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Claire Leroy enters the select circle of ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award winners
November 7, 2007
For some the month of November is a time to get out winter jackets or begin holiday preparations, but for the sailors of the world November is known as the time of the International Sailing Federation's (ISAF) Annual Conference and the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards.
The Awards are recognized as one of the highest honours a sailor can receive in recognition of his/her outstanding achievements and this year's official award ceremony took place last night, November 6th in Estoril, Portugal at the Penha Longa monastery. Out of all of this year's fantastic nominees only two could walk away with the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year titles, and the exceptional winners for 2007 are Claire Leroy (FRA) and Ed Baird (USA), making this night a true tribute to match racing.
Claire Leroy has been the # 1 skipper on the ISAF Women's World Match Race Rankings since May 2005. Like many professionals, sailing has been a consistent part of Leroy's life since her childhood. "In my family, we have been sailors for many generations," writes Leroy when asked what it was that inspired her to begin sailing. "I discovered the pleasure of sailing before I could even walk. I spent many days with my cousins learning to sail and to play with the elements that have always been the backdrop of my life.the wind and the ocean."
Leroy, skipper of "Team Ideactor", has taken her love of the elements and dominated the match racing circuit both this year and last, winning the 2006 ISAF Nations Cup, the IX International Women's Match Race Criterium, the 2007 ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championships in her hometown of St Quay Portrieux, France, and the 2007 Women's Match Race European Championship. "We have been number one in match racing for more than 2 years!" says Leroy. "It's a dream come true."
2007 marks the second time that Leroy has been a candidate for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, as she was also previously nominated in 2005. As Claire was announced the winner of the female ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year by ISAF President of Honour His Majesty King Constantine, she came to the stage with two of her teammates, Ophélie Théron and Elodie Bertrand. "Thank you for this great honour," said Claire, still shocked upon receiving her 2007 award. "It's very emotional to me and I would like to thank my crew. Sailing is a wonderful team sport and it's an incredible honour that the sailing community thinks that we are one of the best teams in the world- I still can't believe it!"
Leroy says she sees sailing as "Pleasure, Competition, Teamwork, and a wonderful way to improve my English!" The sailing world can expect great things from this 27 year old, whose rise to the top has only just begun. "On a personal level, [this award] is the result of 4 long years of hard work as well as the excellent results that I have had this year. For me, it represents a starting point for even bigger challenges."
But Claire Leroy was not the only sailor who left last night's ceremony with a silver World Sailor Trophy and a prestigious Rolex timepiece. American Ed Baird took home the male 2007 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award for his incredible achievements as helmsman aboard Alinghi, winner of the 32nd America's Cup. "There are all kinds of things that come into your mind as wanting to say for something like this, but 'wow!', is the big one. Wow, it's just amazing!" exclaimed Baird as he accepted his award from ISAF President of Honour His Majesty King Harald V of Norway and Arnaud Boetsch of Rolex SA. In a voice that showed true emotion, Baird had no qualms about showing his appreciation, saying that Alinghi's win was "not just me- it was a massive effort by a big, big team... It certainly is the most wonderful thing that has come along; to win the America's Cup with this team and to have such a fantastic year and then to be recognised like this- it's magical."
Baird has a long history of triumphs in the world of international match racing both in and outside of the America's Cup. Baird is the only American to have ever won the ISAF Match RacingWorld Championship - in 1995, 2003 and 2004. He is the only American ever to have ranked number one on the ISAF World Match Race Rankings list and in 1995 was honoured by his countrymen as the USA's Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. "The Cup was by far the most difficult event to win," said Baird when asked about his personal highlights of his career to date. "It was also the most exciting."
Baird also coaches sailing and has repeatedly said that he tries to keep his thinking clear and simple on the water. Often alluding to sailing as a game, Baird has come to be known as one of sailing's great players. In his piece 'Think Simple Thoughts' that he wrote for Sailing World Magazine in 1996, Ed Baird gives out what he sees as the simple rules of sailing. No matter where his success has taken him, Baird always seems to maintain his calm, taking the time he needs to make the right decisions, "because as complicated as we would like to imagine our sport, it's basically a simple game of starting first, protecting your lead and finishing strong."
All but one nominee was present last night for the Award Ceremony at the Penha Longa and no one knew ahead of time who the winners would be, making for justified anticipation from all corners. The well-rounded list of nominees for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year award also included:
Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB & Pippa WILSON (GBR)
Marcelien DE KONING & Lobke BERKHOUT (NED)
Evi VAN ACKER (BEL)