RYA Midlands is pleased to announce that the winner of its ‘Photo February’ competition, which ran during lockdown three to celebrate boating in the region ahead of the new season, is Rob Mallett of Aztec Adventure at Upton Warren.

Rob, an RYA Dinghy Instructor, caught the eye of the judges on the Regional Volunteer Team with his atmospheric picture of a rainbow over two boats, which was taken during a school Sailability session following a storm at the Worcestershire centre.

His prize is a Helly Hansen Scout Duffel kit bag and the chance to put Aztec Adventure in the spotlight as its Upton Warren centre gets set for a return to the water in 2021 following the challenges and restrictions of the pandemic.

Rob said: “Thank you so much for selecting my photo out off all the amazing photos that were submitted from around the Midlands! On the day I took the picture on my phone, a storm had passed over the lake while I was teaching a Sailability session, there was a moment of silence and then this beautiful rainbow appeared. This tends to happen a lot at Upton Warren, it’s a really picturesque bit of water, and an evening sailing session always brings the best sunsets."

Aztec Adventure runs sailing and Sailability sessions for schools, colleges, universities and other organisations and also has community club for its Sailability sailors. Rob works with the National School Sailing Association and instructs at sessions for children from special schools, helping them to enjoy sailing, forge friendships and develop life skills.

“The children love the sailing and meeting other kids like them and you see them growing in confidence and ability,” said Rob. "It’s so rewarding for the instructors and volunteers, and it’s really good for their parents/carers, who get to see what the young people can achieve in a single session. But it's not all about sailing, it's also the social side of the sessions I find to be so beneficial for all involved. It’s a little micro community on and off the water. Sailability is my favourite part of my job, you can really see a difference being made in people's lives on and off the water."

The RYA Midlands ‘Photo February’ competition invited people to send in their favourite photos of boating in the region and had almost 100 eligible entries representing around 20 locations across the region, submitted by more than 30 photographers.

RYA Regional Volunteer Team chair Steven Tinsley said: “It was a daunting task, choosing one winner from so many excellent photographs, with a superb selection of sailing scenes showing people enjoying watersports, smiling faces, fierce competition alongside images of tranquil and atmospheric lakes – what more could anyone want from boating in the Midlands?

“Being one of three judges and an amateur photographer I can testify to the high quality and well thought out composition of all the submissions. Having established a few criteria by which we could score the images and then finding that many, if not all, scored well in each category, made the job of selecting the final five really hard and then to find an overall winner very challenging!

“The winning photograph in our opinion contained a number of key elements that gave it its appeal. Firstly it shows a tranquil scene just after a storm and complete with rainbow, second two dinghies with their sails reflecting in the water and thirdly, while not immediately obvious, the end of a Sailability session. I take my hat off to Rob Mallet from Aztec Adventure at Upton Warren.”

The Regional Volunteer Team’s shortlist also included: Adrian Padro’s photograph of children enjoying sailing in a Comet Trio at Shustoke SC; Glyn Rawson’s Enterprises racing on a breezy day at Ogston SC; Deb Degge’s photograph of Merlin Rocket sailors an open at Bartley SC; Paul Mallard’s idyllic autumn scene at Hollowell SC; and Richard Sturt’s picture of a young RS Feva team at Hollowell SC.

A huge thank to you everyone who took part. If you enjoyed the competition, look out in the autumn when we’ll be inviting you to share photographs from the 2021 season!