Balsall Common-based Heart of England Offshore Cruising Association has received national recognition for its successful mission to widen access to offshore sailing in the Midlands as they were presented with the inaugural RYA Club Innovation Award.

Club commodore, Judy Lambourne, and Vice Commodore, Mike Veal, collected the award from the British Sailing Team's Ben Saxton, who competed at Rio 2016, and Ben Bennett, from award supporters Arthur J Gallagher Insurance Services, at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show on Saturday 4 March.

The club was rewarded for having excelled in the way it enables people in the Midlands who love sailing offshore to stay connected to their passion despite living so far from the sea. HOEOCA ensures 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 while also offering a wide variety of yacht racing, training and social opportunities.

Introduced in 2007, the annual RYA Club of the Year Award has recognised and promoted the outstanding achievements of sailing clubs across the UK. For the first time this year five new categories - including innovation - were introduced to celebrate the individual projects and activities run by clubs that attract people to take to the water and enjoy sailing.

The overall 2017 RYA Club of the Year accolade went to Ullswater Yacht Club, who also won the increasing participation category.

Judy said: "We are pretty much as far from the sea as you can be! But that hasn't stopped us growing our activities and membership, broadening the range of cruising experiences we offer and helping more people to improve their skills to enjoy doing more of the type of sailing they love to do. 

"We're so proud the work we're doing to break the mould of what people might consider to be a typical sailing club has been recognised with this award."

Want to know more about HOEOCA and some of the places you could sail to by getting involved visit www.hoeoca.org.uk

For more information about the RYA Club of the Year Awards go to www.rya.org.uk/go/cluboftheyear