Balsall Common-based Heart of England Offshore Cruising Club (HOEOCA) will discover if it has the distinction of being named Britain's best sailing club next month after being shortlisted for the prestigious RYA Club of the Year Award in its 25th year.

HOEOCA enables people in the Midlands who love sailing offshore to stay connected to their passion despite living so far from the sea. Now the club is one of five finalists keeping everything crossed for when the overall 2017 RYA Club of the Year is revealed at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace on Saturday 4 March.

The RYA, sailing's national governing body, presents the annual award in recognition of how well clubs promote the sport and make sailing as inclusive and accessible to all by running activities that are appropriate and appealing to their local community. 

In being shortlisted HOEOCA has been specifically recognised for its achievements in innovation in the way it makes a break from the traditional ways of running a sailing club or boating activity. One of the HOEOCA's biggest draws is you don't need to own or have access to a yacht to be involved. The club organises charters and 'shared cost cruising' to make offshore sailing more accessible, with trips last year including to the Channel Islands and Malta. It also offers a wide variety of yacht racing, training and social opportunities.

Judy Lambourne, HOEOCA Commodore, said: "The biggest barrier to going sailing for 'offshorers' in the Midlands is distance from the sea. HOEOCA overcomes that and we are so delighted to be shortlisted as an RYA Club of the Year finalist.

"Many of our members have sailed on friends' boats or on flotilla holidays abroad, but think they have no way to continue at home in the Midlands. Some are dinghy sailors looking to expand their horizons while others have never sailed at all but like the idea of the adventure, freedom and exploration that sailing offshore brings.

"We give all of these people a way they can meet other people just like them, somewhere they can develop their skills and knowledge and get out on the sea regularly, whether they love cruising or want to go yacht racing."

HOEOCA now has 150 members, a third of who are female. As well as its cruising activities, the club takes part in some of Britain's most iconic yacht racing events, including Cowes Week and the J.P Morgan Asset Management Round The Island Race, while this year HOEOCA boats will enter the legendary Fastnet Race for the third time too. Three club members also sailed across the Atlantic in 2016.

The 2017 RYA Club of the Year Award will be presented by Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive, and the British Sailing Team's Ben Saxton, who competed at Rio 2016. The other four finalist clubs are from Wiltshire, Hartlepool, the Lake District and Staffordshire.

Jackie Bennetts, RYA Club Support Advisor, said: "All these clubs have worked hard to create outstanding projects and activities which make it possible for more people to enjoy being on the water and to continue to sail regularly."

Special thanks go to Arthur J. Gallagher, who support the RYA Club of the Year Award, and to Sailing Awards, who donated the perpetual RYA Club of the Year trophy when the award was first introduced in 2008. For more information go to www.rya.org.uk/go/cluboftheyear

For more information about how you can get involved in HOEOCA visit www.hoeoca.org.uk