At an Awards Ceremony tonight in Singapore, the three sailors were honoured for their outstanding sailing achievements between 1 September 2004 and 31 August 2005, when MacArthur completed her record-breaking solo sprint around the world in her maxi-trimaran B&Q Castorama and Echavarri and Paz were crowned Tornado World and European Champions after a string of outstanding results.
This is the second time that Ellen MacArthur, 29, has won the coveted female ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award. In 2001, she dominated women's sailing after taking the runners-up trophy in the 2000 Vendée Globe and becoming the fastest female and youngest sailor ever to race around the world solo, non-stop. The year previously, she also earned a nomination for the Award by winning Class 1 of the Europe 1 New Man STAR.
On 7 February this year, MacArthur carved a unique place in history by crossing the finishing line between Ushant and the Lizard to set a new single-handed round the world non-stop record. She sliced more than a day off Francis Joyon's time set in 2004, to finish in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds, achieving an average speed of 12.66 knots over the 27,354 nautical mile course.
Reports of her roller-coaster ride through the world's oceans proved compelling for a captivated global audience, as Ellen recounted the pressures of pushing her boat at full throttle while battling against extreme fatigue, equipment failure, violent storms, injury and isolation. When she arrived back in the UK, she was greeted by thousands of supporters and was promptly made a Dame by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
A few weeks later, she also set a new SNSM (St Nazaire to St Malo) crewed maxi record on board B&Q Castorama, although an attempt on the Transatlantic record from New York to Lizard, UK last month had to be abandoned due to unsuitable weather conditions.
Ellen is currently racing in the 2005 Transat Jacques Vabres with her friend Roland Jourdain on the Open 60 Sill et Veolia but found time to express her surprise and delight at scooping the Award for the second time: "I would like to say thank you to ISAF, its sponsor and its members for this Award. I was fortunate enough to have received this Award in 2001 and it is as much of a surprise and honour to me now as it was back then. The International Sailing Federation provides a great service to the world of sailing, by utilising the 117 member nations it continues to promote sailing by raising its profile and encouraging as many people as possible to become involved in this sport. I would also like to congratulate the other sailors who have been nominated for the Female Award. They are at the forefront of their own sailing discipline and I feel privileged to be nominated along side them."
Tornado sailors Fernando Echavarri Erasun and Antón Paz Blanco continued in 2005 where they left off the previous year and have enjoyed an extraordinary 12 months, starting with victory at the ISAF Grade 2 Barcelona Olympic Sailing Week in March where they won five of the nine races. In May, they took the gold medal at the ISAF Grade 1 Holland Regatta then followed it up the following month by winning the ISAF Grade W Tornado World Championship.
In August, they reinforced their credentials as the most exciting talent on the Tornado circuit by adding the European Championship title to their portfolio and as a result accumulated more points to boost their ISAF World Ranking position. Through the nomination period they climbed steadily to the top spot, making it theirs on 29 June.
Since then, Echavarri has indicated where his future might ultimately lie after his Olympic ambitions have been fulfilled. He has spent the past few weeks with the crew of the Spanish yacht movistar, one of the favourites for the Volvo Ocean Race title, and has been put on standby by skipper Bouwe Bekking to compete in a leg or inshore regatta depending on his availability.
Speaking on their Award victory, Echavarri commented, "First and foremost, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the ISAF and Rolex. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation, Galician Sailing Federation, Athlete Help Program and our main sponsor Movistar.
"This is a very special day for us. We feel proud to be included among the great figures of world sailing and to be awarded as the best in 2005. It is going to be hard to keep up this pace.
"Right now, Spain is on top of sailing thanks to events such as the Volvo Ocean Race and the America's Cup. The fact that a Spanish Olympic crew has now won the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award will certainly help to further promote the sport.
"We grew up reading and admiring about the achievements of the winners of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards. Now, it'll be very cool to read our names in the list. The achievements of our 2005 season will not be forgotten."
The Awards Presentation was hosted by distinguished triple Olympic medallist and multiple World Champion Alessandra Sensini of Italy and attended by more than 500 hundred guests from 50 nations, including international sailors and prominent personalities from the sailing world. Presenting the Awards were ISAF President of Honour HM King Constantine and Claudio Mariani of Rolex Singapore.
The winners were each presented with a Rolex timepiece and the marble and silver World Sailor Trophy - a solid marble sphere depicting the world and crowned by five silver spinnakers representing the continents.
The other nominees for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards 2005 were:
Claire LEROY (FRA)
Blanca MANCHÓN (ESP)
Paige RAILEY (USA)
Peter GILMOUR (AUS)
Finian MAYNARD (IVB)
Bruno PEYRON (FRA)
Vincent RIOU (FRA)
Rohan VEAL (AUS)