Dongfeng Race Team scooped two prestigious awards at the World Sailing Conference in Sarasota, Florida on 30 October – with Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou taking the Female Rolex World Sailor of the Year gong, and Dongfeng winning the title of Team of the Year.
The victories mark the end of a dream year for the Chinese-flagged entry, following their last-gasp Volvo Ocean Race win in June.
"This is a huge privilege," said a delighted Brouwer, in Florida. "20 years ago I won it for the first time so to be able to say I won the prize again in a different discipline really shows how sailing is a diverse sport and that it goes across so many different disciplines.
"To be able to achieve so much in different disciplines within our sport is a huge honour. Being able to say that Marie and I were the first women to win the Volvo Ocean race is a special thing, we are part of history and it's definitely something that will stay forever."
Brouwer and Riou fought off three other athletes on the shortlist for the award, which featured the best talent from across the sport of sailing.
France's Riou added: "It feels great to win this prize tonight, especially with Carolijn. It's a team prize and it was such a great achievement for a year of hard work with the whole team."
Whilst the spotlight was on the pair, their team won an award, too. The World Sailing Team of the Year Award celebrates teams of two or more sailors who personify the sporting values of integrity, ambition, resilience and resourcefulness. Out of 17 nominations, Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), TeamNL Sailing Team (NED), Team Beau Geste (HKG) and Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti (ITA) were shortlisted.
The judging panel included Stan Honey, Chairman of the Oceanic and Offshore Committee, Eddie Warden-Owen, CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Yann Rocherieux, Chairman of World Sailing's Athletes' Commission & World Sailing Board Member, Andrus Poksi, Classes and Officials representative and Andy Rice, leading sailing journalist.
Dongfeng Skipper Charles Caudrelier was also nominated in the Male Rolex World Sailor of the Year category, but lost out to 2018 Laser World Champion, Pavlos Kontides.
"The team trophy is the best one in my eyes, for obvious reasons," said Team Director Bruno Dubois. "I do feel sorry for Charles who was the man behind all this but extremely happy for Carolijn and Marie. They fully deserve it and are the perfect example of what sailing can be – a great experience in both inshore and offshore sailing."
The Rolex World Sailor of the Year title is a prize that has long had strong roots in our Race – ever since the first award was won by Race legend Sir Peter Blake in 1994.
That Kiwi/Volvo Ocean Race connection has continued over the years, and Team Brunel's NZ star Pete Burling has scooped the trophy in two of the past three years, once with long-term sailing partner, MAPFRE's Blair Tuke.
Looking back to 2014, the award was won by team AkzoNobel's Martine Grael (and her 49erFX partner, Kahena Kunze) – following in the footsteps of her father, Volvo Ocean Race winner Torben Grael, who took the honours in 2009.
MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández stole the plaudits in 2011, when he and partner Iker Martínez grabbed the award, before turning their attentions to a 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race entry as MAPFRE.
The Awards night was part of the 2018 World Sailing Annual Conference, where Volvo Ocean Race founding principal partner 11th Hour Racing also gave out a sustainability-focused prize.
The World Sailing 11th Hour Racing Sustainability Award celebrates the effective execution or ongoing delivery of high-impact, highly-replicable sustainability initiatives, aligned to the World Sailing Sustainability Agenda 2030.
The Corpus Christi Yacht Club (CCYC) received the award for the work delivered at the 2018 Youth Sailing World Championships in Corpus Christi, Texas, USA.
Todd McGuire, 11th Hour Racing Program Director, presented event organisers Sandi Carl, Mark Foster and Elizabeth Kratzig with the iconic perpetual trophy that is made from recycled carbon fibre.