Six dedicated club members from the RYA Midlands region were recognised for their exceptional generosity and commitment to the sport in this year’s RYA Volunteer Awards.
Long-standing volunteers and committed youngsters from across the UK were invited to attend a glittering ceremony at One Great George Street in Westminster, London, to receive their awards from HRH The Princess Royal, President of the Royal Yachting Association.
The annual presentations included RYA Community Awards for services to boating at club or grassroots level across three categories - Lifetime Commitment, Outstanding Contribution and Young Volunteer – and among those honoured this year were:
Nigel Austin, Cransley SC: Lifetime Commitment Award
Nigel has been an active committee member at Cransley SC for more than 30 years and in nominating him for an RYA Volunteer Award, the club’s citation said: “Nothing is too much trouble for Nigel, and he will always give time to help someone, both on and off the water. His drive and can-do attitude were never more needed than in 2020 when everyone was struggling with their mental health – he is the glue that keeps the club together.”
As the club’s Sailing Principal for several years, Nigel encouraged the growth of the youth section. In his current role as Commodore, he has obtained a number of grants to improve the clubhouse throughout as well as continuing discussions with the club’s landlord to ensure long term stability. During 2020 Nigel ensured members could get on the water in a Covid-secure way during restrictions. He was also instrumental in the club introducing stand-up paddleboarding in 2019, which increased membership dramatically and has seen paddleboarders trying sailing.
Nigel said: “There are a lot of people who help out all the time at the club and having been there on and off since I was seven, I just know it’s a magical place. You get a regeneration of your batteries every time you go up there. It’s a wonderful setting for people to learn to sail or just be there because it’s a real oasis. I volunteer along with so many others involved in the club because I want it to be there for people to enjoy for ever.”
Richard Bower, Olton Mere SC: Lifetime Commitment
Richard has volunteered for more than two decades at Olton Mere SC, where as a Senior Instructor he teaches people of all ages to sail through RYA courses and club training sessions. He says: “I started sailing with school and I’ve been volunteering as an instructor since I was a teenager. I just enjoy being out there and taking someone who’s never been in a boat before to being able to sail it on their own. Supporting that progression is great and when I see people I taught years ago having fun sailing - or coming through to become instructors themselves - it’s really rewarding.”
His volunteering includes looking after the club’s fleet of training and safety boats - ensuring equipment and operating procedures are maintained to the highest standard - and during the pandemic he stepped into the role of Safety Officer. Richard also supports community interest company LNC Activities and at Olton Mere SC, in addition to his instructing and bosun roles, is currently helping with the refurbishment of the clubhouse.
Nominating him for the award, Olton Mere SC said: “Richard is a great motivator in sailing and also stand-up paddleboarding, which has become increasingly popular at the club thanks to his good example and help. A true ambassador to grassroots sailing, he has supported others through the past, difficult year, despite his own work concerns, going the extra mile for sailors, paddlers and the club.”
Charlotte Davies, South Staffordshire SC: Outstanding Contribution
After joining South Staffordshire SC with her husband and two daughters in 2001, Charlotte did not become a sailor but did take on the management of the club’s catering, coordinating volunteers for the galley duty roster and always stepping in whenever needed to ensure hot food and refreshments were available for members. She is also a former Lady Commodore and member of the House Committee.
Charlotte said: “I have always enjoyed volunteering at South Staffs and feel it has enabled me to make a contribution to the club for all it has given to us as a family, in both sailing and friendship.” After shielding during the pandemic Charlotte has now ‘retired’ from running the galley but still volunteers at the club.
In its nomination of Charlotte for an RYA Volunteer Award, the club said in its citation: “Charlotte has been a familiar and friendly face to many new members. She is selfless, supportive and very capable and the club has been richly rewarded by her dedication and skills.”
Harry Sayers, Draycote Water SC: Lifetime Commitment Award.
Harry first started sailing in the RAF after being called up for National Service and has been involved with the sport ever since. He became a founder member of Draycote Water SC in 1969, and was a fleet captain and served on the committee in the 1970s. Harry then served two terms as Commodore in the 1980s and 90s, after which he was elected President, a post he still holds more than 20 years later.
Harry said: “We joined Draycote Water SC as a family when the plans were first announced because it was clearly going to be a great club and we’ve enjoyed sailing all our lives. I served on the committee for the love of sailing and the club. We’re a team at the club but we’re only the custodians so our job is to leave it in a better place than when we started. It’s been a great pleasure and the joy of it all is the friends we’ve made over the years. The club is our second home and we just want to see it thrive and carry on. It’s a wonderful sport. It doesn’t matter about your age or background at the club because sailing brings everyone together.”
In nominating him for the award, the club said its citation: “Harry has served the club tirelessly, offering assistance to new commodores and committees, engaging with junior members to encourage or pass on his experiences, and is always willing to stop and talk to new and old members alike. He is a constant source of wisdom and common sense and invaluable in maintaining the club’s success.”
Tony Sutton, Himley Hall SC: Lifetime Commitment Award
Tony Sutton has supported Himley Hall SC for 20 years, including serving on the training team and as Membership Secretary, Trustee, Newsletter Editor and for 12 of the last 13 years as Commodore. He also supports junior and youth training and has helped to establish curriculum sailing lessons for local secondary schools.
He explains: “Shortly after I started at Himley Hall SC I had to take ill health retirement and had time on my hands so thought I’d put a bit of effort into supporting the club, started doing a few jobs and found myself becoming Commodore. I enjoy volunteering and especially working with the youngsters because if you can get them sailing, it’s a way of keeping the club vibrant. It’s great to see them developing their skills and several have gone on to become Dinghy Instructors themselves which is really rewarding.”
Nominating Tony for the award, the club’s citation highlighted his “calm demeanour and sense of humour” and his generous giving of time to projects, activities and events: “An excellent hands-on leader, he takes more than his fair share of responsibility, and is always willing to support others. He has kept an extensive archive of club documents and photographs but is equally open to new ideas and initiatives, recognising others’ contributions, and has helped to rejuvenate the club and raise its profile.”
Martin Warburton, South Staffordshire SC: Lifetime Commitment
Martin joined South Staffordshire SC in 1996 with his family and was Commodore for the club’s 60th anniversary celebrations in 2014. In the same year, he was instrumental in setting up the Kids Adventurous Activities charity, helping disabled and disadvantaged young people experience water-based activities, and was a trustee until its closure due to the pandemic.
His volunteering has also included creating a new website and online club management system; project managing ongoing building and renovation work at the club; and as an RYA Dinghy Instructor, teaching RYA Level 1 and 2 courses every year. Nominating him for the award, the club added in its citation: “Martin has made an immeasurable difference to the club behind the scenes and in elected committee positions. He is held in the highest regard by club members and officials alike.”
Martin said: “I joined the club when my two sons were 10 and 12 and sailing has been a real family hobby ever since. Someone asked me if I’d go on the committee and then I ended up helping on the IT and technical side. I sail most weekends because it’s a great sport for getting away from it all and there’s also a really sociable atmosphere which leads to groups of members getting together to help with all aspects of making the club such a success. It’s been rewarding and the more you put in, the more you get out.”
The RYA Volunteer Awards recognise the vital contribution to boating made by volunteers across the country. Rob Clark, RYA Director of Sport Development said: “2021 has been another challenging year for sailing organisations with outdoor activity restarting and restrictions slowly lifting. More than ever, volunteers are the backbone of our clubs and the wider boating community, and every single award winner has made an impact by sacrificing their time and expertise so others can enjoy being on the water. It’s a pleasure to recognise their achievements.”
A round up of the RYA Volunteer Awards ceremony and video can be found here. To read about all of this year’s winners visit the awards citation booklet.