Sir Michael Arthur set to take the helm as RYA Chair

Experienced cruising and racing sailor joins the RYA Board
21 Mar 23
Man on a sailing boat at the helm

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has today announced the appointment of Professor Sir Michael Arthur, an experienced racing and cruising sailor and accomplished British academic, as the new Chair of its Board.

Sir Michael, a member of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, will take over the position of Chair of the Board from Chris Preston after the RYA Annual General Meeting (AGM) in November 2023, following a handover period that will start this summer.

Sir Michael has been a member of the RYA for more than 30 years and has been sailing, in one form or another since his teens, having learned to sail at a gravel pit north of London. This has included Laser and Fireball dinghy racing at club level, windsurfing for leisure, and in more recent years keelboat sailing with some racing in the Solent and cruising throughout Europe.

Professional experience

Sir Michael was the tenth Provost and President of University College London (UCL) between 2013 and 2021 and prior to that, he was the Chair of the Russell Group of UK universities and the vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds between 2004 and 2013. His previous experience both at executive level and as Chair of a wide range of diverse organisations, brings a wealth of leadership experience and skills to the RYA Board.

Throughout his executive career, Sir Michael has advocated equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). His personal contribution to EDI has been to set a very clear tone about improved performance by having the courage to do things differently.

Looking to the future

Chris Preston was appointed as RYA Chair in July 2018. Welcoming his successor to the Board, Chris said: “I'm immensely proud and honoured to have served as the RYA’s Chair over the past five years. The association has been challenged in many areas, particularly during the pandemic, but the staff and volunteers have done a wonderful job in ensuring our sport is safe and accessible without unnecessary regulation, and the performance of the British Sailing Team has been inspiring. 

“Michael will bring new drive and experience to the Board as the RYA embarks on its exciting next chapter and commences the countdown to celebrating the 150th anniversary in 2025. UK boating has recently seen a huge increase in new participants and I am confident the association will benefit from his experience and commitment to inclusion, safeguarding, safety and wellbeing in everything the RYA does.”

High standards

Commenting on his appointment, Sir Michael said: “The RYA is a membership organisation that exists to represent and serve its membership and to advocate for recreational and competitive boating, whilst also providing high standards of governance.

"It’s guided by a clear set of values – to be open and inclusive, impactful, responsible and influential – all of which are reflected in my own leadership career. It is these factors that motivated me to apply for the position of Chair and to contribute to the future of the RYA.

“Like many sports governing bodies, the RYA has been through a challenging period due to the Covid pandemic and many other external factors. The RYA transition plan for 2021-2023 was absolutely the right response and I was pleased to see an emphasis on re-establishing revenues, as strong finances will be essential for the next period.

“I'm looking forward to working with the RYA team to make a significant contribution to the future of this important organisation and helping to deliver the new strategy, which will be launched in the spring.”

The RYA will also look to select a non-executive director later this year, with RYA members having the casting vote. Find out more about the RYA Board.