew are the first to win the prestigious award for achievements in Olympic sailing.

Olympic Gold Medalist and 2013 World Champions, Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie - win the 2014 ISAF World Cup, Qingdao October 2013 in a Mackay Boat
Yachting New Zealand

The winners of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards were decided by vote by the Member National Authorities (MNAs) of ISAF following a worldwide selection process that began with an open invitation for nominations.

Two awards, one for a female sailor/crew and one for a male sailor/crew, were presented to the individuals who are deemed to have most distinguished themselves during the qualifying period from 1 September 2012 to 31 August 2013.

Past recipients of the Awards, which were launched in 1994, have been drawn from the diverse disciplines of the sport: Olympic dinghy and keelboats, single-handed ocean racing, transatlantic record breaking, match-racing, America’s Cup and windsurfing are all represented.

In addition to the magnificent ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Trophy, each winner is presented with a Rolex timepiece.

2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards nominees: (from left) Erika Heineken (USA), Johnny Heineken (USA), Mathew Belcher (AUS), Polly Powrie (NZL), Jo Aleh (NZL), Ian Williams (GBR), Raiya Al Habsi (OMA), Paul Larsen (AUS) and Deneen Demourkas (USA) - 2013 Rolex ISAF World Sailor of the Year, Oman

The full list of nominees for the coveted and prestigious 2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards were:

Male

Mathew Belcher (AUS) – Men’s 470 World & Olympic Champion
François Gabart (FRA) – IMOCA World Champion & 2012-13 Vendée Globe Winner
Johnny Heineken (USA) – Kiteboarding World #1 & 2012 Men’s Course Racing World Champion
Paul Larsen (AUS) – Vestas Sailrocket 2 Outright Speed Record
Ian Williams (GBR) – Match Racing 2012 Match Racing World Champion
World #1 Open Match Racer for 16 consecutive releases starting in January 2012

Female

Jo Aleh & Olivia Powrie (NZL) – Women’s 470 World & Olympic Champions
Deneen Demourkas (USA) – Farr 30 2013 World Champion – third consecutive title
Erika Heineken (USA) – Kiteboarding 2012 Course Racing World Champion
Raiya Al Habsi (OMA) – First Omani Woman To Sail in the Rolex Fastnet Race



Trophies - 2013 Rolex ISAF World Sailor of the Year, Oman