Inspiring SW volunteers recognised at 2023 RYA Awards

The invaluable contributions of eleven volunteers to their sailing and boating communities in the south-west region were recently celebrated by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, and guests at an awards ceremony in central London.

The 2023 RYA Volunteer Awards were held on Friday 10 November at the Grade II listed ‘One Great George Street’, with 81 accolades given this year in recognition of the outstanding dedication and commitment made by volunteers of all ages and from all corners of the UK.

Meet the volunteers

Norah and Henry Jaggers were given a Joint Lifetime Commitment award, having  between them shown 65 years’ commitment to the Comet Class Association. They continue to make a significant contribution to maintaining the Association’s reputation. Their encyclopaedic knowledge of the class and its former and current members is a unique resource and their enthusiasm, help, advice, and good nature have promoted the Association as an open and welcoming organisation.

Ian Matthews received an Outstanding Contribution award. Since his appointment as Vice Commodore, he has worked to improve and maintain the facilities at St Mawes Sailing Club, bringing massive benefit to the club and its members. He has also taken on the Bosun role for the sailing dinghy fleet. In addition to his usual duties, he takes on tasks that others avoid. The ideal volunteer, Ian sees a job that needs doing and gets on and does it, quietly and without fuss or seeking accolades.

Ben Miles received an Outstanding Contribution award. He has been an exemplary member of Teign Corinthian Yacht Club for over 12 years and has taken the lead in fundraising for a new clubhouse, new RIBs, and an equipment store, raising over £120K by making detailed applications for public and private funders. In addition, he led the establishment of a new River Teign Sea Scouts unit, and also devised a Year 6 programme for children at Shaldon Primary School to learn to sail at the club. Ben’s passion, enthusiasm, drive, and boundless energy have transformed both the club and dinghy training in the South West.

Julie and Neil Morton, who received a joint Outstanding Contribution award, have played an invaluable role in ensuring the survival and success of The Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club and have been instrumental in recruiting nearly 300 members, providing new energy and enthusiasm to the club. They are true ambassadors for the sailing community, sharing their love of the sport and encouraging others to get involved.

Kit Noble also received a Lifetime Commitment award. He is a Senior Instructor for dinghies and keelboats whose voluntary work at the Royal Dart Yacht Club, spanning decades, has made a massive contribution to the lives of many local children. He is patient, encouraging, and a brilliant teacher who uses his great interpersonal skills to get the shy child to participate or the more active child to behave. Over a thousand children have benefited from his training, motivation, and guidance.

David Oliver was presented with a Lifetime Commitment award. He has been a member of Saltash Sailing Club for 50 years and has been the driving force behind several major infrastructure projects, including project managing the enhancement of changing facilities and building a new race office. A passionate and highly skilled sailor, David is a constant presence in the club who is held in respect, admiration, and affection by all.

Chris Queree received an Outstanding Contribution award. He created the Race Squad at All-Aboard Watersports to offer young sailors a progression pathway into racing. Every Saturday for over a decade he has run high-quality coaching supporting youngsters to develop skills and confidence, and giving them opportunities to progress further and race locally. He has supported many disabled sailors to realise and fulfil their potential, ensuring they are easily integrated into the group. It is a result of his work that many of those in Race Squad have raced nationally, and some internationally.

Stephen Staple, who received an Outstanding Contribution award, became Youth on Boats (YOBs) co-ordinator at Weymouth Sailing Club five years ago. He has remoulded the format and reinvigorated the cadet section and there is now a waiting list. He is an outstanding role model; kind, funny and an all-round great example to the younger generations of sailors he is training and inspiring.

Tony Wootley, who received a Lifetime Commitment award, has been a member of Whitefriars Sailing Club for more than 20 years. He is currently Trustee and Treasurer of Sailability@Whitefriars and has contributed to nearly every aspect of the charity’s work. He is a very practical person, his attention to detail is second to none, and he is tireless in his fundraising efforts for S@W, which have allowed the charity to purchase additional boats and equipment as well as achieving long-term financial stability.

A comment from the RYA CEO

“Our sport relies so much on the goodwill and skills of volunteers at every level, without whom the opportunities to get involved in boating would be greatly reduced,” said RYA CEO Sara Sutcliffe MBE. “They are very often the first point of contact for new participants across the nations and regions, and can help to motivate a lifetime’s interest, or inspire others to train for fulfilling careers across the marine industry.

“It’s so humbling to hear of the many examples of selfless commitment our award recipients have shown – in many cases spanning decades – and they represent many thousands more who give their time to support boating in whatever way, great or small. Our grateful thanks go to them all.”

Start your volunteering journey

Volunteers form the core of RYA and club initiatives, offering rewarding opportunities and assisting others to experience the water’s numerous benefits.

With various volunteering options available, dedicating even a small amount of your time can create a significant impact. Join us and make a difference today. Find out more about volunteering.