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GBR Blind Sailing celebrates two award ceremonies and Nationals success

by Georgia Jaggs 28 Nov 2019 15:13 GMT 22 November 2019
HRH Princess Anne with Jonny Cormack, winner of a 2019 RYA National Award for volunteering with GBR Blind Sailing for 18 years © Paul Wyeth / RYA

A GBR Blind Sailing volunteer received a prestigious RYA award from HRH Princess Anne this Friday, ending the 2019 season on a huge high for the charity.

The RYA Volunteer Awards celebrate the outstanding contributions made by volunteers throughout the UK and are presented in a ceremony held annually at One Great George Street, London.

In recognition of his commitment to the charity, Jonny Cormack - a committee member who has volunteered with the GBR Blind Sailing for the past 18 years - was presented with a 2019 RYA National Award. Jonny devotes endless time to the club and is the sighted tactician for the GBR B3 Team; he has repeatedly helped lead the team to World Champion success, most recently in the Blind Fleet Racing World Championships in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where the team took the Squadron Cup and individual silver.

Jonny's role as a tactician is to guide the team of two visually impaired and one sighted sailor - aiding them to race around the course, without touching any of the boats controls; painting the picture and enabling all to visualise the race track. It truly is communication without boundaries. Outside of competitive racing, Jonny's patient and calm tuition has also enabled so many visually impaired beginners to sailing gain confidence on the water, and thrive in a new environment.

This is the third time a volunteer for GBR Blind Sailing has been recognised at the RYA awards in the past five years. Volunteers Gary Butler and Ian Shirra - who were friends of Jonny's father, Ian Cormack - previously received the award, proving the vital role that volunteers play in the sailing community as a whole, and more specifically for GBR Blind Sailing.

This award was given to Jonny on the same weekend that Blind Sailing recognised the key volunteers and sailors within the charity in their own award ceremony. One trophy is given in memory of Ian Cormack (Jonny's father); awarded to the volunteer that lends a hand, along with a smile, to anyone. This year it was awarded to Gavin and Kate Wood.

Blind Sailing were pleased to welcome Joff McGill, manager of RYA Sailability, to the awards and honoured he presented the rest of the trophies in the ceremony. The Youth Award, in memory of Charlie Findlay (Steel) was presented to Charlie Griffiths, who, despite her visual impairment, cycled from London to Paris in aid of Blind Sailing. The Helen Walsh Commitment to Service Award was awarded to Lucy Hodges MBE, for her time and commitment. Finally, the Wooden Spoon went to Mark Austen for putting everything into his sailing.

After 19 races at the Blind Nationals, which also took place this weekend, Ben Hazeldine, Kate Healy and Charlie Griffiths, became Blind Sailing Keelboat League National Champions in the 2019 Nationals, which took place at South Cerney Sailing Club (22nd-24th).

Events like the Nationals are a huge testament to the vital role volunteers play in the organisation, and the fantastic results a show of the amazing ability of both the Visually Impaired and Sighted sailors club. The weekend was an overall celebration of the achievements of all sailors and volunteers in the GBR Blind Sailing crew.

Lucy Hodges MBE, commodore of GBR Blind Sailing, who is over the moon for long-time friend and volunteer Jonny, said: "GBR Blind Sailing is still a small charity, but it's our community, our people who make it what it is. For me, it's not always about the successes - yes we have a long line of World Championship titles - but it's always been about the groundwork that makes them a reality and enables us to change the lives of visually impaired people. This honour is so well deserved, and we couldn't be more proud that Jonny has received this RYA award.

"Most of my sailing has been with Jonny and others around him. He gives his all to the committee, the organisation, our training sessions and our time away from home. He has two small children and a wife that he adores, and still he shares his time undeservedly to change people's lives."

Jonny Cormack said, "Winning the RYA national award felt amazing - just to be nominated felt amazing. The icing on the cake was not only receiving the award from HRH Princess Anne, but sitting next to her at lunch - it was truly an unforgettable experience!

"I have loved every minute of my time volunteering for Blind Sailing over the past 18 years. It's never felt like a chore, more an honour to be part of this charity and a team of people who all give up their time for no reward other than watching people's lives change in front of you.

"The success of the national team is testament to the dedication of a number of individuals who volunteer on a regular basis. Here's to another 18 years... at least!"

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