America’s Cup-winning skipper Glenn Ashby and rising RPAYC stars Natasha Bryant and Annie Wilmot were named the nation’s top sailors for 2017 at the Australian Sailing Awards in Sydney on Friday night.
Ashby was crowned Male Sailor of the Year and the duo of Bryant and Wilmot won Female Sailor of the Year at a festive ceremony which celebrated Australian Sailing’s diverse strengths. The Male and Female Sailor of the Year Award is the highest achievement an Australian Sailor can be honoured with and for the duo Bryant & Wilmot the endless hours on water with Coach Traks (Evan) Gordon, passion to excel and the goal of representing Australia at the Tokyo Oylmpics was recognised by their peers.
The awards were held in conjunction with Australian Sailing’s inaugural Hall of Fame Inductions which saw RPAYC Members Kay Cottee, Daniel Fitzgibbon & Liesl Tesch, Phil Smidmore and Colin Beashel recognised for their outstanding contributions and excellence in Sailing.
Ashby was rewarded Male Sailor of the Year for his expertise in guiding Emirates Team New Zealand to a comprehensive 7-1 series win over Oracle Team USA, skippered by RPAYC Member James Spithill in the 35th America’s Cup, in Bermuda in June. It was the latest and perhaps greatest of Ashby’s illustrious achievements, which include a silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games and 15 World Championships across three multi-hull classes.
“It’s been a fantastic evening here in Sydney and I’m very humbled and honoured to receive the Australian Sailing Male Sailor of the Year,” Ashby said.
“There was a fantastic array of nominees. It’s been a big year in Australian sailing and it’s been very nice to catch up withf a lot of friends and our sailing community.”
Ashby was last month named as one of four finalists in the prestigious Rolex World Sailor of the Year, which will be announced at the World Sailing Awards Ceremony in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Tuesday.
Bryant and Wilmot have it all ahead of them, but they were recognised for their outstanding performance in winning the Youth World Sailing Championship in the 29er class in New Zealand last December. In a remarkable display of dedication to representing Australia at a higher level, the duo later declared they would not defend their world title in China this year and moved into the Olympic class 49er in order to focus on securing a coveted place on the Australian Sailing Team for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“We’re really honoured to be receiving this award and we’d really like to thank [2016 Olympic silver medallist] Lisa Darmanin for all that she’s done for us and all her mentoring,” Bryant said.
Wilmot thanked the many people she said had supported the pair, including their families and coach, Traks Gordon.
“Tonight has been amazing, being in this room with all these legends, it’s just so inspiring for the young generation out there,” she added.