Reading Sailing Club receive belated RYA Volunteer Awards

On 23rd May 2021, after Sunday racing, over 50 Reading Sailing Club members gathered for the presentation of the Covid-belated RYA 2020 Community Volunteer Awards for two of its long-serving members


Karen Smailes received an Outstanding Contribution Award and Hugh Leach received the Youth Volunteer Award.


Karen Smailes received an Outstanding Contribution Award in recognition of her dedication for organising and running Oppie and Youth training.


Karen joined Reading SC 11 years ago when it didn’t have a Junior Youth Program, so she started one up. Initially with 6 children in Oppies, this has now grown to 36 children sailing on a regular basis. Karen gives up large amounts of her time to both organise and run the Oppies dinghy fleet and youth training at the club. She provides both theoretical and practical training on Monday night classes, supports children during twice-weekly club racing sessions and regularly communicates with children and parents through email to give them extra Information of upcoming events. She also helps visitors at the Club Open Day each year to enjoy their first experience of Oppies.


Karen also organises the club’s annual youth and junior party and award ceremony and also coordinates the club’s youth teams for National Schools Sailing Association events and the Thames Valley challenge; the event at which they won first place in 2019, which is a major achievement for such a small club.


On nominating Karen, Reading Sailing Club said: “Karen’s enthusiasm and dedication has encouraged hundreds of new young sailors into sailing and her coaching of older children towards AI and DI qualification helps ensure the future of our sport.”


Karen added: “I was shocked, excited and felt rewarded for the effort I have out in over the years. I am delighted to find out that the time and effort I have spent building Youth, Junior and Oppie sailing at Reading has been recognised by my being chosen to receive this award. It gives me great satisfaction to see young sailors progressing and I get a lot of pleasure from giving back to the sport that has been a lifelong passion. A big thank you to the club’s committee for nominating me and to the volunteers who help me.”


When asked why she volunteers, Karen replied: “I grew up sailing as a child and went through the Youth program and saw that it needed people to put something back into the sport for it to continue. I get a lot of pleasure from teaching children to sail and feel that putting something back into the sport is a great thing to do. It gives me a lot of pleasure.”

 Hugh receives an award

Hugh Leach was awarded a Youth Volunteer Award in recognition for his dedication to the club’s youth and junior activities.


Hugh is a highly accomplished sailor who qualified as a Senior Instructor at Reading SC in 2018. He started helping with Optimists at the club in 2013 and became an Assistant Instructor in 2014 before going on to become a Dinghy Instructor, and now Vice Commodore. He has inspired a host of youngsters to participate in the club’s junior program as well as assisting adults with their basic training.


In nominating Hugh, Reading SC said: “Hugh has been helping with the Oppies, Youth and Juniors almost every Monday from May to September each year and he has been assistant coach to the Reading team at the Thames Valley Challenge, in which he took part himself as a junior, and at the National School Sailing Association Topper team racing.


Hugh is a fantastic example of someone starting at the club as a junior and progressing through to instructor level, where he gives back to the sport through training juniors and adults; inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.


He is very involved in junior development at the club and continues to be an excellent role model for younger sailors.”


Hugh added: “I was very excited, along with a sense of disbelief, to think that I would ever get something like this. I am incredibly excited and very thankful that the club nominated me. It’s very much a a sense of giving back. I train in a very similar programme to the one I teach now. It’s got me to where I am today; both in sailing and in other aspects of my life. It’s incredibly enjoyable watching all the young people out there sailing.”


At the presentation, the worthy recipients were introduced by RSC Commodore Nigel Lacey and received their awards along with engraved silver frames from Steve Smith, RYA London & South-East Area Representative.


Steve gave the Awards on behalf of Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive Officer. Sarah added: “This year more than ever before we have seen our club volunteers come together and work tirelessly to ensure members can continue to sail. The generosity and dedication of each of the RYA Volunteer Award recipients is simply outstanding and it’s a pleasure to be able to recognise these winners through this award”.


Traditionally taking place at an awards ceremony in London, the RYA Volunteer Awards recognise and say ‘thank you’ to volunteers who have made an outstanding contribution to the sport with recipients nominated by their sailing clubs, class associations and members of the boating community. This year, due to the ongoing pandemic, winners were be presented with their awards at either small presentations held at their sailing venues or from the safety of their homes.


Nominations are now open for the RYA Volunteer Awards 2022. Find out more about Reading Sailing Club