On balance, World Sailing got the nominations absolutely spot on for the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award 2021. All credit to them. It’s an easy one to get so wrong but the right names are in there and it’s now a public vote to decide the winners.
But do you know the reason why they got the nominations, that I will come onto in a moment, so right? It’s because the new generation, the golden generation, are starting to appear on committees that decide these things. This is the best news our sport could ever hope for.
For this nomination process the committee had: Jo Aleh, Theresa Zabell, Santiago Lange, Mateusz Kusznierewicz, and Shirley Robertson – alongside Dee Caffari, Craig Leweck, Yann Rocherieux, and Luca Rizzotti. Now that’s about as good as you can get.
If sailing plays its cards right, at least four or five of those names could be strong contenders for President – and the sooner the better – or at the very least be big voices in the future, directing and plotting a coherent way forward. Personally I’d trust our sport in the hands of, and would absolutely love to see, Shirley Robertson taking a bigger role (by the way how good was she in hosting the America’s Cup Protocol announcement? – pure class) and I 100% think , believe and privately hope that Mateusz Kusnierewicz will, when he hangs up his Star and 5.5 Metre sailing boots, be a shoo-in for President in short order. Mateusz at the top would be the smartest move World Sailing could ever make.
But you can pick anyone from that list and you’ve got gold-dust: Dee Caffari, Jo Aleh and Theresa Zabell are fabulous, outstanding, mesmerisingly brilliant ambassadors for the sport whilst Santiago Lange is a legend, an inspiration and thoroughly deserves the demi-God status he is afforded globally. From top to bottom, this nominations committee oozes class. As a signal of direction, which I hope is what it is, for World Sailing, it fills me with optimism that a bright future is just around the corner for our governing body. Let’s hope so.
Fantastic to see these names on the roster.
So, let’s come onto the candidates, none of which should come as any surprise to any of us, and we’ll start with the female athletes first. This is one classy list of sailors.
The stand out, shoot out for the Rolex in my book are the pairings of Hannah Mills/Eilidh McIntyre and Martine Grael/Kahena Kunze. Both teams performed like goddesses from other worlds in the Olympic Games and both have that ambassadorial quality that inspires not only future generations but current ones too. Tough call. There’s a cigarette paper between these two duos and it could really go either way.
I voted for Hannah & Eilidh because, well I’m British for one, but I genuinely thought they sailed supremely in Tokyo 2020 and were thrilling to watch. The onboard of those two in the medal race is something I will never get tired of watching and learning from. Brilliant. However, If I was from Brazil, I would more than likely think differently. And there’s no denying just how well Grael and Kunze aced that 49er FX fleet and defended their Rio gold. Amazing. Either team thoroughly deserves to win. Get voting.
But there’s great female athletes in there also in the form of ace-kiter Daniela Moroz who is just ridiculously talented and feted as a sure-fire gold medallist in Marseille. Vendee Globe sailor Clarisse Cremer is pure offshore talent who thumped every record in the last lap around the planet singlehanded and the fascinating, alluring, ball of competitiveness personified that is Anne-Marie Rindom who scooped Gold in the Radial and now does the business on SailGP is another absolutely stand-out name. Crikey what a line up.
Equally in terms of line-up, the men’s category is a super- strong field but my personal view is that it would be a travesty if Tom Slingsby didn’t win it after his all-conquering performances this year. That performance in the Moth Worlds was something from another era, postcode or inter-planetary constellation and the roller-coaster ride that we are on with him in SailGP is so much fun to watch. He brings the sport alive and in my opinion is the best sailor in the world right now.
Giles Scott though is a name up there in the conversation about the greatest right now and is nominated after that devastating, unbelievable annihilation in the Finn to win Gold and is a lot of people’s favourite right now on the sailing circuit. Tough call between Tom and Giles. Tough call.
Meanwhile, Pete & Blair get the nod but they’re yesterday’s news. Kiran Badloe, the mohican shorn surf dude of windsurfing fame is in there (cool guy), and Yannick Bestaven represents those with a keel and foils after his Vendee escapades – nothing for Jean Le Cam though, which I find odd. A special Rolex Deep Sea for his miraculous save of Kevin Escoffier should be (surely) awarded alongside the Legion d’Honneur and honorary membership of every yacht club on the planet. Just saying.
Alongside the doling out of rather nice wrist furniture courtesy of Rolex, the 11th Hour Racing programme is offering a category and award for ‘sustainability’ – very much the buzz word of the sailors and the corporate world at the moment.
There’s one nomination for me in this Sustainability Category that really stands out, and for whom I voted, and that’s the Foiling SuMoth Challenge which is basically a global competition for students to build a sustainable International Moth. I’ve been briefed on this separately by a brilliant sailor that I know who competes in the foiling classes and there will be a lot more about this in coming blog posts.
I won’t steal any thunder but it’s a heck of a good challenge for students to really start thinking about sustainability whilst learning and putting into practice high-engineering and boat-building qualities. This nomination got my vote and I wholeheartedly recommend it to you if you’re struggling in this section.
Voting is open now. CLICK HERE to cast yours. It’s dead simple, very quick and the winners will be announced in a live show on December 2nd 2021.
Well done World Sailing, and thank you to Rolex for continuing to support our sport.