Three dedicated club members from Wales have been recognised for their exceptional contribution to the sport in the 2023 RYA Volunteer Awards.
The awards were presented by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, on Friday 10 November at the Grade II listed One Great George Street in London.
A total of 81 accolades were given this year to volunteers of all ages from across the UK to in recognition of their dedication and commitment to sailing and boating.
Representing Welsh clubs within the RYA Community Awards category for those supporting the grassroots of the sport were Jacob Knock and Julian Bridges, both from Port Dinorwic Sailing Club, and Mark Govier of Merthyr Tydfil Sailing Club.
Jacob Knock, aged 19, from Port Dinorwic Sailing Club / Clwb Hwylio Y Felinheli, Gwynedd, was one of a select group of six individuals to receive a Young Volunteer Award, showing that it’s never too soon to start supporting others in the sport.
A club member since the age of eight, Jacob would always support the work parties and went on to become an RYA Assistant Instructor alongside helping in the safety boat and with other duties as part of his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award.
When Jacob broke his wrist five years ago, he discovered he enjoyed helping with race management almost as much as competing himself. He has gone on to gain RYA Powerboat and RYA Safety Boat qualifications which further support the club.
In its citation, the club added: “Jacob is a helpful, thoughtful young man, with a quiet enthusiasm for teaching sailing, and he relates very well to his students. His manner is both patient and kind, ideal for those who are a little anxious at the beginning.”
Jacob, who hopes to study Ocean Sciences at Bangor University, is currently taking a gap year volunteering at the club and working as an instructor for outdoor education provider Conway Centres. He said: “I volunteer because I enjoy it and I love being involved and out on the water. It’s also that whole feeling of being a part of a community. I’ve had a lot of help from the club and its members over the years so I like to be able to give back to support others and the new generation coming into the sport.”
Julian Bridges joined Port Dinorwic SC in 1990 and has cheerfully volunteered for various roles including Sailing Secretary, Rear Commodore (Training), Publicity Officer and Commodore. Prior to that, his first volunteer role was with Mumbles Yacht Club as a youth representative in the mid 1970s. With experience in both national and international dinghy racing, he has also served on the Osprey, Hornet and Flying Dutchman class associations, as well as the North Wales Regional Committee.
His citation for the award said: “He has produced the club’s annual programme and, in Covid lockdowns, entertained members with regular Facebook posts of past sailing exploits. More recently he has taken on the role of Bosun, ensuring that all the club boats and equipment are serviced and maintained. Not frightened to get his hands dirty, he has regularly volunteered for safety boat duties and club working parties. Julian’s enthusiasm for sailing is infectious and he can always be relied upon to take people out, whatever their experience, to give them a go in his Flying Dutchman.”
Julian, aged 66, a retired university research centre manager, said: “People like me were brought up in sailing terms by those who had come back from the war and knew that if you want something to succeed, you have to muck in to make it work - you put in what you get out, that’s why I initially started helping. The people looking over my shoulder who established and made sailing clubs work in the 1950s, inspired me to do the same, and that’s important because our club like most is volunteer-run. We’re a local club based in our community. One of my favourite things is to take people out on the water, especially novices and beginners. It’s rewarding to be able to share sailing with people.”
Also receiving a Lifetime Commitment Award was Mark Govier of Merthyr Tydfil Sailing Club in the Brecon Beacons. A member since 1986, he was Honorary Secretary from the early 1990s until 2022. He has also acted as Administrator, Membership Secretary, Race Co-ordinator, Social Secretary and Lead Instructor, playing a vital role in helping the club to survive, prosper and grow its membership.
The club, which is off grid with the exception of water, has also benefited from Mark’s expertise as an electrical engineer, including the installation of an electronic race management system and solar panels, alongside successfully applying for numerous grants to upgrade facilities.
In its citation for the award, the club adds: “Volunteering tirelessly to ensure that the club operates in compliance with regulations and processes, Mark has also provided invaluable guidance on the rigging and maintenance of dinghies, and serviced rescue boat engines each season. For a long time, Mark was the only RYA Instructor at the club, supporting hundreds of new and prospective sailors. Now he has encouraged others to gain qualifications, and he is the driving force behind the club’s goal of becoming an RYA Recognised Training Centre in the next year.”
Mark said: “I love the sport and what I most enjoy is teaching other people and passing on the knowledge. It’s just great to see the smile on people’s faces when you give them a tiller, and a rope to pull in the sail, and they realise that they are able to get the boat moving. It’s like magic!”
RYA Director of Sport Development Rob Clark paid tribute to the enormous impact made by volunteers at the heart of the sport, adding: “Whether it’s encouraging newcomers to give it a try, looking after facilities so people can get afloat safely, running weekend racing, or fundraising for equipment so more people can be introduced to the joys of being on the water – there really is a rewarding role for everyone in our communities.”
RYA CEO Sara Sutcliffe MBE said: “Our sport relies so much on the goodwill and skills of volunteers at every level, without whom the opportunities to get involved in boating would be greatly reduced. It’s so humbling to hear of the many examples of selfless commitment our award recipients have shown – in many cases spanning decades – and they represent many thousands more who give their time to support boating in whatever way, great or small. Our grateful thanks go to them all.”
Volunteering is the heart of RYA and club activity – find out more about the benefits and the many ways to get involved at RYA Volunteering.