In 2017, more than 91,000 people took part in a sailing or boating activity and with 9,600 club members, volunteers are vital to keeping the sport alive.
Gemma McCoubrey is a volunteer with Belfast Lough Sailability (BLS) and finds dedicating her spare time to the organisation rewarding.
She comments: “I first got involved through a member of Carrickfergus Sailing Club, who was also a member of Belfast Lough Sailibility. My husband and I had joined the sailing club as we wanted to develop our sailing skills. We spent an evening volunteering with BLS and loved it.
“Although we had no personal connection regarding disabilities we were immediately drawn by the immense satisfaction of helping others.”
Gemma’s role is to support the overall aim of BLS and to provide access to waterborne activities for people with disabilities.
She says: “The rewards are seeing the smiling faces and hearing the laughter of participants and of being part of that. It is humbling to see just how they overcome extreme challenges.
“In addition to this, I get the opportunity to work with a great team of likeminded people and the craic is great.”
Gemma would recommend others to get involved and she believes they will also see the rewards.
“I love it and always leave a volunteering session with a big grin on my face. I would absolutely encourage others, regardless of their abilities, to volunteer. I believe it is of benefit to both myself and others.
“It is only a few hours of my time each week, but it has a big impact upon people who get a lot of enjoyment from our support.”