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Prestigious award presented at Ripon Sailing Club in honour of Barbara Darling

by Paula Irish 9 Jul 16:05 BST
David Darling and his daughters and their families receiving the Honor Preston Award © Gail Jackson

A prestigious Royal Yachting Association award has been presented for the first time at Ripon Sailing Club in honour of former member Barbara Darling and her dedication to the sport.

The newly-introduced Honor Preston Award is for an individual who has made a significant contribution in time, effort and personal endeavour to increase the inclusivity of boating, in particular, although not limited to, female participation.

Barbara was the first person to be recognised by the annual RYA Volunteer Award but sadly passed away before she could receive it. The award has now been presented to Barbara's family - husband David and her daughters Fiona Spence and Naomi Smith - who accepted it on her behalf.

The family were keen for the presentation to reflect Barbara's enjoyment of sailing as a sport for all, so met on a normal racing Sunday at Ripon SC to receive the award from Commodore Jamie Kerslake, who made a speech highlighting Barbara's achievements, particularly within youth and junior sailing and in encouraging women to get involved.

Barbara volunteered her time to support sailing at club level, with Ripon, Tynemouth, Bassenthwaite and Derwent Reservoir sailing clubs all benefitting from her membership and drive to develop training and opportunities for others over the years. She was also involved with the National School Sailing Association and became a Senior Instructor - taking groups sailing locally as well as to regattas across the country - and founded the North East Youth Travellers Series in the mid-90s, which subsequently merged with the Yorkshire Youth Traveller Series to span the region.

Barbara's family was likewise inspired by her commitment to the sport, with Naomi recently completing a term as Commodore of Bassenthwaite SC and Fiona currently the Youth & Junior Sailing Secretary at Ripon SC. Her grandchildren also enjoy sailing and Fiona's son George, aged 12, competes in the youth traveller series in a Topper, while Naomi's children Oliver, aged seven and three-year-old Lucy, enjoy sailing Optimists and in the family Mirror.

Fiona said: "It seemed a fitting recognition of the award and everything that Barbara encouraged and believed in that the whole family went sailing after the presentation, joining in with the club racing together.

"The award reflects the dedication so many long-term volunteers have to the sport but also perfectly embodies mum's passion for helping everyone have an equal chance of realising their dreams by providing the opportunity to participate, and encouraging young people in particular to always strive to be the best they can be.

"Across all her involvement in sailing, mum's commitment to the sport and the opportunities it presented shone through. Winning wasn't everything, taking part was what mattered, and she offered reassurance and support to the nervous first-timer as well as challenge and opportunity to the competent. Her input helped many achieve competitive results or careers in the sailing world and countless many discover the simple joy of sailing."

The Honor Preston Award was introduced as a new RYA Volunteer Award in 2020 by Royal Yachting Association chairman Chris Preston in memory of his mother, who firmly believed boating should be inclusive for all, and aims to celebrate, encourage and support diversity in the boating community.

Fiona added: "Barbara's involvement in helping deliver sailing programmes across a wide range of demographic groups stemmed from her interest in people and her belief that everyone deserved a helping hand and the opportunity to flourish, regardless of personal circumstance.

"The family would like to thank the Preston family for the honour of presenting Barbara with the award in its inaugural year and hopes the award and Barbara's story inspires others to give back to a sport that gives so much to so many."

Find out more about the RYA Volunteer Awards at

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