HRH The Princess Royal recognises the East Region's Outstanding Volunteers and Unsung Heroes

RYA celebrates exceptional commitment and achievements of volunteers
05 Dec 22
HRH The Princess Royal celebrates RYA Volunteer Award winners 2022

Dedicated volunteers from across the RYA East Region have been awarded for their exceptional commitment and achievements in boating by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, President of the RYA.

48 RYA Volunteer Awards, including five from the East Region, were presented at the annual ceremony (11 November) at the magnificent Grade II listed ‘One Great George Street’ in central London.  Celebrating both long-standing and younger volunteers, the awards recognise all those who have contributed to the sport and made an impact in their communities.

Watch the 2022 Volunteer Awards video at

The prestigious awards are divided into five categories: RYA Community Awards, Francis Elkin Award, Family Award, Honor Preston Award, and RYA Awards. 

RYA Community Awards are presented to outstanding individuals for their commitment and services to boating at club or grassroots level. 

The RYA East Region winners included:


Richard Johnson – Francis Elkin Award (Challenger Class Association) 

Richard Johnson, from Peterborough, was the recipient of the Francis Elkin Award for his work with the Challenger Class Association.

Presented to an individual who has enabled people with disabilities to become involved in sailing.

Richard said:

“I was surprised to receive notification of the Francis Elkin Award 2022 because, like many volunteer Organisers, most of the “blood sweat and tears” as Chairman of the Challenger Class Association happened behind the scenes.

I was even more surprised by the number of people from across the sailing spectrum who have congratulated me on the Award because Disabled Sailing is a niche area and it’s good to know how many able-bodied sailors are both interested and supportive of something that is so important to anyone with a disability.

The Presentation Day was a superb Event, immaculately organised and it genuinely felt an honour to be part of it. I was struck by the number of people receiving awards at the RYA AGM who do unglamorous, thankless jobs (like “Race Officer”) that nobody notices unless they go wrong. There’s no pay and most of them are taken for granted so the RYA Community Awards scheme plays a much valued role when it acknowledges them. They also get to meet HRH Princess Anne, who does know what goes on behind the scenes and shows her appreciation by having a brief personal chat with each recipient.”

Caroline Gibb – Lifetime Commitment Award (Southend on Sea Interclub Association)

Caroline Gibb, of Southend on Sea Interclub Association, received a Lifetime Commitment award for her efforts. She has been the Hon Secretary of the Association for over 20 years and co-ordinates all events amongst the association to avoid clashes, and acts as a driving force between the clubs, the RYA East Region and the media. She liaises with numerous other organisations, and her diplomacy and excellent communication skills are key to their success. 

As Commodores and club representatives change over the years, Caroline is always there serving the members’ and Interclub interests, modestly but effectively. Her enthusiasm is infectious, she is a good motivator, team leader and player and has built up a superb knowledge of local issues and contacts. The Association has built a good reputation and has the respect of local councils, agencies and port authorities, largely due to her efforts.

Caroline said:

“It was a lovely surprise and totally unexpected. It’s just something that I have always done as my father let me help out from a very early age at our Yacht Club, just as his father had done with him. The day was wonderful, meeting HRH The Princess Royal and everyone was so friendly and helpful. The food was lovely too and I shall never forget it!”


Jeremy Mills – Lifetime Commitment Award (Norfolk Schools Sailing Association)

Jeremy Mills, of the Norfolk Schools Sailing Association, from Norwich, has volunteered with the organisation for 38 years. His enthusiasm for learning and passion to share his sailing knowledge have gained him a great reputation locally and regionally. Heavily involved with the running of the Association, he was Commodore for two years in 1993 and 1994. 

When the NSSA sailing base at Filby was threatened with closure in 2004 he was instrumental in ensuring that NSSA activities continued at nearby clubs until he negotiated a long-term lease, achieved RYA Recognised Training Centre status and became Base Principal. He has continued this role, also becoming a Trustee when the NSSA took on charitable status in 2011 to ensure the facilities are fully accessible to all. He continues to lead by example in his coaching role and recently led the adult training and Dinghy Instructor courses for the NSSA, leading to over 160 newly qualified instructors.

Greatly liked by all, and a popular role model, Jeremy has a way of boosting people’s confidence and encouraging more hesitant sailors to greater achievements through infectious enthusiasm for the activity he loves.

Jeremy said

“I felt hugely honoured to receive the RYA Lifetime Commitment Award, especially from HRH Princess Anne. I hadn’t appreciated how few are awarded each year, and for me it acknowledged the huge commitment of our whole team of instructors over many years at NSSA Filby.

The day itself was amazing. HRH chaired the AGM with all the efficiency for which she is renowned, and then took the time to talk with and to congratulate every award winner as she made the presentation. I was very impressed that she, like the RYA staff present, knew who I was, where I came from and some background of NSSA. She was interested in how we had adapted and managed the Covid pandemic and future plans we have in the pipeline. She obviously reads the RYA magazine – she thanked me for all that I continue to do and for doing it so publicly!

A tremendous day and I felt it was a real celebration of all that is good at grass roots level in teaching all ages of people to sail.


Margaret Lake – Lifetime Commitment Award

Margaret Lake, from Felixstowe, Suffolk, has volunteered for 30 years with Waldringfield Sailing Club, becoming a member of the Galley and Bar Committees soon after joining. She held the role of Honorary Secretary for 14 years, supporting the Flag Officers, while declining the honorarium offered for the role. Since 2007 she has been responsible for looking after the 100+ trophies that the club awards each year, and for the last five years, in addition, has been the friendly, smiling face and secretary for the club’s ‘Go Sailing’ programme, which provides sailing for beginners. 

Margaret has filled in when a volunteer did not turn up, tidied up in the galley, clubroom and office, and greeted countless others to the club, making sure newcomers meet the key people for their sailing interests. Her welcome and care make the club a good place to sail and make friends. 

Margaret said:

“I was stunned, shocked but hugely flattered to discover I had been even nominated, let alone that I had got the award.  It was an amazing feeling, especially as it was the Flag Officers who had nominated me. 

The presentation day was wonderful, fabulous and any other similar words you can think of.   And I am still enjoying the day because of the YouTube film which I have almost worn out.  We met some amazing people, had a lovely lunch, and all our arrangements to get there and back all fell into place.  I simply cannot tell you what a perfect occasion it was”


Norman Griffin – Lifetime Commitment Award

Norman Griffin, from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, is a volunteer at Graham Water Sailability, and has done so for the past 16 years. As one of the club’s most regular attenders, he has taken on various roles, including Company Director and Treasurer, and one of the longest serving and most experienced Trustees. He has taken a lead role in the maintenance of boats, buildings and equipment, and is currently Health and Safety Officer and one of the safety boat helms. As well as his time, he has also generously donated equipment, including one of the two safety boats and, more recently, several buoyancy aids to the club. 

Described as dependable, friendly and diplomatic, he offers sound, well-considered advice and is adept at solving problems.

Norman said:

“Receiving the reward was a total surprise knowing how many deserving members we have. The presentation, a day I’ll never forget, from the beautiful building though to the incredibly arranged presentation by HRH The Princess Royal and superior lunch”.

In short, “An amazing experience “

Rob Clark, RYA Director of Sport Development said: “So many different types of people give their time to support sailors in enjoying the many benefits of getting on the water – and this year’s Volunteer Awards demonstrate that there is a role for everyone, both on and off the water.

“It is truly inspiring to see awards going to volunteers ranging in age from teenagers, who have experienced at a young age how rewarding it can be to contribute to the wider community, to those who have given more than 60 years of service, helping to sustain not only our sport but also local communities.”

To read about each of the recipients and for more information about the RYA Volunteer Awards visit

Attending her first RYA Volunteer Awards ceremony, Chief Executive Sara Sutcliffe MBE, commented: “The commitment and dedication that this year’s RYA Volunteer Award recipients have shown is simply outstanding. It has been an honour for me to be part of the for the first time. 

“Each and every one of our award recipients has been an inspiration to us all and it is my great pleasure to recognise their contributions and achievements.”


Start your journey 

Volunteers are at the heart of RYA and club activity, providing opportunities and supporting others to enjoy being on the water and enjoying the many benefits it brings. There are many ways to volunteer and if you’re able to give a little of your time you can make a big difference. Find out more at