Golden Rio sailors recognised in New Year Honours

Written by RYA | 31 December 2016

Services to sailing recognised from grassroots to Olympic level

Giles Scott, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark – British sailing’s golden trio from the Rio Olympic Games – have capped off their incredible 2016 with recognition in the New Year Honours list.

The Olympic Champions were named as Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sailing following their Rio achievements where Scott dominated to maintain a five-Games British winning streak in the Finn event, and Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark claimed a first ever British Olympic gold in the 470 Women’s class.

Absolutely insane 

Saskia Clark, 37, who retired from Olympic sailing after the Rio Games, described the award as ‘insane’.  She said: “To represent Great Britain at an Olympics is an absolute privilege, to be in the position to win the Gold Medal was amazing and to top it off with an MBE is absolutely insane. What a year! It is such a huge honour.

“I have been so lucky to be part of a generation of athletes that have had the support of the National Lottery, so thank you to all those players that have contributed to the huge success of Team GB since that funding inception. Nothing was possible without the support of my family and friends, boyfriend and everyone at the British Sailing Team who have all been there to get me through the tricky parts to achieve my dream.”

28-year-old Hannah Mills added: “Since the Games it has been great – the support and response from the public, family and friends has been overwhelming, to be recognised by our sport as World Sailors of the Year and now in the Honours List, it is just so, so special. I can't imagine 2017 living up to the challenge, but I hope it will be half as good!”

Mills and Clark also gained global recognition as female World Sailors of the Year for 2016, with Scott also making the final shortlist in the men’s category.

Huge honour

The five-time Finn World Champion Giles Scott, 29, said:  “Over the past four years I've received support from family, friends, sponsors, the British Sailing Team and of course my coach Matt Howard. It's been an amazing journey and many people were involved in that gold medal. To receive an MBE is a huge honour.  Sailing is an amazingly diverse sport and to be recognised for my contribution to it mean a great deal to me.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics was returning home and realising how the nation had responded to a truly great British performance. Looking back to what started my obsession with the Olympics, it's the winning performances of British athletes that stands out as my over-riding motivation to succeed. If I've helped to get youngsters and new comers into the sport then that gives me huge gratification.”  

Southampton's Ian Walker, double Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race winner, has also been made an MBE for services to Olympic and international competitive sailing.

“It is fantastic to be recognised in the New Year Honours list, crowning my Olympic medals with success at the 2015 Volvo Ocean Race on-board Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.  Hopefully my racing story and the support of the John Merricks Sailing Trust will encourage and enable the next generations sailors to follow in my footsteps and go onto even greater things.  Thank you to all who have supported my through the journey,” said Ian Walker.  

A Solihull sailor is also celebrating after being awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his contribution to sailing in the borough. Andrew Yates receives the BEM, awarded for meritorious civil service worthy of recognition by the Crown, for helping to open the doors to sailing for more Solihull people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds over 24 years at Olton Mere SC.

The 56-year-old has turned his own passion for the sport into an asset that benefits not only his club, but many Solihull schools, clubs and societies. His influence also extends to the wider Midlands through the RYA Midlands Regional Volunteer Team.

Andrew said: “It has been a real pleasure to share my passion for sailing and to be able to promote sailing as a genuine sport for all. I have a very simple ambitions; to get more people sailing more often and ensuring there is a safe structure in place to achieve this aim.

 “I am humbled to have been recognised this way and the award should be for the club and the willing volunteers that make everything we do possible.”

Start your sailing adventure

If learning to sail is your New Year’s Resolution, there are hundreds of sailing clubs around the country who offer affordable membership and many have boats you can use.

A good starting point for many is to take an RYA course.  With more than 1,000 training centres around the UK running over 300 different course you're sure to find something near you.  Start Sailing with a dinghy course, learn to skipper a yacht with the Day Skipper course or get the basics of power with a Powerboat Level 1 – start your adventure today at www.rya.org.uk/go/getafloat  

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