His grandfather rescued the Jolie Brise from rotting into the mud and from day one Francisco has been deeply immersed in a lifelong relationship with the sea. This talented and hungry young Portuguese sailor already has several top Mini 6.50 results under his belt but the way he is harrying the more exotic prototype fleet in the current Mini Transat race on his standard production Pogo 2 is remarkable…


There is a push to formalise the Mini Maxis in favour of owner-drivers; look at some of the results this year and you could be forgiven for wondering why any ruling is necessary. Andy Soriano and his largely Corinthian crew put down yet another marker when they capped a good season with victory in the Rolex Middle Sea Race on their Mills 66 Alegre, ahead of numerous higher-profile professional teams


Azzurra skipper Francesco Bruni was a recent nominee here so who better to take his place than the team’s aft-grinder Romero, who played such a key part in securing the Sardinian entry’s win at the Nice Louis Vuitton Trophy. When mid-bowman Pietro Mantovani went overboard at a key moment in the final against Emirates TNZ, Romero dived into the stern scoop where he grabbed Mantovani and hauled him out ‘like a wet fish!’


Best of the best… they have to be up there? By finishing nearly 30pt ahead of defending champion Nathan Outteridge, Martinez and Fernandez took their third 49er world title to add to their Olympic gold medal in Athens and silver medal from Qingdao. In between, of course, the pair have both established formidable reputations as ocean-racing sailors, including taking part in the latest Volvo Ocean Race


Olympic gold* in the Soling, two Star world titles and an America’s Cup victory in 1992… 26 January saw the Wizard of Zenda celebrate his 80th birthday. Incredible. This most gregarious and immensely popular of sailing talents has done so much for so many in the sport over the years. As fast in an ice boat (still) as a sailboat: ‘just watch the heel angle.’ *Did we mention an Olympic bronze in the Flying Dutchman in 1964 as well…


Not only do we have two Masters this month but we also have two Brits and no apologies for that (trying to steer you away from the horrors of Auckland). Years after he moved away from the offshore racing scene, in which he not only played a big part but also brought endless humour to those (of us – ed) lucky enough to sail with him, Pitcher re-emerges as an Atlantic oarsman. 400 miles in front, now that’s a win…


Through all the ups and downs of his long America’s Cup journey, from high-spending first-timer to resolute battler – and ultimate victor – in Valencia in 2010 Larry Ellison himself has never been anything other than a model of almost boyish enthusiasm for a sport that he embraced relatively late in life. His team’s eventual route to glory was not to everybody’s taste but the Cup’s future has never looked more exciting


With a combined age of more than 75 years… we reckon that even in a class that is already renowned for rewarding maturity over beauty the victory of 49er-returnee (and former gold medal-’winning’ Olympic coach to the GBR ladies) Paul Brotherton, sailing with the ‘younger’ Mark Asquith at this year’s Hyères regatta, is well worthy of this nomination. Go eat out your hearts, young GBR pups


A widely celebrated win for this 80-year-old skipper in the Scottish Series and another notch on the IRC pole for his designer, the often underrated John Corby, whose stiff designs are not only fast but are also relatively easy to sail fast. Corson is a hugely keen supporter of Clyde racing and turns out for events from January to December. Many of the crew on his Corby 33 have also been with him for some 20 years. Nice


We knew it had been a tough nine yards but while we were digging for our current series about the creation of the big tri USA it slowly dawned what an incredible technical achievement we had seen. The platform itself was challenging but relatively conventional (in the Seahorse sense!) but getting a wing rig to work pretty much first time out on such a scale was only possible if the build was absolutely inch perfect


Eat your hearts out, teeny-weenies. Alone on a Mini 6.50 for 268 days… that is how long it took this crazy Italian – please take that as a compliment – to sail around the globe, arriving back in Les Sables d’Olonnes (where else) in late July. Di Benedetto was dismasted before reaching Cape Horn, but after debate with his ‘shore team’ decided a jury rig would get him around the Horn (sic) and then the rest of the way home…


Is there a bigger supporter of offshore racing anywhere in northern Europe? With I a series of immaculately turned-out yachts, Piet Vroon has long been one of the most familiar figures at just about every race held around the English Channel and North Sea. He often wins too; plus commissioning one of the raciest of IRC racers as you move into your 80s also tells you a great deal about this understandably popular skipper