No fewer than 13 sailing volunteers from the South West were announced as recipients of RYA Volunteer Awards at the annual ceremony, which was held at One Great George Street, London on Friday 19 November and presided over by HRH The Princess Royal, president of the RYA.
Richard Curtis of the Plymouth & Devon Schools Sailing Association has received a Lifetime Commitment award. Richard first volunteered to help with school sailing activity weeks at Plymouth & Devon Schools Sailing Association (PDSSA) over 20 years ago. He was instrumental in starting up PDSSA Sailability and as Sailability Officer has gradually built it up, helping the association to acquire a Drascombe Longboat, a 5m RIB that can accommodate a wheelchair and an electrically assisted hoist. He has built up close ties with a local group for mentally disabled people and a limbless ex-service association and conducts regular weekly sessions afloat with people from both organisations, with excellent results. Unflappable, with a great sense of humour, Richard has never turned anyone away, and goes to great lengths to cater for every need.
Jane Hill, pictured above, who volunteers with Starcross Yacht Club, received an Outstanding Contribution award. Jane has been a member of the club for nine years and the Chair of the Junior Section for most of that time. In her role, she has managed adult volunteer RYA Instructors, helpers and supporters as well as liaising with the club committee and junior teams. Her enthusiasm is infectious and the club’s Junior Training Sessions have always been very well supported. She has inspired many young people, some of whom have become very competent sailors, powerboat drivers and Dinghy Instructors before they have left school. Jane has been an outstanding volunteer at the club, finding the time to organise sail training, seeing to the needs of the participants, and making sure the club boats are maintained to a good standard.
Richard Langford from Poole, was awarded Honorary Life Membership. He joined the RYA Council as Chairman of the Windsurfing Committee in 1995, was elected as Honorary Treasurer in 1999, became Deputy Chairman of Council in 2004 and served as Chairman from 2007 to 2011. He was then appointed as Chairman of the Trustees of the RYA Foundation, from which position he will retire at the end of this year. In 2012 he accepted the challenge of building a new RYA Foundation to offer boating to those with disadvantages and disabilities. He restored the finances of RYA Sailability, recruited younger trustees and built a strategic plan, leaving behind him a revitalised organisation.
Richard’s wise advice, warm and unflustered personal style in the face of adversity, and especially the support and consideration he shows for the Association’s staff have been much appreciated. The organisation he leaves is vastly different from the one he joined.
John and Liz Maunder, from Falmouth, received an Outstanding Contribution award. have been members of Flushing Sailing Club since 1994 and volunteers for the last 15 years. They are an indomitable team, contributing enormously to getting racing going in Falmouth in 2020 following the first pandemic lockdown. The impact of their combined efforts is immeasurable, enhancing the club’s reputation, encouraging new members and providing uplifting experiences to the community.
Stephen Nicholls, who volunteers with Mylor Yacht Club, the Port of Falmouth Sailing Association and Flushing Sailing Club received a Lifetime Commitment award. Stephen joined Mylor Yacht Club in 1995, gradually becoming more involved with club activities and volunteering whenever things needed to be done. He served on the House and Sailing Committees and was Commodore in 2002-2004 and 2019. He was also Chairman of the Port of Falmouth Sailing Association for five years, co-ordinating the activities of all the clubs in the Port and organising a variety of events. His calm, friendly approach, and his view that sailing should be fun for all, afloat and ashore, are reflected in his exceptional commitment.
Ken Porter, who has been volunteering at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, as well as Chesil Sailability, since 2013, received an Outstanding Contribution award. He is known to thousands of competitors in his role as lead operator of the Bridge, the radio room that provides the vital link between what is happening on the water and ashore. At the heart of the Bridge team, Ken is a reassuring presence with the ability to keep ahead of incidents, making sure that the entire race management team is able to maintain awareness of developing situations. His reassuring voice over the venue’s PA system is instantly recognisable and his control of the Bridge is rock solid.
Dave Preston, who sadly died last summer, was recognised for his Lifetime Commitment to Exmouth Sailing Club. He was a great mentor and supporter of Exe Sailing Club over the past 20 years. He taught many novice sailors, supported the club’s Girls Go Sailing programme and ran excellent RYA powerboat, diesel and outboard engine maintenance courses. His natural communication skills made him a popular teacher, and he represented the club on the Lower Exe Moorings Association and the Exe Estuary Management Partnership. The club benefitted hugely from Dave’s outstanding commitment, knowledge and vision, and he is greatly missed.
John Scott served with distinction for six years on the RYA Board, retiring at the November 2020 AGM. He uniquely has an understanding of what is required at amateur and professional levels, and this, partnered with long-standing sports governance tenure, is a potent mix. He shows kindness, wisdom and willingness to help other team members through his mentorship. He makes time for people, pushing his arguments with passion, but always cordially and with respect. He also volunteers as a Director of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
James Stevenson, who volunteers at Teign Corinthian Yacht Club, received a Lifetime Commitment award. James is a retired builder who maintained Teign Corinthian Yacht Club’s increasingly elderly clubhouse for about 20 years. When a steady increase in female sailors required the provision of more changing space for them, he volunteered to design and build a new clubhouse for the cost of the materials. The result is that he has provided an iconic facility with changing spaces for 26 males and 26 females, a dedicated training room, office, clubhouse and a balcony looking over the finest sailing area on the River Teign. Through his commitment, determination, vision and enormous effort the club has saved over £300,000 and opened a clubhouse worthy of the 21st century.
Blind Sailing UK’s Jonny Stevenson, from Cirencester, received an Outstanding Contribution award. He works hard to train visually impaired sailors, recognising the potential in everyone, and has volunteered with charity Blind Sailing UK from a young age. He has competed with Jonny Cormack in the B3 team at World Championships for the last decade, where they have never dropped their silver title. Providing calm words of confidence, he inspires all with his ‘can-do’ attitude.
Richard Thompson, from Fairford in Gloucestershire, served on the RYA Racing Rules Committee and received a National Award. Responsible over many years for organising the National Team Racing Championships for the Prince Philip Trophy, Richard has also chaired both the Team Racing Working Party (since 2009) and the Racing Rules Working Party (since 2013) of World Sailing, stepping down only this year. Additionally supporting team racing through volunteering at many school, university and club team racing events as an umpire, he has shown exceptional commitment. Always demonstrating diligence and attention to detail, his contribution has had a significant impact on the sport of sailing both nationally and internationally.
Exmouth’s Nick Webber received an Outstanding Contribution award. Nick has been a member of Exe Sailing Club for 12 years, and a willing volunteer from his first day. He has served as Club Secretary, helping to make the club more forward-thinking, particularly in its commitment to the local community. As an Assistant Instructor and versatile skipper, he supports both youth sailing and the club’s Sailability activities. His skills, commitment and innovation have led to the creation of the River Exe Kayak Rally, raising thousands of pounds for Oxfam. His extraordinary combination of strengths has benefited hundreds of people.
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”.