Former RYA North East secretary Neal Hill, who died this week aged 76, will be remembered as a passionate and dedicated ambassador for boating and marine conservation.
Neal became a member of Coquet Yacht Club in the late 1980s and went on to serve the sailing community of his beloved Northumberland - and the work of the Royal Yachting Association at a regional, national and international level - over more than three decades.
A member of the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club, Neal cruised his yacht Naiad on the west coast of Scotland for many years, and was also a member of the Old Gaffers Association.
Neal gave countless hours of his time as a volunteer. He joined the newly formed RYA North East Regional Committee in 1992 as the Coquet Yacht Club representative and became Secretary of the RYA North East Committee in 1994, a role he continued in for more than 20 years.
He was also Commodore of Coquet Yacht Club from 1995-1997 and then the club's Secretary until 2007. Described by RYA colleagues as both "practical and professional", numerous chairmen and fellow committee members found his expertise and support to be invaluable.
In 2012 Neal was presented with an RYA Regional Award by HRH The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, in recognition of his incredible contribution to the sport, at the prestigious annual RYA Volunteer Awards ceremony in London.
Neal was committed to the protection of the marine environment, an interest that stemmed from his days as a Chartered Engineer and former project management engineer for the Central Electricity Generating Board and National Power. One of his final professional roles before retiring in 1995, involved emission control and testing at Blyth Power Station during its decommissioning.
This environmental awareness followed Neal through his many voluntary roles with the RYA. During his time as chairman of the RYA Planning & Environment Committee, Neal was instrumental in steering the formation of The Green Blue joint initiative by the RYA and British Marine. Officially launched in 2005, The Green Blue is now recognised as a world-leader in raising awareness and promoting best practise to protect the marine environment.
Neal was also an RYA International Affairs Commissioner during the first decade of the millennium, representing the RYA on the European Boating Association, and representing the EBA at various events in Brussels, including working with a steering group towards the European Water Framework Directive, which set binding targets for water quality, and the Marine Policy Framework Directive.
A variety of other voluntary roles held by Neal over the years included his work as chairman of the RYA Coastal Navigation Panel, reporting to the RYA Cruising & Government Affairs Committee to help address the concerns of leisure boaters around the UK.
In addition to his continuing work as an RYA North East Volunteer Team Member, Neal represented the RYA on a variety of external committees and local focus groups overseeing environmental protection and marine conservation along the North East coastline from County Durham to Northumberland, from the River Tees to the River Tweed.
Sam Usher, RYA North East Regional Development Officer, added: "Neal was a much-loved member of the team and I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside him. He held a pivotal role on the regional committee in supporting the RYA's planning and environment department and will be greatly missed."
Chief Executive of the RYA, Sarah Treseder commented: “Neal demonstrated outstanding dedication at club, regional, national and international level, lending his skills and expertise to numerous RYA committees and in doing so, helped to influence and shape both U.K. and European environmental legislation. His length of service to both the sport and the environment were exemplary.”
"The marine environment is very important," said Neal when asked about The Green Blue and other such work. "We all have a shared responsibility to look after the sea and its environment and we should use the sea and its resources in a responsible way."
This summed up Neal's philosophy and having been a pioneer of such work, alongside his tireless work to support and promote boating, his legacy will live on to benefit future generations of sailors.