Five volunteers from sailing clubs and centres across the North East are to receive RYA Awards in recognition of their commitment to the sport.

All were nominated by fellow members or colleagues and selected as winners by the RYA Honours and Awards Panel. They have been invited along with other award nominees from across the country to receive their awards from HRH The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, at a special ceremony in London on 16 November.

RYA Chief Executive Sarah Treseder said that without the work of inspirational volunteers at clubs and centres the sport would be immeasurably poorer, adding: "The generosity and dedication of this year’s RYA Volunteer Award winners is simply astounding."

Three volunteers from the North East Region will receive RYA Lifetime Commitment Awards for exceptional dedication to their organisations over many years, and a further two sailors in the region will receive RYA Outstanding Contribution Awards:

 

George Ternent, River Aln Boat Club, Lifetime Commitment Award: George was a founder member of the club in 1977 when, after sailing his yacht across the Atlantic, he realised he couldn't enter a sailing club in Barbados because he was not a member of a yacht club. He rectified this on his return by securing the original tenancy and mooring rights for the River Aln Boat Club.

Since then he has always been involved on the committee and with work to improve facilities; he still sails his 17ft keelboat and also organises the club's dinghy racing and RNLI fundraising events, even finding time to cut the grass. George has introduced many people to sailing, including his own children and grandchildren, and through the club's annual Push the Boat Out open day, which in May welcomed 120 visitors, some of whom have returned to the club to take up the sport.

"It's very important that we look to get younger people in and teach them," he said: "I just enjoy it down at the club - it's a great environment and a good set of people. It's very rewarding. In recent years I've been running the dinghy racing and we have cruises with the bigger boats. I didn't know about the award until I got a letter from the RYA completely out the blue! I'm very much looking forward to going to London."

 

Vic Brown, Coquet Shorebase Trust, Lifetime Commitment Award: Vic was instrumental in setting up the community-based charity in 1992 to provide watersports for all. She has subsequently volunteered her time to support the Trust's work over more than 25 years, including for the last eight years as its Operations Manager and Principal Instructor.

The Trust is based on the Coquet Estuary on the Northumberland coast at Amble and at Ladyburn Lake in Druridge Bay Country Park, where Vic helped to create a purpose-built centre after securing more than £100,000 of funding. It provides watersports and training - including sailing, windsurfing and canoeing - for all ages and skill levels. Disadvantaged young people and children with disabilities are among those who benefit, and Vic's work has also recently seen two local apprentices trained up to become instructors.

The retired outdoor pursuits teacher said: "I just get enormous satisfaction from seeing people take up sports and enjoy themselves, and in some cases become coaches themselves. The trust also does a really good job of making sure that anyone can get on water regardless of income. It changes lives."

 

Jennie Clark, Ripon Sailing Club, Lifetime Commitment Award: Jennie has held numerous positions on the club's committee, including as commodore, and has been a driving force behind the club's youth and junior sailing programme, which has seen many talented young sailors emerge with the skills and confidence to pursue their dreams.

Other successes have included helping to secure more than £100,000 of grant funding to modernise the club's fleet of boats and upgrade its club house. Jennie's experience as a management consultant has brought business know-how to the club, which in its award nomination added that her efficiency had ensured it "runs on an even keel and will be enjoyed by future generations". Although Jennie cannot make the official awards ceremony because she is taking her daughter Ellie away for a youth sailing event, she plans to toast the occasion with her family and a glass of bubbly.

"I was very touched when I was nominated, I think it's lovely," said Jennie, who is currently the club's membership secretary. "We've had so much pleasure as a family out of the sport, I've just wanted to give something back for all the enjoyment we've had at the club. There's always a role that needs to be done and if it's within your ability, it's good to get involved. We're all in this sport because we love it and we want to share it. Seeing someone do a training course and join in with the club's activities is what we're all about - keeping the sport alive."

 

James Whitehead, Filey Sailing Club, Outstanding Contribution Award: James has been a member of Filey Sailing Club since childhood, and after working away for many years before returning to the town to set up his own business, Bay Watersports, volunteered his time to help modernise its facilities.

He became the club's commodore in 2015 and successfully brought in a £75,000 Sport England grant to refurbish the club house, including new changing rooms and a welcoming lounge, resulting in a growing membership and increasing participation, with almost 100 boats taking part in the club's annual regatta this summer. In its nomination for James to receive the RYA award, the club said he had "worked tirelessly to create an inclusive environment for people of all ages and abilities".

The father-of-two, who is currently the club's training officer, and also a HM Coastguard volunteer, now hopes to increase opportunities at the club for those wanting to learn how to sail or improve their skills: "I've enjoyed growing up in the club so it's nice to now see other youngsters coming through as well like my own children. It's good fun, and it's a really friendly club with a very can-do attitude. We actually do everything ourselves because we can't afford not to! There's always someone willing to help out and after improving the facilities ashore, it's somewhere people want to spend their time."

 

Peter Connolly, Welton Waters Adventure Centre, Outstanding Contribution Award: Peter learnt how to sail at Welton Waters Adventure Centre six years ago and has since gained Powerboat, Safety Boat, Keelboat and Assistant Instructor qualifications, which he now uses as a volunteer to help staff, visitors and school children with dinghy sailing and other watersports activities.

His expertise as a health and safety manager and as a school governor for 20 years has also seen Peter bring a wealth of knowledge to the centre, which in its award nomination describes him as a natural teacher with a "wonderful talent" for inspiring children of any background or ability to make the most of the experiences on offer. Peter said: "I wasn't expecting the award at all! I just enjoy helping out at Welton Waters Adventure Centre, and I learn a lot from everyone there too. We see youngsters come along who've never been sailing or on the water before. It's rewarding to be able to show them what's available and what they could do, and it helps them to build teamwork and confidence. "We also have two or three apprentices in their early 20s learning about the world of work and so as a volunteer you can pass on your experience to give them something for their futures as well."

For more information about how to get out on the water in the North East region visit www.rya.org.uk/go/startboating