Meet RYANI’s new Performance Committee Chair- Colin Leonard

Colin Leonard has been appointed as Chair of the Performance Committee on the RYA Northern Ireland board.

Bringing years of sailing experience, he will play a crucial role in helping to Maximise Athlete Potential, which is one of four goals in our five-year strategy, Navigating The Future.  

Could you tell us a bit about your professional career?

I am a Consultant Ear Nose and Throat surgeon and specialise in the management of problems relating to people’s ears, hearing and balance. I try to fit some research around this relating to how treatments benefit patients and what we can do to help people get the best functional outcome even after their conditions have caused irreversible damage.

Could you explain why you decided to join the RYANI board?

I’m very fortunate to a be a product of the RYA NI Youth Squads, although not as recently as I would like. The sailing skills I learnt on them have helped me in my sailing. The bigger thing though is the attributes and attitudes that I’ve learnt both from Youth Squads and the contact it brought me into with high performance athletes have helped me in other sports along the way and life in general. I’ve always had a strong sense of wanting to perpetuate those things and so it’s a good way to give back and support the coaches.

What do you hope to focus on in your role on the Board?

My focus as chair of the performance committee is very much in helping the Performance Director, Hammy Baker, to guide young athletes to achieve their potential and more importantly enjoy sailing. I and the rest of the performance subcommittee will be providing Hammy with support both before, during and after challenging times in the sailing calendar, such as selection!

Do you have any background in sailing?

I am lucky enough to have grown up sailing, mainly cruising. My first trip as a toddler was with my parents and my older brother from Killinchy to the Quoile for a summer cruise. As such, sailing has always been about fun for me, racing and my admittedly quite competitive nature didn’t come out until much later. I wasn’t very good but I made a start when the Topper Worlds were in Cushendall in 2001. 

What are you most excited about in joining the Board?

The opportunity to support Hammy, in his work helping young athletes enjoy and develop their sailing as well as skills that can help them whatever they do in life. 

What do you think is the key priority for the sport going forward?


It’s not the only thing that matters, but I think minimising the impact of our actions on climate in all walks of life is really critical now. In particular when we see the impact first hand on the water and around our clubs as water levels rise. I think more specifically to sailing though we need to focus on accessibility and encouraging those who come to the sport late or develop their skills later. It’s a real shame when we lose people from the sport because we forget that there is more to it than just winning, there is the taking part.

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