Ainslie returned from Beiing as Britain's greatest Olympic sailor
British sailor and triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie has been named the World Sailor of the Year for 2008.
He becomes the first person to receive the International Sailing Federation award three times.
"For me it's a huge honour and a really fantastic achievement," the 31-year-old Cornishman told BBC Sport.
Ainslie won gold in the Laser class at Sydney 2000, and followed that by winning the Finn class at both Athens in 2004 and Beijing earlier this year.
Ainslie received his award on Tuesday at a ceremony in Madrid, with Italy's veteran Olympic windsurfer Alessandra Sensini named the female world sailor of the year, having clinched her fourth consecutive Olympic medal in China.
The British gold medal-winning Yngling crew of Sara Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson were shortlisted for the women's award, while Britain's world match racing champion Ian Williams was also nominated for the men's prize.
China was a massive challenge, it was a huge relief to come away with the gold medal
Ainslie, who previously lifted the award in 1998 and 2002, remains unbeaten in the Finn class since 2004.
During the award nomination period he won events in Sydney and Melbourne, the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, and the European title, as well as clinching an unprecedented fifth world title at the Finn Gold Cup.
"China was a massive challenge," he said having been presented with the award.
"It was a huge relief to come away with the gold medal, and to be part of a great British team which did so well, not just in sailing but across the board."