Mary Lord from Yarmouth and Chris Wilkinson from Brading will each receive an RYA Lifetime Commitment Award, while Gail Willows of Cowes will receive an RYA Outstanding Commitment Award.

The three sailors from the Isle of Wight are each to be presented with their prestigious Royal Yachting Association awards by HRH the Princess Royal, President of the RYA, in recognition of their commitment to their sailing clubs.    

The three were selected as winners by the RYA Honours and Awards Panel and will receive their awards at the organisation’s annual awards ceremony in London on 22 November.   The RYA is boating’s national governing body and the Volunteer Awards are considered the ‘MBEs' of the sport, honouring people throughout the UK for their outstanding contributions across all the disciplines the RYA represents, including sailing, windsurfing, motor cruising, inland waterways and personal watercraft.  

Mary has been a member of Yarmouth Sailing Club for over 42 of its 50 years’ existence. She has served on the Sailing Committee and the Management Committee, as well as holding the positions of Rear Commodore Sailing, Vice Commodore and Commodore. A regular sailor even in her 80s she is now a Trustee.

Mary started a sailing week for the children’s Optimist dinghy class, running it for over ten years and laying the foundations for YSC to become an RYA Training Centre and instilling a love of sailing into a huge number of children. Her volunteering has helped to bring the fun and enjoyment of dinghy sailing to many.  

Mary said of her Award “My first reaction was complete surprise. I have enjoyed helping at the club and enabling others to have as much fun on the water as I have. My second reaction was it is good to know my efforts have  been appreciated and that people enjoy working with me!  

Chris Wilkinson has continually stepped up to volunteer at Brading Haven Yacht Club since the 1980s, supporting and mentoring other members to develop and grow, both on the water and within the club’s committee structure.

Having long been involved with both cadet training and various club committees, he has also served with the International Optimist Class Association (UK) and as Chairman of the British Europe Class Association. He is committed to youth sailing and sail training at BHYC for both cadets and adult novices. While he was Commodore in 2010 and Chief Instructor in 2018, the club achieved RYA Champion Club, OnBoard and Sailability status.  

Chris says of his Award: “" I feel extremely proud to have received this award and will be accepting it on behalf of all the unpaid, unsung heroes, who over the years perpetuate our sport and the well-being of our clubs and organisations especially for a very special team who meet every Wednesday morning with their lifetime, worldwide skill set, to tackle the challenges of club maintenance, before free coffee and doughnuts at eleven and a pint and more banter at lunch. Please come and join us! "  

Gail has breathed new life into Gurnard Sailing Club with the Sharks and Dolphins programme, which she developed to introduce young children under the age of eight to the water and so encourage young families to become members. Children and their parents enjoy swimming, paddle boarding and sailing on a Saturday morning. After the age of eight children go on to cadet training, full of confidence and enthusiasm for sailing.

At a time when most clubs are worrying about a lack of young members, Gail has ensured that Gurnard SC has a strong youth section supported by enthusiastic parents and helpers.  

“Setting up a club that has inspired lots of Isle of Wight youngsters to get into sailing has been wonderful to see,” says Gail.  “It is a lot of work, so to be recognised by the RYA for my volunteer contribution is really special. The parents, kids and other volunteers make it all happen, so I will collect my award with pride in what our local community has achieved together, for the local community.”  

More information about the RYA Volunteer Awards.

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