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RYA Volunteer Awards: HRH The Princess Royal celebrates boating's outstanding volunteers

by Susie Nation-Grainger 25 Nov 15:45 GMT 19 November 2021
RYA Volunteer Awards 2021 © Paul Wyeth / RYA

Dedicated volunteers from across the UK were awarded for their exceptional commitment and achievements in boating last week (19 November) by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.

Overall, a total of 42 RYA Volunteer Awards were presented at the annual ceremony at One Great George Street, Westminster, celebrating long-standing volunteers as well as families, committed youngsters and most importantly, those who have made an impact.

The RYA Volunteer Awards are divided into five categories: The RYA Awards, RYA Community Awards, The Francis Elkin Award, The Family Award and The Honor Preston Award.

RYA Community Awards

The RYA Community Awards are presented to outstanding individuals for their commitment and services to boating at club or grassroots level and are awarded across three categories: Lifetime Commitment, Outstanding Contribution and Young Volunteer.

Nigel Austin was presented with a Lifetime Commitment Award for his achievements at Cransley Sailing Club. As a committee member for over 30 years, he raised the funds to upgrade the club facilities, increased membership by introducing paddleboarding and got members back afloat safely when restrictions allow.

He said: "I've been there since I was seven and I still get a buzz out of going there - it's such a marvellous place, it's a real gem. We have a brilliant team and love seeing people sail and progress in sailing whatever their age."

Ross Johnston was receiving a Young Volunteer Award for his services at Ballyholme Yacht Club where he mentors staff to deliver powerboat courses and oversees the upkeep of the powerboats. He's also played a key role getting the club back afloat following lockdown and uses his digital expertise to improve the website and create digital training opportunities.

He said: "It's hard to see it as volunteering, when you have passion and enjoy it then it becomes a hobby! I think it's very important to bring young members in to diversify, modernise the technology and to be part of the decision process. The new members are going to be the old members in the future".

Francis Elkin Award

Gerry Campbell, founding trustee of able2sail, was recognised with the 2021 Francis Elkin Award, given each year in recognition of a significant contribution of time, effort and personal endeavour to enable people with disabilities to become involved in sailing.

Through her stewardship the charity developed from a small group of volunteers to an operation for disabled communities and families which is supported by over 60 volunteers, a fleet of dinghies and its own specially commissioned yacht.

Honor Preston Award

Created in 2020, RYA Honor Preston Award is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution in time, effort, and personal endeavour to increase the inclusivity of boating, in particular female participation.

The winner for 2021 is Carla, Lady Stanley of Alderley. From running an active junior section at Bowmoor Sailing Club and serving on the International Optimist Class Association to becoming the Chair of the RYA Youth Racing Committee with a target to achieve gender equality, Carla is described as a true ambassador of the sport.

Family Award

The RYA Family Award is presented to a family group deserving of recognition for the impact they have made both as individuals and a family. This year it was awarded to Jo, Keith, Ffion and Jac Bailey from Port Dinorwic Sailing Club (Clwb Hwylio Y Felinheli).

RYA Awards

Rob Cage, John Scott and Richard Thompson were awarded for their commitment and services to boating and the RYA at a national level while Mike Butterfield was recognised for his contribution to RYA Cymru Wales.

Finally, the RYA Honorary Life Membership is the RYA's highest award, presented to those individuals who have made an extraordinary and unique contribution to the RYA and to the sport. Richard Langford OBE was announced as 2021 winner for his achievements and dedication serving on the RYA Council and RYA Foundation.

Rob Clark, RYA Director of Sport Development said: "2021 has been another challenging year for sailing organisations with outdoor activity restarting and restrictions slowly lifting. More than ever volunteers are the backbone of our clubs and the wider boating community, and every single award winner has made an impact by sacrificing their time and expertise so others can enjoy being on the water. It's a pleasure to recognise their achievements".

To read about each winner and for more information about the Volunteer Awards visit

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