By Gary Anderson

November 12 - ISAF World Sailor of the Year winners Matt Belcher flanked by Polly Powrie (left) and Jo AlehIt was a clean sweep for the 470 class at the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailor of the Year Awards night as Australian Matt Belcher and Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie of New Zealand picked up the male and female accolades at the Al Bandar Hotel in Muscat.

It was a case of third time lucky for Belcher after being nominated in 2010 and 2012.

The 31-year-old was the outstanding candidate to claim the award this year after a remarkable winning streak that stretches to 17 consecutive meetings.

Belcher's run of success started in November 2011 and includes Olympic gold at London 2012 with partner Malcolm Page, with whom he also claimed three World Championship titles from 2010 to 2012.

Following Page's retirement after the Olympics, Belcher regrouped and continued his dominance on the water with new partner Will Ryan which saw another world title secured at La Rochelle, France, earlier this year.

That was the highlight of a season that also included a European title in Italy and three ISAF Sailing World Cup victories.

"It's a complete honour," said Belcher, who becomes the first 470 skipper to win the male award.

"It's great recognition for this year and the efforts we've put in and the results we've achieved.

"The winning run has been amazing, something that I'm personally really proud of.

"To be able to do it with two different crews has been really rewarding and it shows the depth we have in the Australian 470 system and in our preparations and planning to constantly perform."

Matt Belcher (right) and teammate Will Ryan claimed world and European titles in 2013Matt Belcher (right) and teammate Will Ryan claimed world and European titles in 2013

The man from Queensland paid tribute to his coach Victor Kovalenko, who has guided and supported Belcher since 1999 and the veteran coach was equally effusive in his praise of one of his star pupils.

"This award is like the black belt of the sport of sailing," said Kovalenko.

"It's top recognition.

"I have watched Mathew for many years in training, in competition, under pressure, in study, in normal life, when's he's talking to people.

"He is a very balanced, humble person.

"He deserves this success."

Aleh and Powrie are also reigning Olympic and world champions in the 470 class and they were recognised for an outstanding year that, not only included that world title in La Rochelle, but also a silver medal at June's Open European Championships in Formia along with three further wins during the season.

"I'm a little bit shocked," said skipper Aleh.

"There were some amazing nominees this year and we are delighted to be part of this.

"We feel honoured to be part of the group."

Olympic champions Polly Powrie and Jo Aleh picked up more gold in Muscat at the ISAF World Sailor of the Year AwardsOlympic champions Polly Powrie and Jo Aleh picked up more gold in Muscat at the ISAF World Sailor of the Year Awards

The duo first sailed together at the top level during the 2007 Women's 420 World Championships, taking gold on home waters in Auckland.

Aleh, 27, then spent a couple of years sailing solo before the pair teamed up to take silver and bronze at the 470 World Championships in 2010 and 2011.

The Kiwi pair, are already turning their attentions to Rio 2016 where they will be going all out to secure a place on the New Zealand team and defend their Olympic crown.

"We've got Olympic selection next year and that's a massive hurdle to get through," said 25-year-old Powrie.

"From there it's a similar programme with World Championships and World Cups through to Rio."

Both winners were presented with special timepieces from sponsors Rolex and an ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year trophy.

To view highlights of the awards night click here.

The Sailor of the Year Awards took place during the ISAF Annual Conference in Muscat which runs through until Saturday (November 16).

To keep up-to-date with events at the conference a daily live blog can be accessed by clicking here.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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