Just under 150 delegates from Sailability groups across the UK attended the largest ever RYA Sailability National Conference and dinner last weekend (Saturday 17 February) where the winners of the new RYA Sailability Annual Awards were revealed (Wyboston Lakes, Bedfordshire).

The Partnership Award

The first award to be presented was the brand new Partnership Award which was given to Project Emma- Team Pogo Hoffmann-Becking. The result of this partnership has been some amazing innovative work on modifications on board a yacht to ensure that not only can a whole family can enjoy sailing together, but that Emma who uses a wheelchair, can take a very full and active role in sailing the boat. The award was collected by Emma's Uncle Tom Ovury.

On the Water

This award recognises a successful project or initiative that has been enjoyed by those taking part and resulted in a number of people participating regularly. Presented for the first time it was awarded to Mary Christison. Mary set up the Renfrewshire Sports Development Committee in order to support disabled people to learn to sail, get on the water regularly and achieve what they set out to do.

The Team of the Year

The new Team of the Year Award is presented to a team who have achieved significant success and raised the profile of what is possible. It was presented to able2sail, a project that provides sailing opportunities to people of all abilities. This year they organised three teams to compete in the Special Olympics. It was the first time Scotland has participated in the sailing, showing amazing team spirit and blazing a trail for others in the future.

Volunteer of the Year

David Durston was presented with the Sailability Volunteer of the Year Award which recognises a volunteer who has gone above and beyond and is a real ambassador for all that Sailability represents. Tirelessly David encourages other volunteers to get involved in supporting over 90 sailors at Whitefriars Sailability group and is treasurer for the Hansa Class. He was described as an exceptional ambassador for the sport.

The Young Person of the Year

The Sailability Young Person of the Year award recognises a young person who has shown significant commitment to boating and progressed not only their own skills and knowledge but encouraged and supported others. It was presented to 16 year old Rory McKinna. Rory is the Scottish TT Hansa 303 Singles Champion, the Multiclass winner for his class and was a silver medallist for Team GB at the European Para Youth Games last summer.

Exceptional Contribution

Finally the Exceptional Contribution Awards were presented to Nick Clibborn (Frensham Pond Sailability), Norman Stephens (Otley Sailing Club), Robert Bellamy (Grafham Water Sailability) and Maureen Glover (Peterborough Sailability).

All have all shown exceptional commitment and dedication to boating and getting people on the water, no matter what it takes.

Sailability National Conference

Earlier on in the day at the National Conference, guests were treated to an inspiring day of networking and interactive workshop sessions including 'refreshing your Facebook page', 'setting sailing goals' and 'supporting volunteers now and in the future'.

RYA Sailability Manager Joff McGill concludes: "It's been an amazing year and so many people have contributed to that. I never cease to be amazed at what a group of people who share a passion can achieve - we must never underestimate what Sailability groups do and the impact they have. We were delighted to welcome more delegates than ever before and the energy over the weekend as people swapped tips and generated new ideas was inspiring to see."

For more information on disabled sailing and how to get involved visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability