Six dedicated volunteers from the south-west are among those from across the UK who have been presented with awards for their exceptional commitment and achievements in boating by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, on 11 November in London.
Bob Miller received an Outstanding Contribution award. He has volunteered at Dart Sailability Group (DSG) for over ten years and has fulfilled several roles including Chief Sailing Instructor. A qualified RYA Senior Dinghy, Keelboat and Powerboat Instructor, he is currently Training Officer and has been at the core of establishing and maintaining DSG as a Sailability Centre of Excellence in the South West. As a member of the management team, he has been indispensable in shaping the future of the group’s equipment, and more recently, leading the negotiations to enable the charity to successfully relocate. He has been very active in contacting schools and other groups catering for the disabled and their carers, encouraging them to get out on the River Dart in power or sailing boats. A wide variety of groups have joined DSG as a result of his efforts. Bob’s knowledge of the river, small boat handling and instructional technique, together with his humorous but compassionate approach to teaching, encapsulate the ethos of Sailability. By his effort, endeavour, and long hours of selfless cheerful work, he has ensured the future of Dart Sailability Group.
David Crees was given a Lifetime Commitment award. He has served in many roles at Axe Yacht Club (AYC) since joining in the 1970s, including Commodore and Principal, and he has been President since 2015. He was instrumental in the club becoming an RYA Recognised Training Centre in 1974. Recognising some years ago that the club had an ageing demographic, he helped establish the club’s development plan and secured grants to fund a new training fleet. This encouraged many youngsters onto the water and the club now has a highly successful cadet and family sailing section. A qualified Yachtmaster Instructor, he continues to instruct a wide range of courses and has led VHF/SRC courses both at AYC and many other local venues, helping other clubs. David has a coaching style that is both engaging and motivating. He has contributed hugely to the running of the club, always keen to encourage member participation and setting up processes to help members get involved at all levels. Passionate about all forms of boating, he encourages others to reach their goals and is thoroughly kind, generous and good-humoured.
Also receiving a Lifetime Commitment award was Eddie Harper who has volunteered with Plymouth & Devon Schools Sailing Association (PDSSA) for 16 years, fulfilling several roles including Bosun and Principal. Honorary Treasurer for the past ten years, he is currently also a Trustee, instrumental in transforming PDSSA into a Sailability Centre. An experienced and skilled sailor and Race Officer, he was skilled in teaching both practical and theoretical aspects of the RYA sailing scheme. His ability to explain difficult concepts to young children was impressive, as was his knowledge of handling small boats under sail in varying conditions. He developed the Association’s activities to include both canoeing and paddleboarding, enabling nervous children to gain confidence on the water before moving on to sailing courses. He is also a skilled electrician and has been extremely helpful in keeping the Association’s radios and electronics in good repair. Eddie no longer gets on the water but he continues his administrative work with great efficiency. He has always been enthusiastic and energetic, and his contribution has been remarkable.
Graham Reed has been an exceptionally committed and active member of Parkstone Yacht Club for over 30 years, and received a Lifetime Commitment award for making valuable contributions to its management as a Flag Officer, Cruising Fleet Captain and member of many committees. His sailing and seamanship skills are exceptional, and he has enthusiastically organised fleet cruises, cruising rallies, winter walks and countless club social activities, broadening horizons for many relatively inexperienced sailors. Always at the forefront of making new cruising members welcome, he selflessly gives his time to share his considerable expertise, helping them to build their knowledge, confidence and skills on and off the water. He helps others to resolve issues with their boats, has been involved with Sailability at the club, and takes a special interest in elderly members who are no longer able to sail. Graham is a charming, helpful, knowledgeable person who volunteers modestly and generously without any thought of recognition, simply because he loves boats and cruising and encouraging others to do the same.
Jeanette Ruberry, who also received a Lifetime Commitment award, joined Mylor Yacht Club (MYC) in 2000. She signed up to the Race Management team immediately and soon became a very well-respected Race Officer, a role she continues to undertake regularly. Serving also on the Port of Falmouth Sailing Association, she is recognised by the racing fraternity as its voice at almost every major sailing event in the port and has contributed for 50 consecutive years to the success of Falmouth Sailing Week. It is unusual for Jeanette to miss any event at the club. She is supportive to newcomers, and passionately committed to racing in Falmouth. Outside the racing season she regularly organises guided walks for club members to ensure that they are always provided with opportunities to socialise in the open air. Jeanette has never wavered in her support and work for both MYC and the Port of Falmouth. The club has been extraordinarily privileged to have benefitted from her dedication.
Ivan Western sails in the South region, but lives in Poole. He joined West Wittering Sailing Club (WWSC) as a child in the early 1960s. First elected to the WWSC Committee in 2003, he championed a junior programme, recognising that this would be vital for the future health of the club. Its Junior Week has gone from strength to strength as a result. In 2012 he became Vice Commodore and was awarded Chichester District Council’s Annual Award for Youth Sport Development. He also became Youth Sailing Co-ordinator with the Chichester Harbour Federation. He was elected Commodore in 2018 and led the club through the pandemic. He has sourced funding for three RS Fevas to help juniors into double-handed sailing, and then six Qubas to encourage beginners. Offering free taster sessions for local primary school pupils, he also oversaw the club’s accreditation as an RYA Training Centre and remains its Principal and a Senior Instructor. Ivan has revitalised WWSC and changed the lives of many local young people with hundreds of juniors discovering the excitement and challenges of sailing because of his actions and enthusiasm over the years. He received a Lifetime Commitment award.
A total of 48 RYA Volunteer Awards were presented at the annual ceremony at the magnificent Grade II listed One Great George Street in central London. Celebrating both long-standing and younger volunteers, the awards recognise all those who have contributed to the sport and made an impact in their communities.
Rob Clark, RYA Director of Sport Development said: “So many different types of people give their time to support sailors in enjoying the many benefits of getting on the water – and this year’s Volunteer Awards demonstrate that there is a role for everyone, both on and off the water.
“It is truly inspiring to see awards going to volunteers ranging in age from teenagers, who have experienced at a young age how rewarding it can be to contribute to the wider community, to those who have given more than 60 years of service, helping to sustain not only our sport but also local communities.”
Start your journey
Volunteers are at the heart of RYA and club activity, providing opportunities and supporting others to enjoy being on the water and enjoying the many benefits it brings. There are many ways to volunteer and if you’re able to give a little of your time you can make a big difference. Find out more.