British ISAF Rolex Yachtsman of The YearOlympic sailors Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa of Greece and Ben Ainslie of Great Britain have been announced as ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year.
The awards were presented tonight in Limassol, Cyprus, in recognition of outstanding sailing achievement during the period 1 September 2001 through to 31 August 2002.
The Awards Presentation, which was hosted by the 1996 Olympic Gold Medallist Nikos Kaklamanakis of Greece, was attended by more than 400 guests, including international sailors and leading figures from the sailing world.
Ben Ainslie was awarded the male ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award 2002 by ISAF President Paul Henderson in recognition of his outstanding transition from the Laser to the Finn Class.
On being presented with the World Sailor Trophy, Ben commented: "It is really a huge honour to be voted the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year. I would like to congratulate all of the other shortlisted sailors for their successes this year and thank David Howlett who coached both myself and Star World Champions Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell."
Ainslie added: "The Olympics are the real focus right now, but after that it's my ambition to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race and be part of a winning America's Cup team."
Having jumped from the Laser to America's Cup sailing, Ben returned to the Olympic circuit at the beginning of 2002 with his sights set on the Olympic men's single-handed event in the Finn Class. After only six months in the class, Ben had won the Finn Europeans, to be followed by the Finn Gold Cup and then the 2002 Athens Test Event leaving the more experienced Finn sailors in his wake. His plans evidently include another Olympic Medal in 2004.
On receiving the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award from His Majesty King Constantine, ISAF President of Honour, Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa commented:
"I would like to congratulate everyone for their nomination. Emilia and I feel very exceptional being nominated amongst such important sailors.For us, being voted as the winners is not only a great honour for us, since Emilia and I represent a country that has a great history in sailing, but it is also a great motive and incentive towards the 2004 Olympic Regatta. We strongly appreciate your recognition and this award provides us with the strength we need to continue towards our dream."
Sofia and Emilia were nominated in recognition of their domination in the Olympic women's double-handed event in the 470 Class. Their opening season result of a win at the ISAF Grade 1 SPA Regatta set the standard, and was followed by wins at virtually every ISAF Grade 1 and Grade 2 event they entered in the past 12 months. They have sat firmly at the top of the ISAF World Rankings during the period of nomination, having successfully defended their World Champion title twice, in September 2001 and again in
September 2002 (although September 2002 was outside the period of nomination). Similarly, they defended their European Championship title in July 2002. With a win at the 2002 Athens Test Event, Sofia and Emilia have their sights set firmly on Olympic Gold for Athens 2004.
The winners were each presented with a Rolex Yachtmaster chronometer and an ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Trophy; which is a sphere of soladite depicting the world, crowned by five silver spinnakers representing the continents.
The nominees for the respective female and male ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards 2002 were:
Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa (GRE)
Christine Briand (FRA)
Adrienne Cahalan (AUS) and Helena Darvelid (SWE)
Sari Multala (FIN)
Alessandra Sensini (ITA)
Ben Ainslie (GBR)
John Kostecki (USA)
Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez (ESP)
Iain Percy (GBR)
Bruno Peyron (FRA)
On page two, we post a few little snippets from The World of Ben Ainslie