America's Cup hero James Spithill awarded sailing 'Oscar'

Story highlights

  • Spithill handed award after helping Oracle overturn 8-1 America's Cup deficit
  • Australian skipper dedicates gong to crew members in the sporting comeback
  • Brazilian duo Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze share female sailor award
  • Grael's father Torben is a former winner of the award having been victorious back in 2009

(CNN)It was deemed arguably the greatest sporting comeback of all time as Oracle Team USA won the America's Cup in September last year.

And now the Australian skipper of that venture, James Spithill, who spearheaded his crew to overcome an 8-1 deficit to win the next eight races and take home the 162-year-old trophy, has effectively won sailing's Oscars.
    The 35-year-old, named ISAF World Sailor of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony in Palma, Mallorca on Tuesday, told CNN: "I'm accepting this on behalf of the team. It's a fantastic group of nominees of more individual performances and this could not be further from that.
    "It was a team effort and it's just a real highlight to be here and accept it on behalf of the team."
    Spithill's team had looked dead and buried when they trailed by seven in the first-to-nine contest against Emirates Team New Zealand before pulling off a remarkable overhaul.
    Looking back, he recalled: "I was in fear of letting down my teammates and they were in fear of letting down each other, more so the guys on the shore."
    In winning the individual award, he once again denied New Zealanders, this time Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, along with British nominee Giles Scott, American Bill Hardesty, and fellow Aussies Mat Belcher and Will Ryan.
    In the female category, Brazilian duo Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze showed that age is no barrier as they picked up the award at the tender age of 23. They beat fellow nominees Steph Bridge, from Britain, and France's Charline Picon in the process.
    Grael and Kunze have been the star attraction in the 49erFX class this season with a myriad of victories and the end-of-season No.1 spot in the world rankings in a year capped by their recent World Championships win.
    Grael's father Torben is a former sailor of the year, picking up the award in 2009.
    Launched in 1984, the awards are recognized as the pinnacle for individual competitors in the sport globally.