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International sailing association honors two

British sailor Ben Ainslie and Italian Windsurfing legend Alessandra Sensini were awarded the prestigious ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award Tuesday in Madrid,Spain, according to a recent press release.

The award is the highest honor a male and female sailor can receive for their outstanding achievements to the sport during the course of a year. Sensini, 38, earned her award for being the first woman to win four Olympic gold medals in sailing. Ainslie, who also won the award in 1998 and 2002, collected three Olympic gold medals and one silver and is Britain’s most successful sailor, according to the report. At 31, he is the only person to receive this award three times.

“It’s a massive honor,” says Ainslie in the report. “For any sailor, it’s huge. It’s a great list of nominees, and for me to win it this year is fantastic and it’s made my year, absolutely.”

Sensini, who won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympic Games this year and finished every race within the top 10, says it was difficult competing with women significantly younger than her but she enjoyed the challenge, according to the report. She says the Rolex award was a surprise to her since she had been nominated twice before and lost.

Ainslie says he has the America’s Cup and the 2012 Olympic games in his sights for his next conquests.

“The America’s Cup is really the next biggest challenge for me and Team Origin,” says Ainslie in the report. “We’ve got a great sailing and design team in place and we’re really looking forward to getting the Cup back on track, getting out on the water and getting racing.”

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-Elizabeth Ellis