Belcher, Ryan and Darmanin take the top prize at Yachting Australia Awards

Fresh from their World Championship and World Cup final wins, 470 sailors Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan have continued their extraordinary run of success by taking out the 2015 Yachting Australia Male Sailor of the Year award.

The pair have finished on the medal podium at every regatta they have competed at since teaming up after the London 2012 Games. They recently won their third consecutive World Championship title, Belcher’s sixth having won three previously with Malcolm Page, backing it up by taking out the World Cup final in Abu Dhabi.

“I would like to congratulate all the other nominees,” Belcher said. “There is such a deep talent in Australian sailing at the moment. It's amazing what we’re achieving and what we're doing for the sport in Australia. Will and I as a team are working really hard to make you proud and inspire the next generation of sailors.”

Nacra 17 sailor Lisa Darmanin took out the corresponding women’s award. Together with Jason Waterhouse, Darmanin has enjoyed a successful season racing the Multihull as they attempt to qualify for Rio 2016. As well as two World Cup wins, the pair won the Rio Olympic Test Event and were second at the World Championships.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Darmanin said. “I’ve been nominated the last two years so to finally win is an honour. To stand up next to Mat Belcher who is a six-time World Champion, it means a lot. It’s encouraging going into the last year going into Rio.”

Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have continued to dominate in their Skud 18 Class since winning gold at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. The pair won the award for Sailor of the Year with a Disability.

“It was a pretty tough field out there,” Tesch said. “The other sailors have done some amazing things. It’s a great honour for us and it reinforces that we have a big year ahead of us and a big responsibility on our shoulders on behalf of Australia.”

Youth Sailor of the Year was awarded to the pairing of Kyle O’Connell and Tom Siganto. The Southport Yacht Club sailors won the Australian Youth Championships in January before going on to win the 2015 29er World Championships, a thrilling competition which came down to the last race and just one point.

Lifelong friends and yachting legends Bill Buckle and Bob Oatley were recognised for their huge contributions to the sport with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The coveted President’s Award was presented to the highly decorated Olympic sailing coach Mike Fletcher.

Setting a Guinness World Record and taking the Sport Promotion Award was Kite The Reef, which saw eight kitesurfers travel 1,185km across the Great Barrier Reef raising awareness and over $100,000 for Motor Neurone Disease.

The Sport Professional Award was won by Justine Kirkjian who plays a pivotal role in the organisation of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Kirkjian also develops and oversees all racing undertaken at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia including ocean racing, club racing, social racing, special events and regattas.

The Coach of the Year Award was presented to Tristan Brown from Fremantle Sailing Club.

In 2015 Brown became a World Champion coach for the first time with Conor Nicholas winning the 2015 World Laser Radial Youth Championships in,Canada. He also coached two sailors onto the 2015 Australian Youth Sailing Team to contest the ISAF Youth World Sailing Championships in Malaysia, taking place at the end of the year.

Riccardo Deghi from Sandringham Yacht Club in Victoria took out the Award for Instructor of the Year and Western Australia’s Andy Curnow was awarded Official of the Year.

The Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club was awarded Club of the Year for their staging of the 2015 Moth World Championships.

For his dedication to regatta management, race management, coaching, jury, website management and results, Paul Pascoe was presented the Volunteer Award.

– Jane Gordon

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