Anna Tunnicliffe, Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez receive awards

The highly anticipated announcement of the recipients
of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards was made last night, Tuesday
8 November, in a ceremony in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The winners, selected from an impressive and
star-studded gathering of nominees, were Anna Tunnicliffe (USA), who claimed
the female award for the second time, and the two-man crew of Iker Martínez and
Xabier Fernández (ESP), awarded the male prize.

The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards takes
place during the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) Annual Conference
and gather the cream of the sailing world – top-class international sailors,
officials, as well as distinguished guests. The Awards, held each November, are
recognised as the highest honour a sailor may receive and celebrate outstanding
achievement during the preceding twelve-month period, in this case from 1
September 2010 and 31 August 2011.

Anna Tunnicliffe has
become only the third female nominee in the 18-year history of the ISAF Rolex
World Sailor of the Year Awards to be awarded the honour for a second time,
following in the footsteps of Ellen MacArthur (GBR) in 2001 and 2005 as well as
Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa (GRE) in 2002 and 2004. Tunnicliffe’s
triumph arrives on the back of another year of achievement in which she became
the ISAF Sailing World Cup champion in Women’s Match Racing.

Away from the
match-racing circuit, Tunnicliffe has proved her versatility, notably in
becoming the Snipe Women’s World Champion. She expressed her delight, and
surprise, with the announcement, admitting, “It is so amazing to win
the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year award again, and I truly did not expect
it this year, as I was up against so many great competitors, and so many fine
accomplishments. When I first read the bios of all the competitors, it is
pretty impressive and then when they showed the videos of everybody it puts it
all into a new perspective – you know you are up against great

An intense period
awaits Tunnicliffe, with multiple challenges lying ahead in 2012. The most
significant of which lies in the form of qualification for the United States
team for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The final trials will take place in
Weymouth, England in the spring of next year.

Joy at last for
Spanish pair

It is a case of
third time lucky for Iker Martínez and Xabier Fernández. The world’s greatest
sailing duo have twice been nominated for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the
Year Awards. In 2002, they missed out to three-time winner Ben Ainslie, before
Brazilian Robert Scheidt took the plaudits in 2004. Eleven years on from their
first nomination, these sailing legends may now, deservedly, see their name
inscribed in the list of the sport’s greats. It is the second time a Spanish
crew has won the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award following Tornado
World Champions Fernando Echavarri and Antón Paz back in 2005.

The Spanish duo were
unable to attend the Award ceremony as, fittingly, they are currently at sea
competing for Team Telefónica in the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from
Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. It is their third Volvo Ocean Race:
Martínez is skippering the 10-strong crew, Fernández is the main trimmer. Through
a video feed recorded on the Team Telefónica boat, the pair confirmed that they
will be celebrating this prestigious achievement despite the immediate
distractions of an ocean race, commenting, “The Award is recognition
for all the sacrifices and hard work not only throughout the last 12 months,
but also during the last 12 years. It’s a prize for our families, who have been
suffering because of our absences for such a long time without complaining.
This is for them.”

Offshore sailing has
become a recent obsession for the pair and far from limited to the Volvo Ocean
Race. On New Year’s Eve 2010, they embarked on their first double-handed
non-stop round the world race aboard the IMOCA60 MAPFRE having relatively
little experience in the class. The Basque duo had to adapt to new, complicated
technology and train themselves to be able to handle the inevitable onboard
repairs which form part of offshore racing. A far cry from Olympic sailing and
races lasting under an hour.

Fourteen boats
started the Barcelona World Race and after just ten months of training aboard
an IMOCA60, Martínez and Fernández returned to Barcelona in second place. They
completed the 25,000 mile course in 94 days, 21 hours, 17 minutes and 35
seconds and picked up the Pacific Trophy for the fastest boat to complete the
Cook Strait to Cape Horn section of the race.

The twosome declared
before the race that they would happily relinquish overall victory in favour of
competing the race without stopping. They were true to their pledge and needed
no external assistance on route, despite dwindling food supplies during the
final week. The winning boat – Virbac-Paprec 3 – which finished a day earlier,
was forced to make an interruption. Poignantly, Martínez and Fernández were the
first Spaniards to finish amongst a highly competitive fleet although the
physical aspect of the race took its toll, perhaps best demonstrated by the
fact that Fernández lost 17kg and Martínez 10kg during the three months at sea.

For over a decade
this incredible sailing team has stood at the forefront of the sport and they
show no signs of relaxing, with many ambitions still to fulfil.

Proud achievers
addition to the two winners, the list of nominees for the 2011 ISAF Rolex World
Sailor of the Year Award included:

Dee Caffari
(GBR) – Record Breaking Round The World Yachtswoman
Sarah-Quita Offringa (ARU)
– Double Professional Windsurfing Association World Champion
Alexandra Rickham
(GBR) – ISAF Sailing World Cup Champion and IFDS World Champion

Ben Ainslie
(GBR) – Match Racing World Champion & ISAF Sailing World Cup Champion
Bressani (ITA) – Melges 24 and 32 World Champion
Rob Douglas (USA) – Outright
World Speed Record Holder
Nathan Outteridge (AUS) – International Moth World
Champion and 49er Champion

Due to their very
active lives on the water, a number of nominees, in addition to Martínez and
Fernández, were unable to attend the Awards, including Ben Ainslie, Nathan
Outteridge and Alexandra Rickham. Those present at the ceremony, reflected on
their successful achievements and pride in being nominated.

Outright world speed
record holder Rob Douglas (USA) said, “Looking back today [at his
successful record-breaking attempt] it is still very emotional. It is probably
one of the biggest moments of my life. In terms of the level of stress it is
like taking a car travelling 65 miles per hour and stepping out the door when
going down the highway!”

An enthusiastic
Professional Windsurfer Association World Champion Women’s Freestyle and World
Champion Women’s Slalom, Sarah-Quita Offringa (ARU) commented, “I love
windsurfing a lot. It was pretty special when I read I was nominated but then I
arrived here and began feeling nervous, it is such a great feeling to be
recognised for your achievements.”

Dee Caffari, the
first woman to sail around the world non-stop three times, added, “I love
being out on the ocean. Sailing with somebody else [double-handed at the
Barcelona World Race] can be very heightened emotionally as you don’t normally
spend that intense amount of time with another person. It is quite a test
having that other person there for three months non-stop but we really enjoyed

Meanwhile, Melges 24
and 32 champion Lorenzo Bressani said, “I am an instinctive sailor who
prefers strong conditions. I enjoy both being a tactician and steering the

ISAF Rolex World
Sailor of the Year Awards

The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year
Awards have been held every year since 1994 and past winners include Peter
Blake (NZL), Ellen MacArthur (GBR), Robert Scheidt (BRA), Ben Ainslie (GBR) and
Russell Coutts (SUI). In 2010 the Awards were presented to Tom Slingsby (AUS)
and Blanca Manchón (ESP).

The next edition of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year
Awards will be held in Dun Laoghaire, Republic of Ireland in November 2012.

For more information, visit the ISAF homepage.