Four sailing stalwarts were presented with awards by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal at the RYA Volunteer Awards in London on Friday 24 November, when a total of 58 awards were presented in recognition of boating’s most dedicated volunteers.

Don Harrison MBE from Teignmouth was presented with a Lifetime Commitment Award. Don was recognised for his significant contribution to training activities at Teign Corinthian Yacht Club (TCYC), where for 25 years he has fulfilled many senior roles, making a vital contribution to the establishment and growth of the club’s training activities, particularly for youngsters aged 8-12. He has ensured that children from the poorest backgrounds have received the best sail training available. He is a National Race Officer and TCYC’s annual Burn’s Night would be nothing without his generous organisational skills. It is this commitment to the whole life of a club that makes someone like Don so rare.

Alison Wheeler from Poole was presented with an Outstanding Contribution Award. Alison was recognised for her significant contribution to sailing and racing at East Dorset Sailing Club (EDSC), where for 25 years she has dedicated her time to running events that encourage adults and children of all abilities to go dinghy sailing and racing. Known as ‘Captain Ali’, she instigated the EDSC Pirates for the junior section, teaching fun sessions that end with small races around inflatable sea creatures. She also runs novice and improver sessions for adults and teenagers. Her enthusiasm and commitment have resulted in vibrant and active dinghy sailing at the club with a steady stream of new members, both young and old, to ensure its future. 

Neil Hopkins from Falmouth was also presented with a Lifetime Commitment Award. Neil was recognised for his significant contribution to club racing, and both national and international events, at Royal Cornwall Yacht Club (RCYC). A reliable and willing volunteer, happier undertaking practical tasks than serving in formal club roles, he is an experienced Race Officer and regional mark layer and his reliable and consistent support to the club, always undertaken with good humour and friendliness, makes him one of those essential volunteers that all successful clubs rely on.

John Veale (90) from Coaley was nominated for a Lifetime Commitment Award. John was recognised for his significant contribution to activities at Frampton on Severn Sailing Club (FOSSC over the past 50 years. When the club’s Sailability group was formed, John was one of the first volunteers. Nowadays, he concentrates on driving powerboats, particularly the club’s Wheelyboat and its wheelchair passengers. His enthusiasm also keeps the more elderly members interested and involved. He acts like a health tonic, ensuring that they do not just fade away, and his practical woodworking skills have been much appreciated by many dinghy owners.

RYA Director of Sport Development, Alistair Dickson commented: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of our sport. Today has been an excellent opportunity to celebrate the fantastic work our volunteers do to support boating activity in all forms throughout the UK.

“All of the stories behind these special people have been truly inspiring to hear and it’s really an honour to be able to say thank you and celebrate their amazing achievements.”

Nominations are now invited for the 2018 RYA Volunteer Awards.