Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan have added to their rapidly growing number of accolades, taking out the Male Sailor of the Year award at the 2014 Yachting Australia Awards in Sydney tonight.
The formidable duo is going from strength to strength in the 470 class, dominating the podium both domestically and internationally over the past 12 months. They were recently crowned World Champions, qualifying a quota place for Australia for the 2016 Olympics in the process. This year they also took out the European and Australian Championships, won gold at the Rio Olympic Test Event and finished the year with two golds, a silver and a bronze at the four ISAF World Cup events.
“I’m so lucky. It’s been an amazing experience for me to sail with someone so dedicated, so motivated, so hungry to win and so humble. We have two years to go, we got a lot of work to do and we are in good position. The Australian Sailing Team is our family and we are really proud of being part of it and winning this award tonight.” Belcher said of sailing with Ryan.
They were the 2013 Australian Institute of Sport Team of the Year, and Belcher was crowned 2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year. The pair was also recently nominated as finalists for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2014, to be decided in November. As they build towards Rio 2016, Belcher and Ryan are a powerful force as they look to defend Australia’s 470 gold medal from the last two consecutive Olympics.
“It’s a fantastic honour,” Ryan added. “The real message I have taken out of tonight though is how much we all love sailing. And I think that passion we have for our sport is showing in how good our results are across the board.”
With the Rio Olympics less that two years away, Australia’s Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller was thrilled with the award. “It would be hard to find two better role models for sport,” she tweeted.
Taking out the Female Sailor of the Year award was Vanessa Dudley who achieved a remarkable double this year. Dudley completed her 18th Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, finishing second on Ragamuffin 100. She was also crowned 2013 World Champion in the grand-master Laser Radial division at the Laser Master World Championships – an amazing accomplishment beating all her male competitors and achieving celebrity status as a female role model in Oman where the Championships were held. She took the Australian Champion title in the Grand Master Women’s Radial in March 2014 and finished third overall at the NSW Laser Radial Open Championships. She topped the year off by winning line honours and making several race records as a crew on Ragamuffin in a number of offshore yacht races.
“I’m so excited about winning this award,” Dudley said. “For an old chook like me to be up here – it’s amazing. I have so much respect for the other finalists Nina and Lisa in the Nacra and I can’t even imagine kiteboarding! I’m incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy small and big boat sailing and do a sport that I just love.”
Kurt Hansen and Harry Morton were named Youth Sailors of the Year, although these youngsters are already making waves in senior circles. Hansen and Morton sailed to victory this year at the Open 29er World Championships, taking out the title to be crowned World Champions for 2014 in both the open and youth divisions. This impressive win came after a series of solid international results throughout the year and after dominating the domestic 29er circuit. Morton also won the Junior Contender Worlds Championships in January 2014, making him World Champion in two classes for 2014.
The Sailor of the Year with a Disability went to the team of Daniel Fitzgibbon, Liesl Tesch, Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris, Russell Boaden and Matthew Bugg. The team of six sailors beat Great Britain by one point at the IFDS World Championship to be named the best performing national across all Paralympic classes, winning the trophy for the first time. Fitzgibbon and Tesch were first overall in the SKUD 18; the team of Harrison, Harris and Boaden finished third in the Sonar class and Tasmanian Bugg was fifth overall in the 2.4m. These individual results qualified Australia in all three Paralympic classes for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“Its been an exciting couple of years being part of this great team,” Bugg said. “We’ve had personal bests across the board. What’s really good is to see a team that is having so much fun sailing and with that attitude, we are getting good results.”
“We’ve got a really tight team and it’s going to be a great road to Rio,” Tesch added.
Designer, competitive sailor and professional event director Iain Murray was recognised for his contribution to the sport by taking out the Sport Professional Award. The 2008 Olympian has contributed to sailing for over 40 years, reaching his professional peak during the 34th America’s Cup where he held the position as Regatta Director and CEO.
Two other major contributors in Bill Gale and John Calvert-Jones were recognised with Lifetime Achievement Awards, one of the highest honours of the sport. In addition to his accomplished career as a competitor, Calvert-Jones John was the Chairman for the Australian Sailing Team’s Patrons Program from 2009 – 2014. The Patron’s program raised over $1 Million for Australia’s unstoppable London 2012 campaign. Gale established an unassailable benchmark for yacht racing in Sydney Harbour, where he has not only raced in the harbour for the last 70 years, but through his management of racing at the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club has encouraged others to do so. He is also considerably responsible for the maintenance of Australia’s sailing heritage.
At the Awards ceremony held at the historic Australian National Maritime Museum and presented by Channel 7’s Jim Wilson, a host of other athletes, officials, professionals, volunteers and clubs were recognised for their dedicated service to the sport.
2014 Yachting Australia Award Winners
For all finalist bios see here: http://www.yachting.org.au/awards-2014/finalists/
Male Sailor of the Year Mathew Belcher (QLD) & Will Ryan (QLD)
Female Sailor of the Year Vanessa Dudley
Sailor of the Year with a Disability Australian Sailing Team
Daniel Fitzgibbon (NSW), Liesl Tesch (NSW), Matt Bugg (TAS),
Colin (WA), Jonathan Harris (NSW), Russell Boaden (WA)
Youth Sailor of the Year Kurt Hansen & Harry Morton
Sport Promotion Award Albury-Wodonga Yacht Club
Sport Professional Award Iain Murray (NSW)
Volunteer Award John Rosser (WA)
Garry Hosie (VIC)
Brian Sorell (SA)
Club of the Year Wynyard Yacht Club (TAS)
Official of the Year Mark Taylor (VIC)
Instructor of the Year Craig Ferris (NSW)
Coach of the Year Larry Cargill (NSW)
CYCA SOLAS Trusts Bravery Award Tim Phillips, Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club
Lifetime Achievement John Calvert-Jones
Lifetime Achievement Bill Gale
President’s Award Syd Fischer