By Emily Goddard

ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards 2012 Ben AinslieNovember 7 - Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, was last night awarded the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Sailor of the Year Award for a record fourth time.

The 35-year-old British Finn sailor claimed the award ahead of a shortlist comprising Australia's Olympic and world champions - Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page in the 470 class, Laser sailor Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen in the 49er class - as well as France's record-breaking around the world sailor Loïck Peyron

Four-time Olympic gold medallist Ainslie won the title in 1998, 2002 and 2008 and his victory at London 2012 in the Finn class saw him overtake Denmark's Paul Elvstrøm as the world's most successful Olympic sailor with five Olympic medals - four gold, one silver - to his name.

Ainslie collected the award at a glittering ceremony at the Mansion House in Dublin, Ireland, alongside Female World Sailor of the Year China's Laser Radial sailor Lijia Xu, who was named after clinching a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics.

Lijia Xu is awarded the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year AwardLijia Xu was awarded the ISAF Rolex Female World Sailor of the Year Award

"Winning the World Sailor of the Year award is a huge honour, especially for everyone who has helped me," said Ainslie.

"There is a huge team in the background from family, friends, coaches and sponsors who helped make it happen.

"It is a huge honour to be part of such a group of exceptional sailors who were put forward for this award."

Ainslie's compatriot Helena Lucas was also in the running last night for the female award after etching her name in British Paralympic sailing history by becoming the nation's first gold medallist at London 2012.

Saskia Sills was Britain's second and youngest of the awards nominees after a dominant display in her first season in the RS:X windsurfing class.

The 16-year-old has claimed world and European titles over the past year, as well as winning gold at the Four Star Pizza ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships.

The remaining nominees shortlisted for the female award were the Spanish Olympic gold medal-winning trio of Tamara Echegoyen, Ángela Pumariega and Sofia Toro.

Launched in 1994, the awards, which are presented to one male and female every November, are recognised as the pinnacle title a sailor can receive in recognition of their outstanding achievements in the sport.

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