Great Britain's Sarah Ayton (centre, left) was among the winners at the 2015 ISAF World Sailor of the Year Awards ©Rolex/Qilai Shen

New Zealand duo Peter Burling and Blair Tuke and Great Britain’s Sarah Ayton have been named the 2015 International Sailing Federation (ISAF) male and female Rolex World Sailors of the Year respectively at a ceremony in Sanya, China.

Burling and Tuke have dominated the 49er category over the last year, winning ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas, the Aquece Rio - International Sailing Regatta and the Trofeo Princesa Sofia, while also competing in the America's Cup World Series with Emirates Team New Zealand.

They fended off competition from British trio Giles Scott, Ian Walker and Ian Williams, and France’s Loïck Peyron, who completed the list of male nominees. 

"It is a really big honour for us to win this award," said Tuke, speaking from Buenos Aires, where he and Burling are currently preparing for next weekend's 49er World Championships.

"We don't sail and race to win these awards, but it is really nice to get these accolades for all the hard work we put in.

"We are really proud to have won.

"All the nominees have achieved some awesome things this year in our sport, especially Ian Walker for winning the Volvo Ocean Race.

"We've been working hard all year and the results have come our way, not only in the 49er, but also in the other boats we sail.

"So we are looking ahead and keeping the hammer down towards the Olympics and then towards bringing the Cup back to New Zealand."

Great Britain's Sarah Ayton was the winner of the female award
Ayton was the recipient of the female award ©Rolex/Qilai Shen

Ayton, a double Olympic gold medallist and the only female competing on the Extreme Sailing Series, was awarded the female ISAF World Sailor of the Year Award, at the expense of fellow Briton Sam Davies, Russia’s Elena Kalinina, Denmark’s Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen and France’s Charline Picon. 

"It means such a lot to me to have won the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award," said Ayton.

"I'm truly touched and proud.

"I hope to continue being an inspiration to women, young children and individuals who enjoy the sport that we love so much."

ISAF President Carlo Croce, who announced the winners, addressed the 500 guests in attendance.

"This award is truly a special recognition for an individual or pair of sailors that has stood out during the year," he said.

"It is a culmination of hard work and endeavour, combined perhaps with a bit of good fortune.

"Most nominees are here tonight, and if they are not, they are doing what they do best - sailing."

New Zealand's Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have dominated sailing over the last year
New Zealand's Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have dominated sailing over the last year ©Getty Images

The ISAF World Sailor of the Year Awards took place during the ISAF Annual Conference, the most important gathering of the year for the top athletes, leaders and decision makers in the sport of sailing.

The Awards, sponsored by Rolex since 2001, are the highest recognition a sailor can achieve and are based on a sailor's results over a 12-month period - in this case from September 2014 to the end of September 2015.

The Member National Authorities' votes were tallied earlier in the day and then each guest at the ceremony had the opportunity to cast one vote. 

The winners were presented with a Rolex timepiece and the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year trophy.

New Zealand's Sir Peter Blake and Britain's Sir Robin Knox Johnston were the first winners of the male World Sailor of the Year Award in 1994, when Spain's Theresa Zabell took the female prize. 

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