Some 184 delegates from 60 Sailability sites across the country attended the annual RYA Sailability National Conference and dinner this weekend (15th February 2020) where the winners of the RYA Sailability Awards were announced (Wyboston Lakes, Bedfordshire).

RYA Sailability Awards

The RYA Sailability Awards were presented by RYA Board Member John Scott and recognise the priceless contribution made by sailors, volunteers and partners. They were awarded across six categories: Volunteer of the Year, #MoreThanSailing, Team of the Year, Young Person of the Year, Sailor of the Year and Exceptional Contribution,

First to be presented was the Volunteer of the Year which was awarded to Annie Molyneux for her contribution to Rutland Sailability and the Challenger Class. Annie’s efforts include making sure newcomers feel welcomed at the site, supporting the racers on Thursday and weekends and travelling around the country assisting the Challenger and Hansa events.

Annie said: “I was really surprised, delighted and honoured to receive my award. There are so many volunteers who are ‘unsung heroes’ that I would like to think that I could receive it on behalf of all the volunteers”.

The next award to be presented was Team of the Year which was awarded to members of Bolton Sailing Club for the life-changing opportunities they have created for people with disabilities to be able to get out on the water at their venue.

Described as an ‘all-round lovely human being’ Flossy Campion (18) from Whitefriars Sailability took the award for Young Person of the Year. Since 2018 she has donated her time, learning to use the hoist, working with a member of the Blind Sailing Team and assisting with schools and groups.

The #MoreThanSailing award is all about collaboration either locally or nationally recognising a new and innovative project, activity or piece of work that has enabled inactive disabled people to become more active. This year it was awarded to Andy Beadsley and The Wheelyboat Trust, who work with people of all ages with a wide range of sensory, learning and mobility impairments.

Ben Foulsham, 15, collected the award for Sailor of the Year. Ben is autistic and discovered his love for sailing after a week with the Island Sailing Trust before continuing to sail at Oxford Sailability. Since then not only has his confidence grown but he now can sail solo, has even taken part in his first regatta and won a trophy.

Finally, Exceptional Contribution Awards were presented to Andrew Cushen (Dart Sailability) and Dave and Shirley Musgrove (Disabled Sailing Association). Jim Aldis (Whitefriars Sailability) and John Deason (Oxford Sailability) were also named as winners but unfortunately were unable to attend.

RYA Sailability National Conference

Earlier in the day delegates were treated to an action- packed agenda with inspirational guest speakers as well as a total of 26 interactive workshops! The subjects included Funding Future Activities, Improving Race Strategy, providing the best experience for people with Downs Syndrome, Volunteering and Boating and Mental Health Support and more.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended this year’s conference and dinner” commented RYA Sailability Manager Joff McGill.

“Once again you couldn’t miss the brilliant atmosphere throughout the day with connections being made and projects being planned. The event brings people together who make fantastic things happen and we look forward to another very exciting year ahead.”

To find out more about sailing opportunities for disabled people, or those that need specific support to get on-the-water visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability.