Gulari And Tunnicliffe Named US SAILING's 2009 Rolex Yachtsman And Yachtswoman Of The Year
CST Composites International Moth World Champion Bora Gulari and ISAF Sailing World Cup Laser Radial Champion Anna Tunnicliffe are US SAILING's 2009 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year.
A shortlist of 10 male and five female sailors - determined from nominations submitted by members of US SAILING - was evaluated by a panel of sailing journalists who selected these two sailors for the noteworthy distinction.
Established in 1961 by US SAILING and sponsored by Rolex Watch U.S.A. since 1980, the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards recognize the outstanding on-the-water competitive achievement of an individual man and woman in the calendar year just concluded. The winners will be honoured and presented with specially engraved Rolex timepieces during a luncheon on 26 February 2010, at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.
Rolex Yachtsman of the Year - Bora Gulari
(of Detroit, Mich.) has been named US SAILING's 2009 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, earning the coveted award with his very first appearance on the shortlist of nominees. Gulari had tough competition for the honour: all but one of the 10 male nominees, Gulari included, had won a World Championship title. Ultimately, 10 of the 14 panel members gave Gulari their first-place vote, acknowledging his growth from square one in the Moth class two years ago to winner of the CST Composites International Moth World Championship in 2009 as nothing short of remarkable.
Although many sailors compete for years in a class before making it to the elite level, Gulari won his first Moth World Championship his second time out and became the first American in 33 years to claim the class' World title. One of the panel members witnessed the first two days of competition at the Worlds and attested to the high level of talent in the Moth class, while another panellist felt that the sport was witnessing a watershed moment in terms of the class taking off in the USA. In existence since 1929, the Moth is a development class with a design rule that has remained basically unchanged, while the craft has gone from a home-built, flat-bottomed skiff to the current version incorporating hydrofoils on which the craft flies across the water.
"I just do this because I love it, and I think this year was the start of great things to come for dinghy sailing in the US," said Gulari. "With the addition of the foils, the Moths became easier to sail and a lot more rewarding . . . generating a level of excitement for sailing in some of the top sailors in the country that I have not seen before. I don't think it will take people away from traditional dinghy classes, but the Moth is so fun that it's attracting people that have never had any interest in dinghies, and its bringing people back to dinghies who thought they were done getting wet."
Gulari's sensational year also included a win of the Harken McLube Moth Pacific Rim Championship along with second-place finishes at the Moth US National Championship and US Pacific Coast Championship. He was a member of the winning teams at the Audi Melges 20 Miami Winter Series Event No. 1, as well as the Muskegon Yacht Club One Design Regatta and Bayview Yacht Club North Channel Race, both in Melges 24s. First-place finishes at the Sperry Top-Sider Detroit NOOD, the CYC Race to Macinac, Bayview Mackinac Race and the Super Mackinaw Race were aboard Phil O'Niel's Natalie J. Gulari's need for speed also saw him take a turn in the Viper 640, placing second out of 40 boats at the North American Championship.
A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Gulari came to the USA as a toddler when his parents did their post-doctoral work at Stony Brook University on Long Island, before the family settled in Detroit when his father and mother took professorships at, respectively, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. Both parents were sailors and they introduced Gulari to windsurfing at age four, with his Dad giving him a golf umbrella to use when a suitable-size rig was not available. It was not until he attended the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 2001 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, that he actually set foot in a dinghy. From his late start in dinghies during college Gulari went directly into the crew position in a 49er campaign taking aim at the 2004 Olympics. His team's best performance was a victory at the class' North American Championship in 2001.
After Gulari's unsuccessful bid to make the 2004 Olympic team, he raced Melges 24s and considered going back to his windsurfing roots with an Olympic campaign in the RS:X when he read an article by Rohan Veal
(AUS) about the foiling Moth which led to his watching YouTube videos and reading blogs and articles on this new technology. For a speed-obsessed sailor, the Moth seemed like the next logical choice, and Gulari put a deposit on a Moth having never seen the boat in person. Bringing things full circle, in September of 2009, Gulari set a new speed record - 30.31 knots in a Moth - breaking the previous speed record of 27.9 knots which had been held for almost three years.
"It's absolutely overwhelming," said Gulari about winning the award. "None of my accomplishments in 2009 would be even remotely possible without an amazing level of support from a huge group of people. My family, friends, boat owners, Bayview Yacht Club, my fellow Mothies all over the world, the sailing media, and a forward-looking Awards Panel -- this award recognizes all of you. So thank you!"
Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year - Anna Tunnicliffe
(of Plantation, Fla.) has been named US SAILING's 2009 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. She was nominated to the award's shortlist for the fifth consecutive year, and, having won the award in 2008 as well, becomes the first woman in 27 years to win the award in back-to-back years, a feat previously accomplished by only four women in the award's 48 year history: Jan O'Malley in 1969 and 70, Jane Pegel in 1971 and 72, Sally Lindsay Honey in 1973 and 74, and Betsy Alison
in 1981 and 82. As well as winning the US award, in November last year Tunnicliffe was also honoured as the 2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year
"It's truly amazing to win this award again," said an ecstatic Tunnicliffe. "I could not have done half of my season without the help of my crew: Molly Vandemoer, Debbie Capozzi, Liz Bower and Alice Manard. I feel honored, lucky and fortunate to win. Being nominated is an achievement; winning is amazing!"
Since winning the Laser Radial Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Games in China, Tunnicliffe has proven her talent and versatility by excelling not only in the singlehanded dinghy but also in skippering several different one-design boats in both fleet and match racing. She dominated the Laser Radial fleet during the 2009 ISAF Sailing World Cup
series by winning gold at Sail Melbourne, US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR and Semaine Olympique Francaise in France, and bronze at Kieler Woche in Germany. She also won the Laser Radial Women's North American Championship in Florida and finished third at the Laser Radial World Championship in Japan.
Tunnicliffe's success on the 2009 match racing circuit was also notable. She won the Detroit Cup in Ultimate 20s and was second at US Women's Match Racing Championship in St. Thomas sailed in IC 24s. Her medal haul also included bronze collected at the ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final in Brazil sailed in J/24s, and at Skandia Sail for Gold in Great Britain, sailing the Elliott 6m, the equipment chosen for the debut of the new Women's Match Racing event at the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
In October, Tunnicliffe was fleet racing J/22s in Rochester, New York, where she won the Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship. (It was during the 1997 running of this event that she first gained national prominence - at age 14 she was the youngest skipper in the fleet.) Less than a month later, ISAF named Tunnicliffe its female 2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year for accomplishments during the qualifying period of September 2008, through to August 2009.
The 27-year-old Tunnicliffe, a native of Great Britain, grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio, sailing from the North Cape Yacht Club in Michigan. Her college sailing career at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Va.), where she earned ICSA All-American honours three times (2003, 2004, 2005), was highlighted with being named the 2005 Quantum Female College Sailor of the Year. Ranked #1 in the world in the Laser Radial class since April of 2008, Tunnicliffe's recent commitment to a match racing campaign in the Elliott 6m focused on the 2012 Olympic Games shows the versatile sailor has no plans to slow down.
"I'm so happy I can do this [sail] for a living," added Tunnicliffe. "I have more goals to reach in my sailing career, and starting this year  with this award is amazing."