Youth Served With ISAF Awards

Thierry Martinez

Aside from their relative youth and their unparalleled talent, Ellen MacArthur and Robert Scheidt are as different as two sailors can be. At the annual ISAF Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, the International Sailing Federation honored MacArthur and Scheidt, and the sport’s diversity, by naming both as the ISAF World Sailors of the Year for 2001.

For Scheidt this award was a long time coming. Though only 28, the wiry Brazilian has dominated Laser sailing for seven years, winning five world championships and two Olympic medals. He’s been nominated twice before, including in 1996 when he won the worlds and the Olympics. His record this year wasn’t any stronger, but he thinks his impressive career in one of the most popular classes helped single him out from a list that included Grant Dalton, Star world champion Fredrik Lööf, and Vendée Globe victor Michel Desjoyeaux.

"It’s the ultimate goal for a sailor, winning this prize," says Scheidt. "There’s so many types of sailing around this world. It’s a nice sensation."

Scheidt adds that being able to receive the award in Portugal, where he could address the crowd in his native tongue, and having his parents and close friends with him for the ceremony, was worth the wait.

While Scheidt won the award for an extended record of excellence racing small boats on short courses, MacArthur, 25, earned her trophy after an explosive two-year stint of shorthanded offshore racing. A second in the Vendée Globe capped her transition from local curiosity to international celebrity. The diminutive Englishwoman isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. While her name was being announced in Lisbon, she was racing in the Transat Jacques Vabre from France to Brazil aboard Alain Gautier’s 60-foot trimaran Foncia. Her second place finish in that doublehanded race locked up the Fico-Lacoste 2001 skipper’s world championship, a biennial points championship for shorthanded ocean racers. She is the first woman and the second non-French sailor to win the award.