By Lynn Fitzpatrick
How many people on the planet are the reigning Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion, ISAF World Cup Champion, European Champion, North American Champion and National Champion in a Class? How many sailors were ISAF ranked #1 in throughout the entire 2010 – 2011 World Sailor of the Year nominating period? How many living sailors can legitimately claim to be the most decorated sailor of all time in an Olympic Class?
The only sailor with such accomplishments is Australia’s Malcolm Page.
What ISAF should be asking itself is regarding the Men’s World Sailor of the Year is whether the organization bestows the only award that Malcolm Page has not won exclusively to Malcolm Page or to the team of Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page this year.
Since Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page started sailing together in 2009, they clawed their way to the top of the ISAF rankings and have been unseated since August 2010. This is the second year in a row that the pair have overwhelmingly dominated the 470 Men’s discipline and claimed the ISAF World Cup and World Championship and many more titles along the way.
They were the clear favorites to be 2010 World Sailors of the Year until politics reared its ugly head. Australian Laser sailor, Tom Slingsby, who did not sail all of the 2010 World Cup events, had a brilliant three weeks that straddled the close of the 2009-2010 nominating period. Slingsby won Sail for Gold in the Laser, was an Etchells World Championship crew and won the Laser World Championship after the nominating period for the year was over.
Not wanting to show favoritism among their Olympic sailors, Yachting Australia ducked a difficult decision; the organization awarded the Australian Sailor of the Year Award to James Spithill for his America’s Cup victory. Ask yourself how much Jimmy Spithill had to do with winning a best of three series in which a trimaran with a wing 1.8 times the size of a 747 wing competed against a smaller catamaran with a traditional mast and soft sails. Try to find out how much Larry Ellison paid for the technology and the army of engineers, designers, builders, marketers, sailors, coaches and lawyers to support Jimmy Spithill. As blundering as ISAF was, even the blue-haired, blue-blazer crowd didn’t see it fit to follow the lead of Australian Yachting. Instead, they disregarded their own rules and selected Tom Slingsby.
Is sailing such a non-spectator sport that sailors don’t take interest enough in the top end of the sport to nominate those who clearly deserve to be cited for their consistent superior performance in Olympic Class sailing, which is still considered the pinnacle of the sport? Is ISAF so entangled with backdoor politics that it can’t recognize an oversight and identify candidates who truly deserve to be nominated for World Sailor of the Year?
I submit that ISAF’s difficult decision is whether to select Malcolm Page or Malcolm and his teammate, Mat Belcher, as 2011 World Sailors of the Year. All of us will forgive ISAF for recognizing their oversight in not including either in its original nominee list. We will not forgive ISAF if the organization tries to cover up this gaff.
Results 2010 – 2011 ISAF World Sailor of the Year Nominating Period
2011 Sail Melbourne - Gold
2011 - North American Championships - Gold
2011 Rolex Miami OCR - Silver
2011 - Australian Championships - Gold
2011 - Palma - 7th
2011 Hyeres - 6th
2011 Medemblik - Gold
2011 Sail for Gold - Silver
2011 Kiel Week - Gold (won by 31 points)
2011 European Championships - Gold (won by 29 points)
2011 Pre-Olympic regatta - Silver
- Double ISAF world cup champions 2010 - 2011 (won with 2 regattas to spare)
- Kings of Kiel - best overall performance of all Olympic classes during event during Kiel Week)
- Winners of all continental championships in 470 events throughout nominating period. – Current World, European, North American and National, World Cup Winners, Ranked # 1 all in the same year
Results 2009-2010 ISAF World Sailor of the Year Nominating Period
*Skandia Sail for Gold Grade 2-Silver. *470 World Championship-Gold. Won three races in one day. Mathematically won event before Medal Race. Page becomes the most decorated 470 sailor of all time with 4 World Championship titles, 1 ISAF Games World Championship title, two silver medals and one bronze medal at other 470 World Championships, two European 470 championship victories and 1 Olympic gold medal. *ISAF World Cup Championship-Belcher & Page are the only team to win their ISAF World Cup with one regatta to spare. *Kieler Woche Grade 1-Gold-Belcher & Page have a perfect score throughout fleet racing. *Delta Lloyd Regatta Grade 1-Silver.*SOF Hyeres Grade 1-6th. Mathew Belcher sailing with Will Ryan. *International 470 Spring Cup Grade 2-Gold. Mathew Belcher sailing with Will Ryan. *Princess Sofia Regatta Grade 2-4th. *Miami Olympic Classes Regatta Grade 1-Silver. *470 Australian National Championship Grade 3-Gold. Perfect Score for Regatta. End Australian sailing season with 28 straight victories. *Sail Melbourne Grade 1-Gold. Perfect Score for Regatta. *Sail Sydney Grade 1-Gold. Perfect Score for Regatta.
OTHERLet’s not forget that Malcolm Page was ISAF ranked #1 at the same time that he won the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal in the 470 Men’s discipline