The most decorated Olympic sailor of all time, Mylor-trained Ben Ainslie, was named the male Sailor of the Year for the fourth time last night.

Ben, aged 35, also took the title in 1998, 2002 and 2008.

He described winning the award, which is run by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and sponsored by Rolex, as "a huge honour, especially for everyone who has helped me."

He said: "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."

The awards were held at a ceremony in Mansion House, Dublin, yesterday evening.

Chinese sailor Lijia Xu, Laser Radial Gold Medallist at London 2012, was also awarded top honours in the ceremony - becoming only the second Asian athlete to be crowned World Sailor of the Year

She said: "Sailing has given me the chance to chase my dreams and the stage to show my potential.

"It has provided me with the opportunity to see, feel and explore the world. Sailing leads me to a path of a better life, a life full of vitality, excitement and joyful experiences."

In August, Xu became the first Chinese sailor to win an Olympic Gold medal in a dinghy sailing boat.

The winners of the World Sailor of the Year Awards are decided by a vote from more than 130 member national authorities of ISAF following a worldwide selection process that begins with an open invitation for nominations.

Two awards, one for a female sailor/crew and one for a male sailor/crew, are presented to the individuals who are deemed to have most distinguished themselves during the qualifying period from September 1 2011 to August 31 2012.

Past recipients of the awards – which were launched in 1994 – have been drawn from the diverse disciplines of the sport: Olympic dinghy and keelboats, single-handed ocean racing, transatlantic record breaking, match-racing, America’s Cup and windsurfing are all represented.