The boating community from around Scotland gathered on Saturday evening (28th January 2017) at the Glasgow Science Centre as RYA Scotland recognised the achievements and outstanding commitment of Scotland’s volunteers, coaches, instructors, officials, clubs and performance sailors. The theme throughout the evening returned to the boating ‘family’ as the support network that enables the vast range of activity represented across the ten award categories.

Among the highlights was the Performance of the Year category which was won by Daniel Smith from West Kilbride, for his result in the Clipper Round the World Race in which he led the crew of Derry~Londonderry~Doire crew to 2nd place overall. His team won a hat trick of back to back wins in the Pacific and remained on the podium 7 times in the 14 race series.  

In his acceptance speech Daniel said. “As an RYA instructor at Cumbrae I delivered a wide range of RYA training courses, a background which was invaluable as I went into the Clipper Race. I have many people to thank along the way and of course it is for the whole team on Derry~Londonderry~Doire which secured the race result. For me personally it has the best year of my life. It was a roller coaster of emotions at times, from fun times to some tough conditions but would encourage anyone with a sense of adventure to get immersed in this aspect of the sport and you will really enjoy it.”  

Legendary British sailor and Clipper Race Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “Congratulations to Daniel for winning RYA Scotland’s Performance of the Year award. I’m incredibly proud of how he performed, and how he led his team throughout the Clipper 2015-16 Race, in the face of some of the toughest conditions on the planet. Daniel’s achievement is a testament to his sailing and leadership skills.”

The Performance category demonstrated the wide range of competitive sailing from ocean racing, day boat racing and Olympic sailing who all merited nominations. Luke Patience, double Olympian and Silver Medallist in the 2012 Games spoke later in the evening. He paid tribute to his family and volunteers that inspired his performances and gave him the opportunity to compete on the world stage.  

“If it hadn’t had my parents and my club to push me out in an Optimist as a wee lad and then continue to help my sailing journey, the choices I made could not have happened.” Following this up Luke gave an inspiring talk about the Olympic experiences of the past year and revealed his plans for the future admitting. “One day I would like to compete in ocean racing but for the next few years my aim is for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. I love the tactical and technical nature of the 470 class and the Olympics have always inspired me from an early age.”  

Skye Sailing Club was awarded the RYA Scotland Club of the Year award for their recent investments in the club and commitment to the local island community within the past year. Club Secretary Liz Williams and her son Callum collected the award.“We’re so pleased to have gained this recognition as the members have put so much work into the club over the past few years. With adult sailing courses or free sailing offered to primary 7 pupils on Skye, the additional junior and holiday visitor sailing courses and our club racing have all been embraced by our growing membership from the local community. People behind the scenes have put a lot of hard work to this and we would like to extend more opportunities to the people in Skye. We’re very proud of the achievement.”

The Volunteer of the Year Award went to Billy Fortieth of Oban SC for his lifelong dedication to support both the club and the local RNLI.  “I am very touched to receive this award and simply enjoy helping others to enjoy the beautiful waters around Oban.”  

The award was sponsored Clyde Challenger and Glenn Porter added a few special words for the volunteers who inspire and enable so many to get afloat.   “Clyde Challenger is a former Clipper Race Boat that has been restored over the past few years to have her ready for ocean passages again and without the commitment of passionate supporters we would not be able to undertake so many great adventures under sail.”  

The Elizabeth Mackay Award for female endeavours in sport went to Bess Homer of Dalgety Bay Sailing Club. Bess enthused. “It’s fantastic to be here with my club, where I am able to help as both an instructor for the cadets, but then also meet my instructors who encouraged me into the sport when I was learning in Helensburgh and to thank them.”  

The entire team from Dalgety Bay Sailing Club were nominated in the Instructor of Year awards demonstrating the community within Bess’s club but the award went to Team 15 Windsurfing instructor Calum Nicol. His enthusiasm at club level or at the annual Tiree Wave Camps echoed this team ethos when he said. “Thanks to all the instructors who I have learned from as I have taken all the successful techniques into my own sessions, so they deserve this award as well.”

Among the other awards in the training network Alasdair Young originally from Tarbert, Loch Fyne took the coach of the year award for his creative coaching techniques with the Class Academies and in clubs.  

"I have been working as a coach for nearly 12 years now at varying levels and to even be associated with some of the past winners of the award let alone win, is an amazing compliment.”  

The RYA Scotland Official of the Year went to Tom Thurlow. Currently Tom is also an instructor on Cumbrae and spends a lot of his spare time as a volunteer, assisting in officiating at major events around the UK and at Largs SC. Ever reliable for race management teams he also provides great support and mentoring to those less experienced wishing to get involved in race official roles.

“It makes me feel really honoured, it was a shock and still is, as I am part of a bigger team but it is nice to be appreciated. It is great to be among the guests who all share the same passion for the sport and recognise the work that goes on in the background.”

There were several categories which epitomised the age range of participants across the community. Jamie Paterson from Findhorn was awarded the RYA Scotland Young Person of the Year after winning the UK final of the Honda Youth RIB challenge for a second time. The victory in the finals held in September gained another powerboat for the Findhorn Club, showing the investment in the young had direct returns for the wider club memberships.  

“I am proud as the award is almost counts as a milestone and quite please I won. Winning the Honda Youth Rib Championships twice was great and I am looking forward moving up the age category this year and trying to win that.”

Jennifer Wesley from Loch Venachar SC gained the Class Academy Sailor of the Year Award. Having recently started in the Topper Class she excelled at the National Championships and puts her results down to the hard work in training. She noted.   “I love sailing, and once I started training with others, all the coaches and the sailors around me have motivated me. It’s such a good environment to be in, where I can have fun with friends but at the same time work hard and achieve lots of things.”  

Windsurfer Andy Brown, who sails for both Largs SC and Loch Insh, won the Youth Sailor of the Year after a series of impressive results and selection to the British Youth Team competing in the RS:X class in New Zealand in December.  

The evening was closed by Ewan MacPherson, Vice Chair of RYA Scotland.  

“We are very lucky as a group to have representatives here from across Scotland, both as members and affiliate members and the community as a whole. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees as we are delighted to hear about what they have been doing over the past year and we are sure it is a small example of what is going on across the country. Thank you for coming along and please pass on congratulations to all those back in your clubs and associations for all the terrific work that takes place.”  

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