by Matt Carter
Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor ever, was awarded the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award for a record fourth time on Tuesday, 6th November. The 35-year-old Finn sailor snagged the award at a glittering ceremony at the Mansion House, Dublin, Ireland, with China’s Laser Radial sailor Lijia Xu named as the female world sailor of the year after clinching a gold medal at this summer’s Olympic Games.
ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Trophy: Ben Ainslie (GBR)Finn - London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist and 2012 World Champion
Launched in 1994, the awards are recognised as the pinnacle award a sailor can receive in recognition of his or her outstanding achievements by the world of sailing. The awards are presented every November to one male and one female sailor, with Ainslie having made history last night in Dublin by winning the Award for a record fourth time.
Four-time Olympic Gold medallist Ainslie won the prestigious award in 1998, 2002 and 2008 and his victory at London 2012 in the Finn class saw him overtake Denmark's Paul Elvstrom as the world's most successful Olympic sailor with five Olympic medals (four gold, one silver) to his name.
'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.'
Skandia Team GBR sailor 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 12 months as well as winning gold at the Four Star Pizza ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships.
The remaining two nominees who were shortlisted for the female ISAF Rolex World Sail of the Year award was the Spanish Olympic gold medal-winning match racing trio of Tamara Echegoyen, Angela Pumariega an Sofia Toro and eventual winner Lijia Xu (CHN)
Ainslie was up against a shortlist of four other nominees for the male ISAF Rolex World Sail of the Year award, including Australia’s Olympic and World Champions in the 470, Laser and 49er classes – Mat Belcher-Malcolm Page, Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge-Iain Jensen – and France’s record-breaking around the world sailor Loick Peyron.