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2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards

isaf1_webTorben Grael and Anna Tunnicliffe joined the sailing world’s most prestigious list of winners last night, 10 November, as they were named winners of the 2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards at a spectacular ceremony held in Busan, South Korea. (Images courtesy of Rolex/Daniel Forster)

Sailors, officials and special guests from all over the world gather every November for the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) Annual Conference and the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards. The Awards are recognized as the highest honour a sailor can receive in recognition of his/her outstanding achievements and this year’s official award ceremony took place last night, 10 November, in Busan, South Korea at the Busan Yacht Club in Haeundae-gu. Although there were many exceptional sailors present at the award ceremony, only two of the five male and four female nominees could walk away with the prestigious ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year title. The winners of this esteemed award for 2009 are Torben Grael (BRA) and Anna Tunnicliffe (USA).

isaf2_webSuccess has seemed to follow Torben Grael throughout the many years of his sailing career. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and nicknamed “Turbine” for his nautical achievements, Torben Grael has won five Olympic medals, more than any other sailor in history, and can claim multiple world championship titles together with a Louis Vuitton Cup (Luna Rossa, 2000). His most recent achievement in the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race, where he skippered Ericsson 4 to spectacular victory, is the one for which he was recognised at last night’s ceremony. It was only his second Volvo Ocean Race, yet Grael and his team were first home on five legs, finishing on the podium eight times out of ten total legs in the race. The Ericsson 4 team was also in the top three for all seven offshore scoring gates and on the podium for three of the seven in-port races, accruing a final 84% (114.5 points) of the total points available. As if that were not enough, Ericsson 4 additionally entered the record books on 29 October after setting the 24-hour Monohull World Record, sailing a phenomenal 596.6nm, an average speed of 24.85 knots, during the race. After nine months and nearly 40,000 nautical miles of racing, Ericsson 4 was the undisputed winner of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009 and the team crossed the finish line in St Petersburg with an unbeatable nine-point lead.

But Grael was not the only sailor who left last night’s ceremony with a silver World Sailor rophy and a prestigious Rolex timepiece. Anna Tunnicliffe was named the female winner of this prestigious award, and she is no stranger to success herself. In the past twelve months, Anna Tunnicliffe has set her sights on a variety of challenges across a range of boats and disciplines. Tunnicliffe won the gold medal for the USA in the Laser Radial at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the first US Women’s Olympic sailing medal in 20 years, and has kept herself busy ever since, sailing not only the one-person Laser Radial, but also a Snipe alongside her Match Racing commitments.

Tunnicliffe was born in Doncaster, England, but has lived in the United States since she was twelve. She began sailing at a young age and keeps herself busy with constant training and competing in a variety of classes. “I love sailing different classes,” said Tunnicliffe, during her interview at last night’s Awards Ceremony. “The two disciplines are quite different. I really like sailing by myself and it’s a physical game in the Laser, all about putting yourself in the right position and working it as hard as you can. When you’re with a team, it’s still about working as hard as you can, but together with everybody. At first it was a bit hard, because I have to relinquish some of what I’m used to doing and give it to my team mates so I can get the boat going fast. But sailing with a team gives you someone to talk to, and we decide together where to go, so it’s a bit more relaxing because you are not out there making all the decisions by yourself,” Tunnicliffe said with a smile, “I would say that one of my personal highlights of the year was being able to compete quite successfully in two disciplines: Match Racing and Laser sailing. I’m really excited to see where it goes next year.”