Dedicated volunteers and talented young sailors have received prestigious awards from RYANI during a ceremony at Malone House, Belfast.

With eight awards and over 100 guests, double gold medallist Shirley Robertson OBE and RYANI�s Chief Operating Officer Richard Honeyford announced the winners at the RYANI Annual Awards on Friday 24 November.

The event was sponsored by Volvo dealers SMW Belfast and Greers of Antrim & Coleraine, with Dan Moon of Greers in attendance. The awards recognised successful sailors, rising stars and volunteers who have made a positive difference to the sport over the last year.

Robertson addressed the guests during a keynote speech, talking about her Olympic journey and the excitement of following sailing�s rising stars through her career in broadcasting. Dame Mary Peters also attended as a special guest.

There was stiff competition for all categories, with Young Sailor of the Year going to Sally Bell from Royal North of Ireland Yacht club, who was selected onto the RYANI Topper Squad in 2010 and progressed to the Laser 4.7 and Radial. She was selected as a member of the RYANI Performance Academy in 2016 and subsequently was selected onto the Irish Youth Academy early in 2017. Sally has had an exceptional year, with success in the U21 Radial Women's Europeans, Radial Youth Europeans and the Radial Youth Worlds. She won the Irish trials and has been selected to represent IRL at the Youth Worlds in China in Dec 2017 in the Laser Radial class.

Young Powerboater of the Year was awarded to East Antrim Boat Club�s Joshua Kane who has been around boats since he was a baby. Following a short Topper sailing career, being hampered by ill health he found a new passion in powerboating. In 2014 he competed in his first RYA Honda Youth Rib Championships and for the next three years he won the NI heat in his age category and travelled to Southampton for the finals. Alongside competing, Joshua has assisted his club in running the NI Honda RYA Youth Rib Finals this year and assists the junior sail-training by laying marks, launching and recovering the powerboats and maintenance of the safety boat equipment.

The Club Race Coach of the Year award went to Katie Kane, a former RYA Junior and Youth Squad member, who has competed at National and International level in both the Topper and Laser classes, winning RYANI Youth Lady Champion in 2012. Alongside competing, Katie has assisted with coaching since the age of 14 at her home club East Antrim Boat Club. Her coaching has also taken her further afield to Hampton Yacht Clubs Optimist team on Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, America. One of her team qualified to take part in the USA national team trials, selected from a group of 320. Back at home Katie is involved in running her club�s successful Women on the Water programme inspiring new ladies to participate in sailing.

Belfast Lough Sailability�s (BLS) Colin De Fleury was awarded Instructor of the Year. As a Racing Instructor, Colin spent significant time preparing disabled sailors to participate successfully in Sailability Ireland�s Presidents Cup and Hansa National Championships Regatta held in Carrickfergus in August 2017. Through Colin's coaching and instructing, the Ulster team took second place on the podium at the President�s Cup and Belfast Lough Sailability had five BLS boats in the top 10 at the Hansa National Championships.  

Young Volunteer of the Year went to a dynamic duo Katie Shivers and Joshua Reddy from Ballyholme Yacht Club. The pair have both been regular participants in club activity since they were young children and now give back to the club with their time in helping run the club�s �Women on Water� and �Dolphins and Sharks� programmes. During the Topper Worlds in 2016, Josh was awarded The Endeavour Trophy when he assisted with the recuperation of a South African competitor who developed pneumonia whist attending the Championships. 

The top award of the evening, Club of the Year, went to Carrickfergus Sailing Club (CSC). The club has had an impressive year, with both racing and helping the local community. This year, CSC donated an Optimist dinghy to Rathcoole Nursery School where it is used for story-telling and to ignite the imagination of its young pupils. A redundant Wayfarer dinghy was also donated to Ashgrove Primary School and is being used for similar purposes. CSC member Paul Robinson also decided to sail solo nonstop around Ireland to raise funds for Roddensvale Special School. The club got behind Paul and they raised �10,000. Another member, Peter Lock who is visually impaired, took on an alternative triathlon around Belfast Lough. He ran to Carrickfergus, sailed a club bahia to Bangor assisted by one crew and two club safety boats, and then cycled on a tandem back to Carrickfergus! Later that evening Peter held a further fund-raising event in the Club for Guide Dogs NI raising in excess of �3,000.

Speaking at the awards, RYANI�s Chief Operating Officer Richard Honeyford said: �Nights like this help to remind us all what our sport is all about. It is an excellent occasion to recognise the commitment of so many people to sailing and boating in Northern Ireland."

�It is fantastic to take time to celebrate the many successes of our clubs and members over the last year � they have been brilliant ambassadors for our sport. At RYANI, we are looking forward to another thrilling year of sailing and boating as it is very evident that we have great talent within our clubs. I am especially proud of all of our volunteers who have been invaluable to us. Volunteers are the bedrock of the sport and we are very grateful for all they do to facilitate sailing and yachting events throughout Northern Ireland.�

As well as the annual awards, there were four special awards on the night, honouring achievement and exceptional contribution. A Special Award went to Wiclif McCready, who set up McCready Sailboats over 40 years ago. A sailing champion in his own right, Wiclif is extremely passionate about sailing and has advised and encouraged hundreds of sailors on boats, equipment and locations for sailing.

Cliff Burns from received a special award for bringing expertise into his role as Safeguarding Officer for the RYANI over the last 10 years. Cliff has also been a stalwart in Holywood Yacht Club for more than 30 years as the Principal of the sailing school and also in his role with the Sea Cadets. Through these two positions he has introduced hundreds of people to sailing and encouraged many on the path to become instructors.

Alastair Duffin, a boat builder in East Belfast, was given a special award for his positive impact to the sport. Following a joinery apprenticeship, Alastair joined his father�s building firm and then followed his father�s footsteps in building boats. Over the years, he has built boats of many varieties and they are well-known as special, with many winning GP14 world Championships - his GP14s are revered across the UK and the world.

Ballyholme Yacht Club�s Robin Gray also received a special award for his work as RYA�s Regional Race Management Co-ordinator in Northern Ireland for the last 10 years. There is rarely a weekend when Robin is not involved as a volunteer in race management from club to national events. Over the past few years he has qualified as an Internationally Recognised Race Officer and has also had a recent foray into the Race Management side of yachting biggest event, the Volvo Ocean Race.