The sailors are among 44 ‘unsung heroes’ from across the country celebrated in the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) Volunteer Awards 2020, which are held annually to say ‘thank you’ to those who have made an outstanding contribution to the sport.
Dave Vines has volunteered across all sailing activities at Hill Head Sailing Club in Fareham for over 20 years, as well as acting as the club’s Maintenance Manager and social events organiser, and has been recognised with a RYA Lifetime Commitment Award.
A Dinghy Instructor, Race Coach and safety boat driver, Dave helped establish the club’s squad system and is an integral part of sailing development, regularly running RYA Start Racing courses and supporting members on their sailing journey.
Dave was surprised to be nominated by member’s the Hill Head Sailing Club: “To think that members of my club valued my voluntary contributions highly enough to nominate me was extremely gratifying. The club is run entirely by volunteer members which helps keep the costs down allowing the less affluent to participant in sailing.
“I qualified as a dinghy instructor, race coach, and safety boat cox, and in each of these roles I have found immense pleasure helping others learn to sail. Seeing the broad grin on faces as they come off the water after a training session is hugely rewarding.”
In nominating Dave for an RYA Volunteer Award, the club said: “If you ask Dave how to solve a problem, you will always get a positive answer and more than likely a date to help you do the job. He is a dedicated, determined and enthusiastic club member, supporting and mentoring others to develop and grow both on the water and within the club’s management structure.”
When not teaching or racing, Dave is active on the Club’s House Committee, and can regularly be found cooking the weekend lunch at the club for 30 people and helps any member to get started in a volunteer role. He joins the weekly boat maintenance morning and attends to numerous club maintenance projects. Dave adds: There is always something that needs fixing and what better place to spend a few hours than overlooking Solent Waters.”
Dave concludes: “Volunteering has been so rewarding for me and I would encourage club members to become more involved. It is a great way to meet other members, learn how the club works and help influence decisions. It does not have to be a huge commitment, every little job done helps out. In a club like ours volunteering is the very lifeblood which allows its long-term viability.”
John Horwell is a volunteer at Warsash Sailing Club, and also sits on the RYA Race Management Committee, and has been recognised with a RYA National Award.
John has been volunteering to run sailing events since the 1970’s, where it all began when he assisted the RYA with Olympic ranker events and led club safety fleet during Olympic winter training. John held the role of the first ever event safety officer for the first Eric Twinham fleets.
John was in the working group responsible for the RYA Mark Laying scheme that was widely recognised as a crucial part of the 2012 Olympic Games. He remains deeply involved with the scheme, now at the forefront of the team updating the content and adapting it to new technology.
Warsash Sailing Club said: “John continues to deliver the best on the water and develops the skills of UK volunteers.”
As an RYA National Mark Laying Trainer and RYA Regional Race Officer, John has been Safety Officer at numerous events including RYA Youth Nationals, Eric Twiname Championships and the Sailing World Cup. He is a significant contributor to events at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, and has become a recognised expert in on-water event management and is a go-to man in the management of competitive sailing.
John feels very privileged to receive the RYA National Award: “More recently I have moved sailing club and joined Warsash Sailing Club where I have already helped at a number of their events including spring Series and I volunteer on the bar. I have thoroughly enjoyed being at events, it allows me to put something back into the sport and I enjoy helping and guiding new volunteers. I have sailed dinghies and keelboats but find far more reward in helping at an event management level.”
Robert Macdonald from Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club, Chichester Harbour Federation & CH Conservancy, has been recognised with a Lifetime Commitment Award.
Robert has, over the last 40 years, made a major contribution to Chichester Harbour in many roles, including Commodore at Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club, Chairman of the Chichester Harbour Federation and Chairman of the Chichester Harbour Advisory Committee.
Nominating him for the award, Robert’s club said: “Without Robert’s willingness to give his time to these various roles, the harbour and the local sailing fraternity would not be in the healthy position they are today.
“He has been crucial to the success of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy in the management of both the harbour and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). His chairmanship of the Finance, Risk and Audit Group has been key to Chichester Harbour’s financial success and stability and his imaginative involvement in AONB projects to preserve and protect the harbour has been invaluable.”
Whilst also running Federation Week (now Chichester Harbour Race Week) for many years, Robert was awarded the Freedom of Chichester Harbour in 2019 in recognition of his outstanding contribution. His club added: “His attention to detail, combined with plenty of common sense and a willingness to listen to others, has helped to ensure the future of Chichester Harbour.”
Michael Smith, from Sea View Yacht Club on the Isle of Wight, has been recognised with an RYA Outstanding Contribution Award.
During Michael’s volunteer role as Commodore at Sea View Yacht Club (from 2015 to 2018), he introduced a major initiative to provide free sailing lessons to Year 5 schoolchildren from state primary schools on the Isle of Wight. Beginning with just two schools in the first year, he pursued his vision with vigour and commitment and has grown to a planned seven schools in 2021 which should provide 1680 pupil sessions of three hours each. Most of these schoolchildren had never been on the water before but RYA Level 1 or 2 sailing was achieved by the vast majority and their growth in confidence was undeniable.
In nominating Michael for an RYA Outstanding Contribution Award, Sea View Yacht Club said: “Michael’s programme has received much praise from teachers who recognise that the children learn a great deal about communication and working in teams and groups - the benefits of which can be seen in the classroom.
“Michael continues to work with vision, energy and determination to further expand the concept to other schools and clubs on the Isle of Wight. He has been instrumental in establishing the Sail Away Foundation and funding it, with donations from Ineos, several London based Livery Companies and IoW-based businesses.”
On his award, Michael remarked: “I was honoured and it was a privilege to receive the award and while I acknowledge that the vision was all mine, it is also important to acknowledge all those who have worked tirelessly at the club to deliver it.
“This has been a great opportunity for a club like Sea View Yacht Club to offer something back to the community of which it is a part (our members are mainly down from London). While the programme is now huge for a club of our size it shows what can be achieved by everyone pulling together, including the generous donations and sponsorship from all who support us.
“Interestingly, while I thought at the outset that it was just about teaching children to sail, the programme has been applauded by head teachers, teachers, and parents as providing much much more - including opportunities that the kids would not otherwise of had; operating outside their comfort zone; team building; and a marked improvement in the year group’s classroom behaviour. A win win for everyone!”
Polly Schafer, Brading Haven Yacht Club, Isle Of Wight, has been an instrumental volunteer at the club from the day she joined in 2013, and has been recognised with an Outstanding Contribution Award.
In nominating Polly for the Award, Brading Haven Yacht Club said: “An innovator, an ambassador and a force to be reckoned with, Polly focuses on inclusivity and value, regularly challenging the Management Committee to ensure that the club meets the needs of members and provides value for money.”
Polly launched ‘Ladies that Launch’ - a thriving group which she continues to co-ordinate and organise. Through the initiative members regularly sail, socialise and develop firm friendships for life. By encouraging female beginners and improvers, the group is also attracting new members to the club.
Having also picked up the lead for the Cadets section, Polly and a small team of volunteers provide the club’s youth sailors with monthly onshore activities throughout the year. Brading Haven Yacht Club added: “Cadet evenings with Polly are so much fun that the adults regularly join in! She is also an integral part of the Training Team, has been instrumental in driving forward the club’s development plan and keeps members informed through the club’s newsletter and social media.”
Of her award, Polly said: “I would like to thank the RYA, It is a community award, and at Brading Haven Yacht Club we are very much a volunteer club, but I couldn’t do any of this without the support of the volunteers here at the club.
“The two programmes that the club runs, Ladies that Lunch was set up on the back of two ladies learning to sail, and since then it has flourished. The ladies go out regularly, and with covid-19 this year we have still been able to get out on the water and have fun on paddleboards and in kayaks instead of in boats. The cadet programme involves after school sailing which has been very successful in getting people from the local community to join in. For the cadets, we also have an Open Winter programme which we open up to all the clubs across the island to sail. So lots of action at Brading Haven Yacht Club.”
Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive said: “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”.
There is usually a glittering awards ceremony in London but this year, due to the ongoing pandemic, the awards have been presented to volunteers at their local sailing clubs or during online gatherings from the safety of the home.