Local groups and schools in West Yorkshire are backing Otley Sailing Club's bid for votes in the 2019 RYA / Yachts & Yachting Club of the Year Awards, supported by Gallagher, thanks to its track record in enabling people of all ages and abilities to get out on the water.

The club is one of 11 finalists from across the country, with the overall winner determined by the public, and Yachts & Yachting magazine has announced that voting is close. The club, supported by those who have benefited from its work, is now urging people to cast their vote before the deadline of Monday 28 January, by visiting the online awards page.

A 60-strong team of dedicated volunteers at the club ran an incredible 2,700+ Sailfree sessions in 2018 for young people and adults with disabilities and complex learning difficulties, including more than 80 adults from Mirfield-based Hollybank Trust.

Chris Silverwood from the Trust said: "This is one of the best enrichment activities we offer and the opportunity that Otley Sailing Club offers us is amazing!  Our adults, who have Profound Multiple Learning Disabilities and severe and complex medical needs, have so much fun being out on the water. They are able to experience the sensory stimuli of the water, wind, movement and sounds that are all around them as they sail around the beautiful lake at Otley. When not out on the water they benefit from the social aspects of time in the clubhouse and watching others out on the water.

"Over the years Otley Sailing Club have made Hollybank Trust feel so welcome with adapting their facilities to meet the needs of our users. They have also trained staff to helm and crew the powerboats and undertake all aspects of running our sessions safely, which has meant that more and more of our adults are able to take part each year!"

Others attending Otley's Sailfree sessions have included High Park School in Heaton, Bradford, and East SILC (Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre). Susan Pogson, Level 3 Teaching Support at John Jamieson School in Leeds, said: "It is wonderful to witness the students' increased self esteem and confidence when sailing a boat. Otley Sailing Club volunteers are supportive, encouraging and patient with students. Students who are more dependent on staff support for their needs love the whole sensory experience of being on the water. One ex-student who went on to achieve his Platinum Award said he loved sailing because 'it gave him the peace and quiet to forget his worries and feel less stressed'."

Sophie Hudson, a Higher Level Teaching Assistant at East SILC Brigshaw Partnership, said five East SILC Brigshaw 16+ partnership students began attending sessions at the club in September: "The students who took part gained confidence in the water and took an independent approach to controlling their own boat. In particular, our student who uses a wheelchair loved the freedom of being out on the water with the support of the friendly and extremely helpful staff at the club. The students have described the weekly sessions at the club as fun and exciting and we are already looking forward to being back in March!"

Otley Sailing Club spokesperson Karen McDonald said: "We've been overwhelmed and really touched by the kind words and support from local people, groups and schools, and we'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone who's voted for us. It would be fantastic if even more people could cast their vote before the deadline on January 28 to help us bring the Club of the Year award home to Yorkshire!"

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