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Published: Wednesday, 05 October 2016

World Sailing, the international governing body for the sport, and Rolex released a golden line up of nominees for the 2016 Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award. 

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 10

(Photos: Sailing Energy / World Sailing - Rio Olympic Games Sailing 2016)

The Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards is one the most prestigious awards of recognition in the dynamic sport of sailing. Since the awards inception in 1994, the trophy has accumulated the names of those who have demonstrated unparalleled endurance, performance and accomplishment in sailing. 

Beginning with Sir Peter Blake and Sir Robin Knox Johnston, the inaugural winners, the trophy reads like the definitive who's who in sailing. There can only be one male and one female winner so who will join the list of sailing royalty in 2016? 

The names vying for the coveted and prestigious 2016 Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards are:

Male

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL)
Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO)
Santiago Lange (ARG)
Giles Scott (GBR)
Damien Seguin (FRA) 

Female

Marit Bouwmeester (NED)
Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG)
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA)
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR)
Charline Picon (FRA) 

The announcement of the 2016 female and male Rolex World Sailors of the Year will be made on Tuesday Nov 8 in Barcelona, Spain, the host city of the World Sailing's 2016 Annual Conference.

The male and female winners will be decided by World Sailing Member National Authorities, attendees on the night as well as, for the first time, the public. Public voting will commence at 12:00 UTC on Friday Nov 4 for a period of 72 hours.

Winners will be presented with a unique marble and silver trophy depicting the globe, crowned with five silver spinnakers representing the continents, together with a Rolex timepiece.

Male nominees:

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 5

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke – New Zealand:

Rio 2016 49er Olympic gold medallists
2015 and 2016 49er World Champions 

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are the kings of the 49er, raising the bar to unrivalled realms. Rightly labelled sailing's hottest properties, Burling and Tuke dominated the 49er fleet at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Aug 8-18, winning with two races to spare but their dominance of the Men's Skiff began long before the first starting gun in Rio de Janeiro.

Over the Rio 2016 quadrennial the pair personified perfection, winning four consecutive world championship titles and every major event along the way. The only dent in a near perfect repertoire was bronze at the South American Championships June 26-July 2 immediately before Rio 2016 but they did not let that distract as they clinched Olympic gold with a cool confidence. 

As if their Olympic campaign was not enough to occupy the New Zealanders, they have combined sailing the 49er with senior roles at Emirates Team New Zealand in the America's Cup World Series, spearheading the team's success.

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 6

Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic – Croatia:

Rio 2016 Men's 470 Olympic gold medallists
2016 Men's 470 World Champions 

When Igor Marenic moved in with Sime Fantela's family as a young sailor, their eyes were set firmly on achieving an Olympic gold medal for their country. What formed was a friendship that morphed into brotherhood and a team dynamic that many can only dream of, ultimately laying their path to glory.

Their bond, hunger and competitive spirit turned them into world beaters throughout the nomination period as they broke Mat Belcher and Will Ryan's consecutive run of world championship wins. Halting the Australians in their tracks Fantela and Marenic won gold at the 2016 World Championship, following up with further victories at Sailing World Cup Hyeres and Weymouth and Portland.

At Rio 2016, the Croatians picked up where they'd left off from the Worlds and Sailing World Cup series, demonstrating consistency that not even the Australians could match. A points buffer meant all they had to do was keep the Australians and Greece's Pavlos Kagialis and Panagiotis Mantis at bay during the Medal Race and gold would be theirs. They did not fail to deliver and returned to Croatia with its first sailing gold medal to a heroic welcome.

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 7

Santiago Lange – Argentina: 

Rio 2016 Nacra 17 Olympic gold medallist sailing with Cecilia Carranza Saroli

Santiago Lange provided Rio 2016 with the fairy tale storyline of the Olympic Games as he won gold with Cecilia Carranza Saroli in the Nacra 17.

54-years-old, Lange was the oldest sailor competing but his story goes beyond his age. Just one year prior to Rio 2016, Lange was diagnosed with cancer and had to have a lung removed. Taking the fight head on, Lange worked to regain a basic level of fitness before tackling the rigours of sailing the physical Mixed Multihull.

Making the start line in itself was an achievement for the resilient Argentinean but with two Olympic bronze medals behind him, his sons competing in the 49er and the support of a nation urging their sailors forward, Lange and Carranza Saroli showed what was possible to work together. 

Leading into the Medal Race, the Argentineans survived two penalties and came home in sixth place. Enough to see them clinch gold by a single point and write their names into the history books.

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 8

Giles Scott – Great Britain:

Rio 2016 Finn Olympic gold medallist
2015 and 2016 Finn World Champion

At Rio 2016, Giles Scott stepped out of the shadow of Sir Ben Ainslie, one of the greatest Olympic sailors, excelling to realms that not even Ainslie had managed. An undisputed favourite heading into Rio 2016, having won 16 of 17 events sailed at, Scott stamped his authority and unlike Ainslie, won gold ahead of the final race.

Crossing the finish line as an Olympic gold medallist saw Scott, the usually reserved, tame, gentle giant come out of his shell, revealing a passionate character brimming with pride and emotion.

Scott boasts key victories throughout the nomination period including two Finn Gold Cup victories as well as a pre-Rio victory on his home waters at Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland June 6-12.

In addition, Scott has been an integral part to the Land Rover BAR America's Cup Team during the nomination period.

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced.

Damien Seguin – France: 

Rio 2016 2.4 Norlin OD Paralympic gold medallist
2015 2.4 Norlin OD Para World Sailing Champion

Always with a smile on his face, Damien Seguin of France is one of the most inspiring Paralympic sailors around, constantly giving his time and efforts to support and showcase the sport he holds close to his heart.

With Athens Paralympic gold and Beijing 2008 silver already around his neck, Seguin was at ease at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Sept 7-17 with sailors and friends from his disabled sailing association watching on Flamengo Beach.

Familiarity of those who he holds close to his heart ensured his calm persona remained throughout a testing 11-race series. With an astute, mature performance, Seguin concentrated on staying at the front of the fleet and even though he only won one race in the series, he remained in the top six throughout as some of his rivals stuttered.

In the final race, Seguin sealed the deal when he crossed the line in fourth position in front of the only sailor that could mathematically beat him – Great Britain's Helena Lucas.

Female nominees

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 2

(The left one)

Marit Bouwmeester – The Netherlands: 

Rio 2016 Laser Radial Olympic gold medallist

To excel in the pressure pot of Olympic Laser Radial sailing, an athlete needs confidence, assertiveness and drive, to think of oneself and punish one’s opponents when the time comes. Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands possesses these attributes in abundance and mixed with a thirst for victory. The Dutch sailor is one of the most feared competitors around.

Leading up to Rio 2016, Bouwmeester was dominant in the Laser Radial, continuously pushing for the top step of the podium. Wins on Olympic waters in Brazil, Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland and the Delta Lloyd Regatta May 24-28 reflect her winning mentality whilst second and fourth place finish at the 2015 and 2016 World Championships only fuelled her fire for Rio 2016 gold. 

A steady, consistent series of races gave the London 2012 silver medallist a cushion heading into the Laser Radial Medal Race and in a nail biting, to and fro finale, Bouwmeester confidently crossed the finish line as an Olympic champion.

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 9

Cecilia Carranza Saroli – Argentina: 

Rio 2016 Nacra 17 Olympic gold medallist sailing with Santiago Lange

The pursuit of glory can take an athlete down different roads but no matter what, the desire to attain and achieve remains.

A two-time Olympian in the Laser Radial, Cecilia Carranza Saroli made the switch to sailing with a partner for the first in her career in 2013, taking to the Nacra 17, before teaming up with Santiago Lange in 2014.

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Carranza Saroli beautifully combined the desire for victory with athleticism and skill to give herself and her inspiring partner, Lange, a small advantage heading into the Medal Race.

Despite receiving two penalties, Carranza Saroili's never-say-die attitude shone through in abundance in the Medal Race. Finding that extra ounce of energy and drive, the Argentineans crossed the finish line in sixth to take one of the most emotional gold medals in Olympic history by a single point.

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 3

Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze – Brazil:

Rio 2016 49erFX Olympic gold medallists

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition signed off with the 49erFX Medal Race and the golden girls of Brazilian sailing, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, delivered in one of the most thrilling Olympic races of all-time.

In a script that Hollywood's best would struggle to even come close to, it was a four-way shootout for gold in the Medal Race with the pressure of an expectant partisan crowd watching on Flamengo Beach and the eyes of a nation glued to the TV throughout Brazil.

When it looked like Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) were going to take the honours, Grael and Kunze found an extra edge and on the run to the finish it was neck and neck.  As those watching held their breath in anticipation, Grael and Kunze concentrated on keeping the Kiwis at bay and beat them by just two seconds at the finish.

A partisan crowd greeted the Brazilians at the beach to capture one of the most iconic images of Rio 2016, highlighting Brazil's passion for sailing and their new starlets.

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark – Great Britain:

Rio 2016 Women's 470 Olympic gold medallists

Spurred on by missing out on London 2012 gold and being made to settle for silver, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark built their Road to Rio looking to vanquish any regrets or what-ifs they had from 2012.

Leading up to Rio 2016, their build up had been nearly flawless. Gold medals at the 2015 Sailing World Cup Final, silver at the 2015 World Championships and two 2016 World Cup golds from Hyeres and Weymouth and Portland to their name, Mills and Clark were a force to be reckoned with.

As those around them at Rio 2016 almost imploded, Mills and Clark kept their attentive focus on the task ahead and finished within the top eight in every race. In the penultimate race of the series the British pair had put enough points between them and their rivals that only a disaster in the Medal Race would see them lose their grip on gold.

Sailing a relaxed Medal Race, the pair came alive the moment they crossed the finish line, sailing straight to Flamengo Beach to celebrate with the thousands that watched them sail to victory.

Rolex World Sailor Of The Year Nominees Announced 4

(The middle one)

Charline Picon – France:

Rio 2016 Women's RS:X Olympic gold medallist

A dress rehearsal for the Olympic Games, sailors who win medals at Olympic Test Events often go on to achieve the ultimate. Charline Picon won gold at the 2014 and 2015 Olympic Test Events and after her triumph in 2015, she said to the waiting press, “in France we have a saying, it is jamais deux san trois”. Translated into English, “never two without three”, it was almost as if she was predicting, with a calm sense of confidence, that Rio 2016 Olympic gold would be hers.

What she couldn't predict was the battle and fight she would have to go through to attain her forecast. A gruelling 12 races did little to separate the Women's RS:X fleet and six sailors were in with a shot of gold in the Medal Race.

Picon was tied for third going into the final race and set out to focus on just achieving a podium spot. As she crossed the line in second she faced an anxious wait to see where her rivals finished. With the main contenders at the back of the pack Picon was correct, you never get two without three and burst into tears of joy as the celebrations commenced. 

Previous recipients of the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award include:

2015 Peter Burling & Blair Tuke (NZL), Sarah Ayton (GBR)
2014 James Spithill (AUS), Martine Grael & Kahena Kunze (BRA)
2013 Mat Belcher (AUS), Jo Aleh & Polly Powrie (NZL)
2012 Ben Ainslie (GBR), Lijia Xu (CHN)
2011 Iker Martinez & Xabier Fernandez (ESP), Anna Tunnicliffe (USA)
2010 Tom Slingsby (AUS), Blanca Manchon (ESP)
2009 Torben Grael (BRA), Anna Tunnicliffe (USA)
2008 Ben Ainslie (GBR), Alessandra Sensini (ITA)
2007 Ed Baird (USA), Claire Leroy (FRA)
2006 Mike Sanderson (NZL), Paige Railey (USA)
2005 Fernando Echavarri & Anton Paz (ESP), Ellen MacArthur (GBR)
2004 Robert Scheidt (BRA), Sofia Bekatorou & Emilia Tsoulfa (GRE)
2003 Russell Coutts (SUI), Siren Sundby (NOR)
2002 Ben Ainslie (GBR), Sofia Bekatorou & Emilia Tsoulfa (GRE)
2001 Robert Scheidt (BRA), Ellen MacArthur (GBR)
2000 Mark Reynolds & Magnus Liljedahl (USA), Shirley Robertson (GBR)
1999 Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL), Margriet Matthijse (NED)
1998 Ben Ainslie (GBR), Carolijn Brouwer (NED)
1997 Pete Goss (GBR), Ruslana Taran & Elena Pakholchik (UKR)
1996 Jochen Schümann (GER), Lai Shan Lee (HKG)
1995 Russell Coutts (NZL), Isabelle Autissier (FRA)
1994 Peter Blake (NZL) & Robin Knox-Johnston (GBR), Theresa Zabell (ESP) 

By Daniel Smith - World Sailing 

www.sailing.org
www.rolex.com