Leslie Downing is one of some 44 volunteers who are being celebrated across the UK for their exceptional dedication in boating.

Traditionally taking place at an awards ceremony in London, the RYA Volunteer Awards recognise and say ‘thank you’ to volunteers who have made an outstanding contribution to the sport, with recipients nominated by their sailing clubs, class associations and members of the boating community.

The RYA Volunteer Awards are divided into four categories: RYA Awards, RYA Community Awards, The Francis Elkin Award and, new for 2020, the RYA Honor Preston Award. This year, due to the ongoing pandemic, some winners will be presented with their awards at small presentations held at their sailing venues whilst others receive them from the safety of their homes.

Leslie Downing was nominated for the Francis Elkin Award and selected as a winner by the RYA Honours and Awards Panel.

Each year, the Award is presented in recognition of a significant contribution in time, effort and personal endeavour to enable people with disabilities to become involved in sailing. Leslie has made a remarkable contribution to the Woolverstone Project for over 15 years and is described as the ‘lynchpin holding everything together’. In this time she’s had many roles including Senior Instructor, Trustee, DBS Officer, buddy sailor, organiser and general volunteer as well as being an ‘invaluable mentor and friend to everyone at the club’.

Leslie said of the Award: “I felt of course very honoured to be awarded the Francis Elkin Award although rather embarrassed- this I feel I share with all the Woolverstone Project Volunteers, many of whom deserve it more than myself. I have always had a passion for sailing from a young age and always look forward to sailing with the Project- as we all do- my other big interest- working with disabled persons. I feel we are like a big family- the sailors, their Carers and all the volunteers, and it is so good to share my huge interest with all these people and see the sailors happiness in getting out on the water and developing their skills. We all miss this enormously with the Covid restrictions, but just have to be patient. A big thank you to all who have contributed to my gaining this award.”

Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive, said: “This year more than ever before we have seen our club volunteers come together and work tirelessly to ensure members can continue to sail. The generosity and dedication of each of the RYA Volunteer Award recipients is simply outstanding and it’s a pleasure to be able to recognise these winners through this award”.

Read all about each winner or find more information about the RYA Volunteer Awards.