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Tom Saunders

Saunders scoops big prize at Aon Excellence Awards

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Tom Saunders picked up the big prize, the Orbit World Travel Sailor of the Year Award, at the annual Aon Yachting Excellence Awards tonight.

The 30-year-old late last year became just the second New Zealander to win the ILCA 7 (Laser) world title since the first event in 1974 and backed that up with fourth at the 2022 world championships. The ILCA 7 is considered the most competitive of all the Olympic classes and Saunders’ form over the past 12 months sets him up well for a tilt at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Saunders collected the Sir Bernard Fergusson Trophy from Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro, who is also Yachting New Zealand patron, at a gala awards dinner attended by more than 250 people at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The Tauranga sailor was also named Aon Male Sailor of the Year and was a recipient of a Yachting New Zealand Performance Award.

Saunders’ partnership with coach Mike Bullot was also acknowledged with Bullot named B&G Coach of the Year.

A host of awards were handed out tonight which recognised success from club level through to achievements on the world stage.

Emirates Team New Zealand performance engineer Elise Beavis was named Aon Female Sailor of the Year for winning her second WASZP world title.

Seb Menzies and George Lee Rush collected the NZL Sailing Foundation Young Male Sailor of the Year Award and Helena Sanderson the NZL Sailing Foundation Young Female Sailor of the Year Award.

“It was great to see New Zealanders not only competing again but also winning again on the world stage after the disruptions brought about by Covid-19,” Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie said. “Tom’s achievements over the past 12 months were truly exceptional and he was a deserved winner of the Orbit World Travel Sailor of the Year Award.

“It was also tremendous to recognise those people at the grassroots who do so much to make the sport possible for thousands of Kiwis. I would like to congratulate all of this year’s award recipients.”

In one of the most popular announcements of the night, Harold Bennett was named Yachting New Zealand Official of the Year. Bennett has been the principal race officer for five America's Cups but is also still heavily involved in running racing from anything from club to national level.

2022 Aon Yachting Excellence Awards

Orbit World Travel Sailor of the Year: Tom Saunders
Aon Female Sailor of the Year: Elise Beavis
Aon Male Sailor of the Year: Tom Saunders
NZL Sailing Foundation Young Female Sailor of the Year: Helena Sanderson
NZL Sailing Foundation Young Male Sailor of the Year: Seb Menzies and George Lee Rush
Aon Emerging Talent Award: Will Leech, Isla Barker
Yachting New Zealand Official of the Year: Harold Bennett
B&G Coach of the Year: Mike Bullot
Lawson's Dry Hills Presidents Award: Queen Charlotte Yacht Club
Yachting New Zealand Sustainability Award: Delayne Salthouse
North Sails Sportsmanship Award: Jeff O’Leary
VMG Young Leadership Award: Angus Wright

Service Awards supported by Boating New Zealand: Glen & Beverly Church (Stewarts Gully Sailing Club); Allan Geddes & Fergus Thomson (French Bay Yacht Club); Tony & Nina Kiff (Bay of Islands Sailing Week); Last of the Summer Wine Company (Charteris Bay Yacht Club); Lindsay McGregor (Sailability Auckland / The NZ Hansa Class Association); David Nalder (Evans Bay Yacht and Motor Boat Club); Jeff O'Leary (Waimakariri Sailing Club); Trust Aoraki Aviemore Classic Regatta; Robert Witham (Napier Sailing Club / NZIODA); Ria Woollams & Lief Thomaes (Tutukaka Coast Youth Sailing Club).

Yachting New Zealand Youth Performance Awards supported by Harken: Caleb Armit (Murrays Bay Sailing Club); Isla Barker (Murrays Bay Sailing Club); Mattias Coutts (Manly Sailing Club); Lucas Day & Sam Scott (Murrays Bay Sailing Club); Sean Kensington (Kohimarama Yacht Club); George Lee Rush & Seb Menzies (Wakatere Boating Club / Murrays Bay Sailing Club); Will Leech (Charteris Bay Yacht Club); Kate Rasmussen & Madison Russell (Maraetai Sailing Club); Helena Sanderson & Cam McGlashan (Bay of Islands Yacht Club / Murrays Bay Sailing Club); Hugo Wigglesworth (Manly Sailing Club).

Yachting New Zealand Cruising Award supported by Wichard on Safety at Sea: Peter Mortimer (Classic Yacht Association).

Yachting New Zealand Performance Awards: Elise Beavis (Murrays Bay Sailing Club); Logan Dunning Beck & Oscar Gunn (Wakatere Boating Club / Murrays Bay Sailing Club); Isaac McHardie & Will McKenzie (Royal Akarana Yacht Club); Alex Maloney & Olivia Hobbs (Murrays Bay Sailing Club / Royal Akarana Yacht Club); Sam Morgan & Pat Morgan (Royal Akarana Yacht Club); New Zealand SailGP Team; Tom Saunders (Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club); Sam Street (New Plymouth Yacht Club); Veerle ten Have (Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club); Micah Wilkinson & Erica Dawson (Ngaroto Sailing Club / Murrays Bay Sailing Club).

Excellence Awards