The line-up of Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2019 nominees has been announced by World Sailing, the world governing body of the sport, and Rolex, the leading name in prestige watches that includes watches engineered specifically for sailing. Three female and four male nominees represent the success stories in the beautifully diverse and dynamic sport of sailing. Young and old nominees truly highlight the sport as one that can be participated in at the highest level throughout a sailor’s career. The nominees have performed at the highest level over the last 12 months and continue to inspire globally.
The 2019 Rolex World Sailor of the Year female nominees are: Delphine Cousin Questel (FRA) – 2018 PWA World Tour Slalom World Champion, Violeta del Reino (ESP) – 2019 Para World Sailing Championship Hansa 303 World Champion, and Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) – 2019 Laser Radial World and European Champion.
Dominance has become the norm for Cousin Questel who, throughout the nomination period, has won seven PWA World Tour events in the slalom and foil disciplines.
A mainstay on the PWA World Tour since 2010, Cousin Questel won every slalom event in 2018. Success at the Fly! ANA Windsurf, Ulsan and Viana PWA World Cup Slalom rounds ensured she finished 400 points clear of her nearest rivals to claim the 2018 Women’s Slalom World Championship title. The world title was Cousin Questel’s third and her first since 2014 after Sarah-Quita Offringa (ARU) dominated the circuit. The French windsurfer, whose first world title came in 2013, continued to succeed in both slalom and foil in 2019.
To date, Cousin Questel has won the 2019 Marignane and Ulsan PWA World Cup Slalom titles with a second place at the Waterz Festival in Hvide Sande, Denmark and leads the race to become 2019 World Champion. In the foil discipline, she won the 2019 Fly! ANA Windsurf and Ulsan PWA World Cup and is on track to make it two world titles in 2019.
Spain’s Violeta del Reino has become a leading light at the Para World Sailing Championships, racing in the Women’s Hansa 303 division. The Spanish racer won the inaugural title in Kiel, Germany in 2017 before finishing third at the 2018 edition in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
A Rio 2016 Paralympian in the SKUD18, del Reino went into the 2019 Para World Sailing Championships, held in Cadiz, Spain in July, determined to win back the crown she narrowly missed out on in 2018. Heading into the final race on her home waters, the fight for the gold medal was not so clear-cut with most of the six-boat Medal Race fleet still in with a chance at a podium spot.
But it was del Reino who kept her composure to clinch the final victory, and with it, the gold medal in her home country.
On the road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, regular success in the Laser Radial has been hard to come by. Danish sailor Anne-Marie Rindom has broken that trend, finding the right rhythm and form as the clock ticks down the 2020 Olympiad as she bids to upgrade her Rio 2016 bronze medal.
In July 2019, Rindom secured her second Laser Radial world title in Sakaiminiati, Japan, highlighting her as a favourite for Tokyo 2020. Her World Championship success has not been isolated and throughout 2019 alone she has won four gold medals at high-profile events.
Before she headed to Japan for the 2019 World Championship, Rindom secured gold at the Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofia Regatta in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. She then topped the standings at her second consecutive event after she won in light and challenging wind conditions at the Hempel World Cup Series event in Genoa, Italy. Just weeks later she made it three in a row by securing the European Championship title in Porto, Portugal, moving to World #1 as a result. Most recently, Rindom finished second on Olympic waters at the Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima event.
On the male side, the list includes: Antoine Albeau (FRA) – PWA World Tour Slalom World Champion; Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) – 2019 470 World, European and Hempel World Cup Series Champions; Marco Gradoni (ITA) – 2018 and 2019 Optimist World Champion; and Francis Joyon (FRA) – Route du Rhum winner
At 47 years old, Albeau claimed his 25th world title in the Pro Windsurfers Association World Tour in 2018 – and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Albeau started windsurfing aged five and in 1992 he turned professional. Since then he has accumulated national and international titles to position him as one of the greatest windsurfers of all time.
A specialist in slalom racing, freestyle and waves, Albeau fended off competition from 117 slalom racers in 2018 to claim the PWA World Tour Slalom world title. Across the six-race series, Albeau finished outside the podium just once, using all of his experience to claim a convincing victory against a younger fleet of racers. He also finished third in the 2018 Foil World Championship.
In 2019, Albeau remains in the hunt for a 26th world title and is third overall in slalom after four events. In addition to his World Championship success, Albeau also holds the fastest speed recorded on a windsurfer, reaching 53.27 knots in 2015.
Remarkable consistency, outstanding performance and gold medals are synonymous to Australian 470 sailors Mat Belcher and Will Ryan. The Australian duo are the leading lights in the Men’s 470 and over the last 12 months they have set the performance bar higher than ever.
Throughout the nomination period, the pair have won when it’s really mattered. They first clinched the 470 European title in San Remo, Italy in May – their fourth European title together. They followed up with victory at the Hempel World Cup Series Final in Marseille, France before heading to Enoshima, Japan, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic venue, for a triple header that would define their year.
Up first, the 470 World Championship in a 52-boat fleet. The pair were set for a straight shootout for gold against Spanish rivals in the Medal Race, but their opponents’ OCS handed the title to the Australians. It was the pair’s fifth world title together and Belcher’s eighth in total.
Ready, Steady Tokyo – Sailing, the Olympic test event, followed just days later and once again the Australians prevailed by a narrow margin. Belcher and Ryan then signed off their Japanese tour with their third gold medal in almost as many weeks as they took the Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima honors. Their success on Olympic waters has positioned them firmly as favourites for Tokyo 2020 and on current form, it’s hard to picture anyone stopping them.
Touted as the most talented and accomplished sailor of his age group, Gradoni’s results throughout the nomination period certainly highlight that statement. Gradoni won the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Optimist World Championship, demonstrating his potential but he made history in 2019 as he won the largest ever Optimist World Championship. More than 250 sailors from 65 nations lined up in Antigua and Gradoni excelled, taking the World Championship title for the third consecutive year alongside winning the 2019 Optimist Team Racing Championship with his Italian team-mates.
Outside of his World Championship success, Gradoni has finished first in every Optimist event he has participated in since September 2018. He started the period off by winning the 2018 Optimist World Championship in Cyprus for the second time, with 9 victories from 10 races. In the spring he topped 940 boats to take the Garda Meeting title for the second year in a row. The final event of his Optimist career was the 2019 World Championship where he won seven of 12 races to claim the title once again. Throughout the nomination period, he won 14 consecutive gold medals, marking him as a star of the future. If at first you don’t succeed, try again and again and again. Having sailed his first Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in 1990, Francis Joyon never lost sight of winning the famous solo transatlantic race. He finished second in 2010 and came through in sixth in 2014, but all the near misses were about to change in 2018 as he set sail in his eighth edition of the race.
In the closest finish since the event was first staged in 1978, the French ocean racing veteran won the 40th anniversary Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race from Saint Malo to Pointe-À-Pitre.
In the clammy heat and light winds of the Caribbean night, the 62-year-old glided across the finish line on IDEC Sport at 23:21.47 local time on 10 November to beat the poster boy of French offshore sailing, François Gabart on MACIF by just seven minutes and eight seconds.
Joyon’s victory concluded a thrilling finale in the ULTIME class as he defeated 123 skippers across six classes and set a new record time for the 3,542-nautical mile course of just seven days, 14 hours and 21 minutes. Having trailed Gabart for much of the race, MACIF sustained some damage which handed IDEC Sport the initiative. But it wasn’t until the famous Basse Terre buoy, 24-miles out from the finish, that Joyon grabbed the lead. This resulted in a side-by-side drag race to the finish as Gabart clawed back time with better light wind performance. Joyon managed to hold on to claim a famous victory.
The female and male winners will be announced at the World Sailing Awards Ceremony in Bermuda on 29 October 2019. Each winner will be presented with the unique marble and silver trophy depicting the globe, crowned with five silver spinnakers representing the continents, together with a Rolex timepiece.
World Sailing also announced its nominees for the 2019 Hempel Team of the Year Award, with entries from Australia, Switzerland and the USA in the running. Switzerland’s Alinghi, the Australian SailGP Team, Wild Oats XI of Australia and the American boat Wizard all feature on the shortlist following their success over the last 12 months of high-performance international competition.
The Hempel Team of the Year Award celebrates teams of two or more sailors who personify the sporting values of integrity, ambition, resilience and resourcefulness.
The shortlist was drawn up by Yann Rocherieux, Chairman of World Sailing’s Athletes’ Commission and World Sailing Board Member; Thomas Olsen, Decorative and Yacht Marketing Director at Hempel, World Sailing’s Official Coatings Partner; Stan Honey, Chairman of the Oceanic and Offshore Committee; Eddie Warden Owen, CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club; and Andy Rice, leading sailing journalist.
The judging panel will vote on the winner before they are announced on Tuesday 29 October 2019 at the World Sailing Awards in Bermuda.
Following Alinghi‘s creation in 1994, the Swiss team have enjoyed global success including victories at the 31st and 32nd America’s Cup. Spearheaded by Ernesto Bertarelli and Arnaud Psarofaghis, the team continued to add to their trophy cabinet in the D35 and GC32 with global regatta victories at the end of 2018 and throughout 2019.
In the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series, racing the GC32, they concluded the year with a second place in San Diego, USA before winning the final event of the series in Los Cabos, Mexico. This handed them their fourth Extreme Sailing Series title.
Alinghi‘s success in the GC32 continued in 2019. They started the GC32 Racing Tour with a second place in the Villasimius Cup before winning the 2019 World Championship in style with eight victories during the 18-race series in Lagos, Portugal. A second place followed at the 38th Copa del Rey MAPFRE before another victory at the GC32 Riva Cup. After four events they are poised to claim the series win.
And in the 16th and final season of the D35 Trophy, Alinghi triumphed for the eighth time, winning four of seven events to take the silverware.
Led by Australian Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup winner Tom Slingsby, the Australian SailGP Team have dominated the first season of SailGP, the fan-centric grand prix sailing series. At the series opener on their home waters in Sydney, Slingsby and his team of experienced America’s Cup, Olympic and Ocean Race sailors controlled the fleet of six and defeated their nearest rivals, Japan’s SailGP Team, skippered by Nathan Outteridge.
Further success followed for Slingsby in San Francisco before the Japanese team hit back with an event win in New York. The Australian team then returned to the top of the leaderboard by winning their third event in Cowes, Great Britain, booking them a place in Marseille’s million-dollar Match Race Final where they faced familiar foe Outteridge and his Japan team.
At the beginning of the race, Slingsby and the Australian team handed the Japanese an advantage after receiving a penalty for entering the start box early, but soon caught up with their rivals. Outteridge then looked to force a penalty on Slingsby which backfired, handing the Australians a lead that they never relinquished to win the SailGP Season 1 trophy and US$1 million.
Wild Oats XI continue to set the bar in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and in 2018, Mark Richards’ team of 20, which includes some of the world’s most talented and applauded sailors with backgrounds in the America’s Cup, Olympic Games and The Ocean Race, won the coveted line honors title for the ninth time.
Retirements in 2015 and 2016, followed by a one-hour penalty in 2017, saw the famous Wild Oats XI miss out on the line honors title that they had won a record eight times the ten years prior. But in 2018, alongside navigator Juan Vila, Richards and the crew put that three years of misery behind them.
The team were locked in a four-way battle between Black Jack, Comanche and InfoTrack throughout the 628 nautical mile race. Up until two hours before the finish, the race was still wide open, but Wild Oats XI managed to put enough distance in between themselves and their rivals to win by less than 30 minutes and extend their winning line honors record.
David and Peter Askew’s team on Wizard have enjoyed a highly successful 2019, dominating the offshore circuit. Skippered by Charlie Enright, the team featured offshore veterans such as Will Oxley, Richard Clarke and Mark Towill and won the 2019 RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy, scoring the best corrected time under IRC. Their near-faultless performance saw them complete the 600-mile non-stop race in 43 hours, 38 minutes and 44 seconds.
With success in the Caribbean under their belt, they headed to Europe in search of Rolex Fastnet Race honors. Sailing in the West to East Transat Race, the team fought SHK Scallyway for line honors, a boat some 30 feet longer than Wizard. Although they fell just seven hours short during the ten-day sail, Wizard‘s speed was enough to claim a comprehensive IRC 1 victory.
Enright, Towill, Oxley and the team continued to sail immaculately and at the Rolex Fastnet Race they again fought larger boats to punch above their weight. The power of Rambler 88 eventually came through, but Wizard were once again crowned IRC overall winners, marking an unrivalled period of offshore success.