Three British sailors take top titles at the BBC South Sports Awards

Last night was a great night for sailing at the BBC South Sports Awards. The evening started off with the SEC Ltd Young Sportsman of the Year award being presented to RYA Team GBR sailor Mark Powell.

Eighteen-year-old Mark Powell from Hayling Island, was recognised for his impressive string of sailing accolades including a gold medal in the Laser class at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship earlier this year. Powell’s other achievements include winning the 2001 Youth Nationals in Largs and a silver medal at the European Youth Olympic Games in 1997. Mark was also a member of the Volvo RYA National Youth Squad earlier this year and has recently been invited to join the RYA World Class Performance Programme as a member of the Olympic Development Squad.

Powell was some-what stunned when his name was read out: “I am very surprised to win the Young Sportsman of the Year award and delighted. It was great to win the gold medal at the ISAF World Championship and hopefully I can go on and achieve further success in the sport of sailing.”

Olympic Gold Medallist Shirley Robertson presented the award for the BBC Southern Counties Radio Yachtsperson of the Year to Paralympic gold medallist Andrew Cassell. Cassell, who won a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games, has a number of other achievements to his name including a silver medal at the World Disabled Sailing Championship a few weeks ago.

“I am very surprised to receive this award and it is very unexpected,” commented Cassell, who went on to thank everyone who had supported him over the years and expressed how delighted he was to win the Yachtsperson of the Year award.

Paralympic Manager Cathy Foster shared in Cassell’s delight and on hearing the news said: “Andy really deserves this award for a lifetime of sailing achievements and being such a positive supporter of anybody who wants to go sailing whether able bodied or disabled. He has never let his disability stand in the way of going sailing and is a great example to everyone.”

A third sailor was recognised for their contributions to sport when the BBC South Sports Personality of the Year was awarded to Ellen McArthur for her amazing bravery and achievements in the sailing world.

Ellen’s enthusiasm for sailing was sparked off at the early age of eight. After saving her school dinner money to buy her first boat, she has gone on to be one of the most recognised women in the history of sailing and competed in challenging races such as the Route Du Rhum, Vendee Globe and the Mini transat race.

Unfortunately Ellen could not make the awards as she had just finished the Transat Jacques Vabre. McArthur commented on videotape that she was delighted to be named as the Sports Personality of the Year and it meant a lot to be recognised for this prestigious award.