Held at One Great George Street, Westminster, London, the volunteers received their awards from Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal. Before the awards presentation, RYA CEO Sarah Treseder presented Her Royal Highness with a pair of marine binoculars on behalf of the RYA’s Members to mark her 30 years as President of the RYA.
The RYA Community Awards, consisting of Lifetime Commitment, Outstanding Commitment and three Youth winners were presented to volunteers nominated by their sailing clubs and class associations and selected by the RYA Awards Panel for their contribution to boating at grassroots level.
Martin Smethers of Rickmansworth Sailing Club received a National Award for his commitment to sailing. Having been a member of Rickmansworth since 1962, over that time he has been deeply involved in the club’s activities, serving in almost every role on the committee, including Commodore. For over 45 years he has contributed to the club in many different aspects, and the scale and scope of his commitment has been exceptional when considered alongside his huge contribution to racing at both national and international levels, as a judge, rules expert and champion of Team Racing. He is Chair of the RYA Racing Rules Advisory Team and his expert advice has been instrumental in deflecting numerous appeals. He said; “There were I suppose, several highlights from the day. To be the only representative from a sailing club to have been awarded the National Award this year was very humbling indeed. Not known to many I suspect was that another recipient, Ken Kershaw and I grew up together at Rickmansworth Sailing Club in the early sixties. To have both been awarded the Award on the same day was remarkable, I cannot recall this happening previously. The other remarkable thing was when I met HRH and, having accompanied her on the water at several events, her greeting was ‘How nice to see you again’ which I was very touched with. All in all, a day to remember and being among so many other RYA members who have done so much towards sailing was truly inspiring.”
Janet Gilmour received a Regional Award in recognition of her contribution to the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association, having been on the committee for over 15 years, and involved with organising a number of their key events. In addition she served on the RYA Eastern Regional Committee for 10 years and has been a member of Buckenham Sailing Club for over 30 years, in a wide variety of roles. She is a founder organiser of the Club’s annual Triple B Race, a 30-mile passage race on the River Yare, which she continues to organise. She said; “I had a great day at the RYA Awards Ceremony and Lunch. Difficult to pick out a single highlight – I was honoured to be presented with my certificate and gold pin broach by Princess Anne and talking to her. I enjoyed meeting and chatting with many very worthy Award Winners from different areas of the sailing community. Lunch was delicious. Definitely a day to remember.”
Doug MacEwen received a Lifetime Commitment Award. As a founder member of South Woodham Ferrers Yacht Club (SWFYC) Doug has been dedicated to the club for over 42 years, with particular success in developing and diversifying the club. He introduced dinghy sailing and other watersports to boost the dwindling cruising members and thus securing SWFYC’s future as a vibrant organisation. He is also Deputy Chairman of the RYA East region, active on the Crouch Harbour Authority and Secretary of the Crouch Area Yachting Federation. Doug said; "The whole award ceremony, including the lunch in the Great Hall with the other award winners was a marvellous experience. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly meeting and chatting to HRH The Princess Royal when she presented my award. She made me feel really special and deserving."
Peter Phillips from Harwich and Dovercourt Sailing Club was nominated for a Lifetime Commitment Award by his club and has been involved with the Club for over 35 years and has encouraged over 80% of the members, their children and some of their grandchildren to take to the water. He has also been Honorary Secretary and was part of the committee that saved the club from closure at the hands of the developers. He said of the day’s events “It was a very enlightening experience meeting up with Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal for the second time in my life. It was also a great pleasure meeting up with many of the other recipients of various awards, in particular the secondary school which developed sailing as character building scheme, finishing with twelve dinghies and a 47 foot offshore, ex-Admirals Cup boat called “Scaramouche”. I attempted this with the Harwich School in Essex, but with no support from the education authority finished up with twenty-four dinghies and a twenty-two foot boat owned by a man who lived in Hong Kong. The highlight of my day was seeing that school, teacher and three students, presented with their award. A great fun day.”
Jonathan Payne of Blackwater Sailing Club received a Lifetime Commitment Award. Having been a member for over 40 years and during that time shown great commitment in all aspects of club life, and amongst a number of duties he takes on, Jonathan enjoys helping encourage and support all those learning to sail. He said of the award, “My visit to the RYA AGM and Award presentations was memorable, the day was beautifully organised from our arrival, the AGM, presentations and excellent lunch. For the presentation, it was a great honour to receive the certificate from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Her acceptance address, when voted as President for the coming year, was very inclusive of the world-wide activities and benefits derived from the RYA to society in all water sport activities. It was interesting to meet the other volunteers and amusing to find we were somewhat ‘clones’ all doing similar activities at our various clubs. A much enjoyed day and very grateful to the RYA.”
Peter Saxton received a Lifetime Commitment Award in recognition of his contribution to Grafham Water Sailing Club (GWSC), having been a member for over 40 years and a committee member for over 20. During this time he has contributed to many aspects of club life, including establishing a recognised training centre, and helped to transform the club into a family-friendly destination. Peter said; “It was interesting to see the wide range of activities, clubs and volunteers being recognised - from power boats to Fastnet racers and most aspects of boating in between. I was really impressed that HRH The Princess Royal took a real interest in the day, including chairing the AGM, presenting the awards and then hosting the lunch.”
Sally Dugdale received an Outstanding Contribution Award in recognition of her contribution to the International Topper Class Association as a parent, committee member and Chairman. As East Area Representative she encouraged a number of East Region sailors into ITCA and has seen them progress through junior, youth, podium and university sailing, as well as coaching. She is committed to the motto that the Topper is ‘the friendly class’ and been involved in major event organisation, as well as coaching regionally and nationally. She said; “It was great to see the variety of volunteering that goes on across the UK together with the commitment from all those being awarded. It was also great to hear from some of the crew of Scaramouche which shows anyone can get a love of sailing providing they get the opportunity.”
Tom Wood of South Woodham Ferrers Yacht Club was nominated for a Youth Award by his club. Since joining South Woodham Ferrers Yacht Club (SWFYC) in January 2015, Tom quickly became involved in all aspects of the club, learning to sail, and becoming SWFYC’s first Junior Club Captain, helping to get a town council grant to buy five Toppers, and mentoring all the junior members. He additionally created, organised and ran a hugely successful two-day junior Championship in August 2016, and his enthusiasm and organisational skills make him an inspiration to others.
RYA Director of Sport Development, Alistair Dickson concluded: “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.
For more information about how to get out on the water in the East visit www.rya.org.uk/go/startboating