A HAMPSHIRE double Olympic gold medallist was today due to be awarded an honorary doctorate by Southampton Solent University The accolade was being conferred on yachtsman Ben Ainslie, 30, on the opening day of the annual Southampton Boat Show.

Ben was selected for the honorary degree - a doctor of sport - in recognition of his international achievements in the world of sailing.

A world champion on seven occasions, he has three Olympic medals - two gold and one silver - and recently sailed as a tactician with one the top America's Cup teams, New Zealand.

Ben, from Lymington, is currently preparing for the defence of his Olympic title in Beijing 2008.

Professor Van Gore, vice-chancellor of Southampton Solent University, said: "Ben Ainslie is one of Britain's most successful sailors as well as one of our finest Olympians.

"His contribution to the world of sailing is an inspiration to young people across the world, and is particularly close to our own hearts given the university's commitment to sporting achievement.

"We felt it was only fitting to break with tradition and confer this degree at the Southampton Boat Show in Hampshire, both as an internationally renowned boating event and as somewhere of local significance for both Ben and Southampton Solent University."

Ben is now entitled to use the title "Hon Dr" or "Hon Dsport" after his name, alongside his MBE.