Sailing community enjoy an evening of celebration at the RYA Northern Ireland Annual Awards

Northern Irish sailing community gathers in Belfast to celebrate the RYA Northern Ireland Annual Awards
24 Apr 24

The Northern Irish sailing community enjoyed a celebratory evening at Riddel Hall in Belfast, as people came together on 19 April for the RYA Northern Ireland annual awards.

The evening was the perfect opportunity to recognise the achievements of everyone involved in Northern Irish sailing, from a grassroots level of volunteering, to elite performance level sailors who have been successful on the world stage.

The awards took place one year on from the launch of RYA Northern Ireland’s five-year strategy, Navigating The Future, which highlights the importance of celebrating the sport and it was fantastic to see how sailing has developed in Northern Ireland over the last 12 months.

We have seen the launch of new programmes such as Project Theia which has helped the development of female sailing, offered alternate pathways to sailors and helped develop new coaches. We have also seen the continuation of the Women On Water programme and with the ILCA Youth European championships coming to Ballyholme Yacht Club in July, it is clear to see that Northern Ireland is still a hub for performance sailing.

RYANI Vice-Chair Gavin Watson expressed this on the night by saying: “We all think of the RYA supporting performance sailors- the RYA is much more than just performance. It’s all about the environment, the older generations that go cruising and the clubs that want to create sailing for their members that are in the community.”

Across the wide range of categories, the following people emerged as winners on the night:

  • Male Junior Sailor of The Year- Luke Simpson
  • Female Junior Sailor of The Year- Emily Macafee
  • Male Youth Sailor of The Year- Tom Coulter
  • Female Youth Sailor of The Year- Erin McIlwaine
  • Volunteer of The Year- Ellie Young/Marty Ansfield
  • Young Volunteer of The Year- Isabel Nixon/Emily Dixon
  • Club Race Coach of The Year- Joseph Karazum
  • Instructor of The Year- Luke McIlwaine
  • Chair’s Award- County Antrim Volunteers/Billy Kohner/Gordon Kane
  • Club Project of The Year- East Down Yacht Club
  • Race Official of The Year- County Antrim Yacht Club Ladies Race Official Team


Attendees of the awards had an enjoyable evening, catching up with friends and celebrating the achievements of the Northern Irish sailing community.

Female Youth Sailor of The Year Erin McIlwaine said: “It’s great to see everyone that you haven’t seen in ages and see everyone that’s been recognised for their efforts they’re putting in. This could be at clubs or international racing level.

“We do all these sports because we enjoy them, not because we want recognition, but it’s nice to have evenings like this where everyone can come together and see the effort that everyone else is putting in.”

Congratulations to all award winners and nominees. Everyone was very deserving of their recognition.